I got to talking about names the other day. I’m very particular about my name, spellings and all. I have my father’s last name. People are surprised to hear that. I had a chance to change it, but I didn’t. I know my husband thinks it’s some feminist agenda to prove something to the world. It really isn’t. The issue is much simpler and much more complicated than that.
For the first 14 years of my life, I didn’t have a last name. Literally, none. Whenever I was asked to put down my last name, I would simply say I don’t have one. Questions like, “what’s your dad’s name?” or “what’s your mom’s name?” Would follow and I don’t know what they ended up writing most times because I really didn’t want to concern myself with it.
Why I didn’t have a last name? My mom didn’t want me to have my dad’s name. She didn’t give me hers either. I was just kind of left nameless in their struggle to gain control and power over each other.
Finally, at the age of 18, I added my paternal last name. Nobody understood why I would do that either. At that point, I had not seen my father in years, and it seemed like that’s how it was going to be for a long time to come. I couldn’t explain to people that having a name you probably are not completely comfortable with is better than not having one at all. It’s better than no one recognizing you or knowing where you come from. There are a lot of people on my father’s side I deeply care for and love. However, this was the most important reason. Everyone wants to belong, right? Where did I belong if not with my parents? My mom had a chance to share her name with me and she didn’t so obviously I only had one option. Maybe it’s not that deep, or just maybe for a child growing up without being able to proudly say I belong to one family or the other, it is that deep.
Back to today; my kids ask why they are all Mustafas but I’m not. You are our family too why isn’t your last name the same? I give them the simple answer, which is also true.
I tell them, even though they don’t share my last name there is no stronger bond.
The complicated answer? My Parents may not have been the one to give me the name, or maybe they were. I don’t know what my birth certificate says honestly. I understand though that this is where my identity and my legacy is found, and my kids will know that they have a family in my family.
So yeah, we are a family. We are the Mustafas, we’re also the Akhtars.
My boys need to know that. They need to create relationships and loyalties to that family and that name too. It will not happen if one of their parents doesn’t say it all the time. So maybe, that’s why I kept the name? Or maybe I’m just lazy?