Naming Myself

Many women take back their maiden names after a divorce. I had been an Aveling almost as long as I had been a Harris. I thought I might just keep it; that’s who I was. I liked the name—simple but unique with some amount of infamy to it.  And, I matched my sons.

As the dissolution wore on, however, the name became like a wool sweater after a trip in a hot wash.  It, was scratchy, itchy, hot, and uncomfortable—I needed to take it off.  It just didn’t fit anymore. As I was quizzing other divorced women about their name change decisions, someone made an offhand comment about the opportunity for a new start.

“Of course!”   If I am going to change one name, why not two?  My middle name is just that, a bridge between my first and last. It gives a bit of dimension but no story.  My first name came off the back of a James Bond book my father was reading, but my middle name was just filler.

It’s a weird thought—naming yourself.  I worried it was arrogant. I worried it was self absorbed. I worried it was or wasn’t all over the internet. I fussed over the way it looked, sounded, meant.  In the end, I decided to do it.

There is actually a long illustrious history of people naming themselves.  Native peoples, theater and film stars, criminals fleeing the law, emigrants with long complex names…Even God changed people’s names—Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah. I would add myself to the list of notables.

A never-used, collected name would be my new middle.  Why not?  I had saved it for over 10 years but I had sons, not daughters, and I would never have a chance to use it–unless I did it now.  My second name now will have a story.  It is my own.

I found the name in a magazine article about a glassblowing family—like Tiffany.  There are several artists and a well known interior architect (in fact I looked up an interview with him on You Tube to find out how to pronounce it correctly) with the last name of Tihany.  It’s also a beautiful lake in Eastern Europe.  I like alliteration; I like the artsy-ness; I like the story.

So I am moving into my new name.  I write it on scraps of paper and I whisper it to myself in the shower. It is foreign and strange.  I am still getting used to it; I haven’t said it to real people much.  And that’s ok.  After all, when your mama names you the first time, it is usually a few years before you can say that one out loud.

Thanks for listening,

Tiffany Tihany Harris


  1. Very thought provoking. My divorce went through by default so there was no arguing to haggle with. When the judge asked if I wanted to change my name, I decided to stay with my sons because growing up between my parents and all my half siblings there were 5 different last names in my mother’s house alone. It still complicates things. I do admire tout strength to make a the change. Good luck.

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