My name is Shannon Lorraine King and everything has a name, with that name having an attached meaning behind it. Sometimes the meaning defines it, as an object. Other times a name is what we call something or someone, but the name or word used to define it actually has another definition. For instance calling a rose a ‘rose’ is different than calling a person ‘Rose.’ While when we see a rose we know it to be a flower and what it’s called doesn’t make much of a difference. However, when you call someone ‘Rose’ you might associate her name with something. Perhaps like the flower, she’s delicate, or fragrant in a way you find pleasant. We have attachments to words and as such, we draw even more from a person’s name and the emotions and memories that are triggered when we hear them said.
Names are given in a variety of ways. As said by H. Edward Deluzain on Behind The Name:
Despite their universality, there is a great deal of difference from one culture to another in how names are given. Among most preliterate peoples, names are determined according to very definite and specific rules. Generally, in cultures with a keen sense of ancestry, children get their names from the totems and family trees of their parents. In some cultures, names are taken from events which happen during the pregnancy of the mother or shortly after the birth of the child, and in others, names are divined through magic and incantation. In some cases, the name given at birth is only the first of several names a person will bear throughout life. When this happens, the new names are given either to mark important milestones in life or to ward off evil spirits by tricking them into thinking that the person with the old name has disappeared.
My whole life I’ve been Shannon Lorraine King. Like many couples, my parents deliberated over what to name their child. My dad liked ‘Jennifer’ and my mom liked ‘Sydney’. When my mother was born she was almost named Shannon, but her mom switched to Susan at the last minute. My maternal Grandmother was named Lorraine Josephine Windahl and by paternal grandmother was Doris Lorraine Mahaffey, thus my middle name.
As a kid, I always kinda hated my name. I didn’t know many Shannons and I envied my friends with cooler names. Once I reached middle school we would choose out own names for French class. I always chose ‘Gabrielle.’ I guess I thought it was more feminine.
Now, with my wedding just days away, I’m trying to begin thinking of myself with my new names. You see, I’m taking my husband’s last name as well as changing the spelling of my first name. I’ve always loved the Gaelic spelling of Shannon, which is Sionann (or at least that’s the variation that I’m choosing). My married last name is Persian. I accepted long ago that if I were to marry my partner my last name would never be easily pronounced again. This seemed to me like a perfect time to embrace the Gaelic spelling of my first name. I won’t really change how it’s pronounced; I guess I figured I might as well have the whole thing be relatively confusing.
My decision got me thinking about my attachment to my name, how it defines me. When I look in the mirror will Shannon be looking back or will it be Sionann? I’m a sentimental gal and I do have a heavy attachment to my family. I know my parents are a little bummed about the change, but I feel it better suits me and who I am. I’m difficult, like the pronunciation of my name will be. I like a little mystery and the idea that I won’t be as easily dismissed if people have to double and triple check the spelling. I think it looks prettier on paper, that Sionann Ghahremani looks better than Shannon Ghahremani. Most of all, though, my attachment to my Gaelic roots and Pagan set of beliefs are a big factor in the decision to change the spelling of my name.
I struggled with similar thoughts when making the decision to — unlike some feminists — change my maiden name. I always saw a name change as a rite of passage. Something reserved only for those that entered into the sacrament of marriage. Changing my name was something I always looked forward to because I knew marriage was the only circumstance in which I would no longer be a King. It’s a personal choice and one I don’t see as further tethering me to the patriarchy. Actually, I find it quite liberating and beautiful to take my husband’s name as a symbol of commitment and devotion. It’s quite romantic.
In fact, he wanted my name. I knew this long before he proposed. When he finally did pop the question I had to level with him that I’d prefer taking his. That it actually mattered quite a bit to me. Furthermore, I knew that if he took my name people would assume a lot more about me than about him. I felt it would make me seem like a dick stomping feminist, which isn’t the case (not exactly anyway). I was relieved that he agreed, although he was perplexed as to why I’d want a name that’s five characters longer than my own and basically unpronounceable. He’s been super supportive regarding my changing the spelling of my first name.
In my last days with my name, it’s a kind of bittersweet and nostalgic dance. I nod to my past and scratch my signature for the last times. I can’t say yes if I’ll miss it or if I’ll feel different as Sionann, it’s still new, but I rest easily with the knowledge that this choice is mine alone and it will define me a new way.