Home > Love, Personal, Reflections > I will always be Deborah Bryan.

I will always be Deborah Bryan.

My hand falters as I try to sign my new name. My head knows to spell out this new name, but my hand has spelled the old one so many thousands of times, it resists writing this new one.

After I pause for an eternity–at least, it seems that way in the dirty, stale heat of the DMV–I write the wrong name. The right one. The new one. I stare at it, noting the smudge where I couldn’t decide which name to write.

I stand in line, waiting to take my first picture as another Deborah.

I can’t believe what almost feels like trepidation. I have spent most of a lifetime wishing away the old name, an artifact from an absentee father and generations of abuse. My name meant something, all right; it meant that I was tainted.

When I published The Monster’s Daughter, I debated what name to use. I decided it was time not to find a pseudonym but to claim my own name. It was mine at least as much as my father’s, or his father’s. Like them, I was fierce. Unlike them, I tried to use my ferocity in ways I hoped would ultimately make lives better.

I was proud of my accomplishments. My name did not define me. Its history did not dictate my personality, my present, or my future. No longer believing it did, I was finally free to grow into it.


I soon agreed to marry my partner, Anthony. I figured I would adopt his name. Why not? It wasn’t for so very long, after all, that I’d embraced my family name. It was an easy escape from a name I had only recently come to own.

Still, I hesitated. Anthony did not press me, which almost felt unfortunate. If he had, I would have resisted. I hate being told what to do, or to even have it implied.

I waffled in silence.

And then I dreamed my mom visited me.

She had to borrow my teeth to have a presence here on earth. She hugged me tight as light swirled around us and I thought, I would give up my teeth forever if you could just stay.

She left me with my teeth, and the warmth of her presence.

mom me n d

I awakened and knew I would change my name, not because it’s what I believe women should do, or because I wanted a new name, or because someone else expected it of me.

I wanted to change my name because I, personally, as a lover of control and resister of both command and commitment, felt I had to give up something important to me to fully experience something even more important.

My teeth, my name.

My mom, my love.

I would not make this decision for anyone else. I could not dream of believing my life circumstances or personal assessments should dictate anyone else’s choice.

But this choice? It was right for me. It is right for me. I feel this deeply even as I crawl forward in line and face the simultaneous sadness of farewell and excitement at the dawning of new understanding.

I am more than my name.

I am no longer Deborah Bryan.

I will always be Deborah Bryan.

  1. November 26, 2013 at 2:23 am

    Names are such definitive things, yet not. As women of a modern world we get to choose, sometimes how we will define ourselves when we marry and our names are one of those identifications of “us” it is difficult to let go of. No woman in my family has ever changed their name, until me.

    I have changed mine twice. For marriage and to write. I am more the name I write under, that is my name. This is me, entirely my name and me for every good reason there is including my roots. Perhaps my true name.

    Funny how I have to think about your before name, your maiden name. Already I see your name today, it doesn’t strike me as new or different. Your mother’s loving embrace let you go forward, with your teeth and your name, perhaps your true name.

    • December 7, 2013 at 3:27 am

      I don’t know what it is about that last paragraph, but it chokes me up in a really, really beautiful way. Thank you.

      Just a couple of weeks later, I am so much more at peace with the change. I think writing this (and reading the supportive comments) is part of that. ♥

  2. November 26, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Yes! Such powerful stuff. Beautiful.

    • December 7, 2013 at 3:31 am

      Thank you, Chris! On an unrelated note, I’ve been thinking a lot about your reflections on friendship between women and men. I think there’s a post rolling around my brain on that.

  3. November 26, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Beautiful, Deborah. If we detach from our names for a moment we can see how they are random, meaningless, just arbitrary sounds. But we do not live detached lives and our names are part of who we are from the inside out. To change one’s name (or change it back, as I did) does not cut off what was, the past is not forgotten, just incorporated in a new way.

  4. Koa
    November 26, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Oh I love this for a lot of ways I can’t say yet but I LOVE it.

  5. November 29, 2013 at 6:34 am

    Amazing post. Thank you.

  6. November 30, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Nice to meet you all over again Deborah Bryan.
    Long may you endure.

  7. November 30, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I totally understand your ambivalence over your name. I wrestled with it again when I divorced. But the part of this post that tugs at my heart is the visit from your mom. So sweet. My mom has never “visited” since she died. My dad did once. I wish Mom would. One day/night she will.

  8. December 4, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing, Deborah. I echo The Hook’s comment. God bless you in your new name as well.

  1. December 11, 2014 at 7:02 am
  2. May 3, 2015 at 9:54 am
  3. February 3, 2016 at 4:12 am
  4. February 11, 2016 at 1:12 pm
  5. July 16, 2016 at 6:30 pm

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