Tuesday, February 28, 2006


When I was eleven or so, my mom told me that the man I knew as dad wasn't actually my biological father. My last name wasn't really my own and my little sister was technically my half sister.

It didn't change the way I felt for my family. If anything, it made me love my dad even more, after all he married US, not just mom. My sister was still the same playful geeky kid she'd always been. They were mine, I was theirs and that was it.

There WAS some initial freak out involved. Curiosity and a restructuring of who I thought I was sort of prompted it. Mom told me what details she could, like how they got together and the reasons they divorced. His name and that he himself was adopted. He was identified as the man in two old photos and the reason for one hazy memory of talking with a guy in a surf shop when I was little.

Other than that, he's pretty much fallen off the face of the planet. When I turned 30, I decided my gift to myself would be trying to locate this man. Not for a father figure, my Dad is lovely and more than fulfills that requirement; but to be able to say I knew something about this other person. Nature vs. nurture... are bits of me a reflection of him?

My hunt was unsuccessful. I went through a service that gave me lists of addresses of men with his name. I wrote carefully-worded, non-judgemental letters and phoned a few numbers as well. I suppose there is the off chance I did reach him and he denied me. In the end, I'm not bothered. I have his hazel-colored eyes and a few stories and find myself content.

What's funny is that I don't have a name I feel is my own. The strange surname never felt like mine. The one I'd been using wasn't technically my own as I'd never been adopted. The one I've got now is off my ex-husband, kept because it's easy to pronounce and matches the kids'. It is who I am, but not me. It's basically a convenient, generic stand-in for a surname.


Denise said...

Interesting. Is having a surname that feels right important? If so, get one! Find one! Can you do that? Do you want to?

~ nellenelle said...

Ya have me saddeened with this one, Kim. It's something that clicks in my granitesque brain, and I empathise.

It is noble to carry the name for the sake of family with your kidlets, but there is something to be said for being true to oneself.

On 6 May, 2003 I walked into a judge's office. Six weeks earlier, I'd paid the $30 filing fee and mailed my request for a name change. I'm sure you can guess at the peripheral reaction from my ex, but I was already being thrown out.

And so into the judge's office. She asked me why, and if there were any other reason. I explained the circumstance... at that point, I was in male mode, 115 days from full time transition.

It took perhaps 5 minutes. As I walked out the door, for the first time in my life, my name was really representative of me, and for the first time in my life, it had meaning.

This is not to slight my parents, they knew not, they did the best they could... but identity at times can mean everything.


NursePam said...

Names are powerful Nony. I have a long, long story about my surname, my birth father, my adoption against my will when I was 13, and the feelings that my father's name still evokes within me. Someday, I may write about it in my own blog.


Kim said...

Denise: It IS important. In my case though, I think the identification or personal relationship with surnames has been derailed. It's just a label now and I can't see a new one feeling any different.

Nelle: 'being true to oneself'. It's wonderful you had a name picked out that you felt was absolutely you. I mean that ((sincerely)). But I feel like I've lost some essential connection, or lived with it being ambiguous for so long that there is NO truth. Being noble looks good.. but's it's really all about convenience now. I should be like Cher and not need a last name ;P

Pam: If you're ever able to write your story, I would be honored to be allowed to read it.

~ nellenelle said...

Kim... if you search deep within, if you could follow any path with a name to resolve this, what path would that be?

~ nellenelle said...

BTW... I second you on Pam's story...

Trop said...

Names are important. Court and I went back and forth about it. She wants to take my name, only my name isn't mine, it's my ex-husband's. I kept it because doing so was important to my daughter. We debated all changing our name to my maiden name, but in the end, we stuck with my married name. And when we marry next month, Court will legally change her name.