I had a recollection in my dreams last night that reinvigorated in my mind the importance of keeping, maintaining, and respecting a woman’s maiden/birth name. Culturally, the dominant tradition is for a woman to take her husband’s last name after marriage. It’s no secret that I fought to legally keep my maiden name when I married Dean, but I lost that fight despite my stubborn personality, a lot of anguish, and many bitter tears. Although I legally changed my name to Catherine Gualberto Gacad Barbella (long huh?) on our marriage certificate, I never changed my name in practice. In all intents and purposes, I’m Catherine Gacad.
The memory was probably triggered by the fact that my 20 year high school reunion is coming up next year. Our 5 year high school reunion took place at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. It was a Saturday night and several events were going on at the hotel. During the reunion festivities, I went to the bathroom and re-applied my makeup. While I was putting on lipstick, a Filipino woman came up to me and read my name tag.
“I used to date a Gacad,” she said.
I laughed and smiled. “Well it must be someone in my family since there aren’t very many of us.”
She had a name tag as well. It read Glory Balthazar.
I recognized her name instantly and connected the fact that this woman had dated my uncle for many years when I was a youngster. “Auntie Glory?!” I screamed. “Oh my God, Auntie Glory! I remember you! Do you remember me? I’m Aurino’s daughter.”
Granted this happened prior to me getting married, connections like these are impossible if I change my name. This was a random personal connection, but professional connections happen all the time—connections that require the name you used while in school and during the course of your career. This had been the basis of my argument, that with your name, you establish brand recognition and why would any successful woman want to suddenly extinguish that brand once married.
But with my dream last night, I realized something that’s just as important. If at birth, a female takes her father’s name. Then in marriage, she takes her husband’s name. That means during the whole duration of a woman’s life she is never ever connected to her mother, the very woman who birthed her! Such a travesty. No wonder my mother was so adamant that my middle name be Gualberto which is her maiden name. I want the same for my child. First name, Gacad, Barbella.
And until I die, I will do everything I can to honor my heritage which I can demonstrate most clearly by retaining my name!