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I Regret Changing My Name

Joseph and I were married on a whim one summer while on vacation. Upon our return, I went through all the hoops one goes through when changing her name after getting married. I filled out forms, provided copies of my marriage certificate and waited for my new identity to arrive in the mail.

I changed my name without any regard to what I was giving up. After more than two decades of being Lisa Quinones, I immediately became Lisa Fontanez.

I thought I was just changing my name. It didn't seem like a big deal. It's what married women were supposed to do.

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When I returned to school in the fall, I remembered that I was Lisa Fontanez and no longer Lisa Quinones. It was the first time I felt the separation of self. I decided that I wasn't going to change my name at the registrar's office. I loved my husband and was proud to be his wife, but my educational journey was my own. A few semesters away from graduation, my diploma would be the result of hard work, dedication and sacrifice that I learned from my parents. My degree was as much theirs as mine and it needed to bear my family name, not my husband's.

For the next few years, I juggled an existence between my married and maiden names. It was more annoying than difficult trying to remember who I was.

Applying to graduate school, I was once again faced with the decision of who I wanted to be. By this time, I was a mother and my husband's name held more meaning since I shared it with our son. I decided to apply as Lisa Fontanez. But there was some confusion with my application and when I started school I was still Lisa Quinones. When I started graduate school, my son had been recently diagnosed with autism and I was also working full-time. My name wasn't much of a priority.

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I thought about my father and our family legacy. My dad is the only son. And he only has one son. My brother has no children and does not plan to have any. We are the last of the Quinones blood line. I'd like to think of my family name being preserved through my writing.

As I started to take my writing seriously, I realized it was time to make a choice. Legally, my name was already changed but I couldn't fully commit to being a Fontanez. This may sound crazy, but in my head, I was all like, "what if I become a New York Times bestselling author? Would I want to give my literary fame to a family who didn't raise me?"

My writing, much like my diploma, belonged to me and my family.

I thought about my father and our family legacy. My dad is the only son. And he only has one son. My brother has no children and does not plan to have any. We are the last of the Quinones blood line. I'd like to think of my family name being preserved through my writing.

Unable to choose, I began to hyphenate my name — which still doesn't make me happy. I don't have the kind of hyphenated name that rolls off the tongue. And when I introduce myself, I usually say "Lisa Fontanez" because technically that's my name now. But it's not really who I am.

After 11 years of marriage, we've been through a lot. My parents have been an example of what it takes to make a marriage work. And I've learned that marriage is about love, trust, understanding and compromise. But I regret changing my name. I regret giving up a part of my identity; it's something I shouldn't have compromised. I love my husband and he's the man I'd marry over and over again. But if I had to make the choice again to keep my name or take his, I'd keep my own.

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