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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Changing One's Name as an Adult

Stephanie writes:
Love your baby name blog! I'm writing in not for any impending babies, but for myself. Here's the thing. I've LOATHED my name since I was a kid. I'll be 30 this year and have decided enough is enough, I'm going to change it.

Pertinent details:

Current first name - Stephanie
Last name (which I'm keeping and plan on keeping if I get married) - P [2 Italian sounding syllables] a

I love my last name. Things I cannot stand about my first name include being lumped into that early 80s group of Tiffany/Brittany/Kelly, how it sounds as a full name and how it sounds as Steph. To my ear it just sounds like bleh and I've just never felt like Stephanie fits me. It's getting to the point where I'm cringing when I introduce myself to people.

I've had a list of possible first/middle name combinations that used to hang out in the back of my school planner and now lives in my smartphone (aaah, changing times).

My style is very pulled from romance novels. Lots of European names, surnames as first names, traditionally male names.

I do enjoy Stefania (though I'd likely keep the 'ph' over the 'f' even though that's not the traditional spelling). However, it seems like a lot of fuss to change one letter. I could just ask people to call me Stephania but it seems like it'd be going backwards - my name is Stephanie but call me Stephania. It's the same reason I'm leaning towards a legal change versus just having people call me by a different name - if every legal document, form, and identification still says Stephanie, it won't matter if people sometimes refer to me as Starlight Moonbeam, Stephanie will still be my go to name. Plus Stephania is still likely to get shortened to Steph and ugh.

Also, I'd like to be called by all 3 names in more formal situations. Document wise, is it more preferable to have one first/middle/last and introduce myself, sign things as first/middle/last or is it clearer to go the two last name or two first name route?

I work in a fairly traditional field so anything too eyebrow raising is out. Some of the names have been on my list for years and others are more recent additions (some from your blog!) but they all just felt and sounded right when I thought of them for myself. I'm definitely decided on changing, but I think I'm in a forest for the trees scenario where I need some outside opinions and suggestions. At this point, everything sounds phenomenal, not too unusual or odd, but not too common and there's no way I can pick just one :)

Top contenders:

Braeden (stuck on middle name)
Ellery Snowden
Merrielle Emerson (I love the way Merrielle looks and sounds in my head, with the 'eh' sound in the first syllable but am concerned I'll have to deal with an 'ah' sound, definitely not a fan of Mariel or Muriel or Mary)

Other list favorites:

Sadie (even though I 100% prefer this to Stephanie, it still has some of the same issues of sounding young and more unprofessional)
Grey
Winter
Vivienne
Penelope

Thank you so much!

Here is what I think is the NUMBER ONE issue: you're looking at names that are being given to TODAY'S babies---but were NOT given to babies in 1981 when you were born. The name Stephanie fits perfectly into what we expect for someone who's about 30 years old. The name Vivienne does not.

This is a problem I've noticed in novels, too: the author uses her favorite BABY names on her characters, forcing us to try to imagine a married couple in their thirties named Isabella and Noah. It's jarring. It's jarring in real life, too.

I strongly recommend choosing a name that would have been reasonable in the year of your birth---as opposed to a name that might have occasionally been used but would have been a shock. In the U.S. in 1981 only 10 new baby girls were named Vivienne. Girls named Braeden/Brayden/Braden or Gray/Grey or Ellery or Merrielle: 0-4 (fewer than 5 is recorded as "0" on the Social Security forms). Penelope: 77. Winter: 109. Sadie wins: 280. But for comparison, 20,201 baby girls were named Stephanie.

I think it would be best to find a name that is not quite as common as Stephanie was, and that feels to you like a better fit, without making you sound like you were born in 2011. A distinctly younger name can give a "Behold the ravages of time!" feeling: imagine seeing a woman in her seventies and hearing her introduced as Jennifer. It does happen (42 baby girls were named Jennifer in 1936), but it's startling and not in a pleasing way. And, if you have children in the future, we want to avoid using up the names you might want to use for them.

I'm not sure about the "use all three names for formal situations" question. What SORTS of formal situations? Very few people include their middle names in introductions, and I'm having trouble thinking of a situation where it would be anything but confusing. I think the easiest way for a woman to go by three names is for her to have a hyphenated surname or a two-name first name.

I think if I were planning to change my name, I would begin by asking my parents if they still remembered other names they were considering for me (including boy names), and seeing if any of those fit better. This has the advantage of being more "authentic" a name change (to something your own parents might actually have named you), and also of better pleasing your parents if they're still in the picture and might be fluffled by this name-change idea. I would in fact interview them extensively, asking if there were family names they considered, or family surnames they might have used as first names (or that they would be willing to consider now that such names are more often used). In addition to the previous advantages, this gives you something to say to anyone startled by your name: "It's a family name." I've found that line takes the wind out of most sails.

If those interviews and family-tree-shakings yielded no good candidates, I would take the 1981 Top 1000 Social Security name list and I would start at the top and just keep going down. Lauren? Veronica? Victoria? Katrina? Cassandra? Margaret? Bethany? Sabrina? Molly? Jillian? Meredith? Bridget? Joy? Claudia? Marissa? Those are all from the 1981 Top 200 so they shouldn't shock anyone when used for someone your age---but they have a sound that still works for today's babies. Too common among your peers? Here are some possibilities from 200-300: Audrey, Ruth, Sophia, Naomi, Evelyn, Olivia, Lydia, Esther, Eva, Amelia, Charlotte, Grace. Good names for babies now---but they were being used in 1981, too.

If by now you are saying, "Pff, Swistle, you old worrywart, I don't care about any of this! I asked about the names ON MY LIST!" Okay! I can do that, too.

I closed my eyes and imagined meeting someone approximately my age (fine, I was a 1970s baby, DETAILS, DETAILS), and hearing her introduced as each of the names on your list. To my surprise, it was some of your LEAST-used-in-1981 names that seemed least surprising to me on a 1981-born person. For example: I could imagine meeting a Braeden or an Ellery my age, but not a Penelope or a Vivienne or a Sadie or a Winter. I am not sure how to explain this. Part of it is likely regional and so will vary from commenter to commenter. Part of it might be that Vivienne and Sadie and Penelope FEEL so "now" for baby girls, with people writing in to ask if they're too trendy, whereas Braeden and Ellery are not quite here yet. Part of it may be associations (which, again, will vary from commenter to commenter): Penelope sounds ONLY like Penelope to me, but Braeden is reminiscent of Brianna and Brandi, and Ellery of Emily and Danielle and Michelle. Part of it may be that it's not uncommon for a new name to waffle around a bit between boys and girls when it first comes into usage (example: Mackenzie), so it feels like it COULD have happened that Braeden would be used for a girl before it became primarily a boy name.

For middle names, I think choosing a name from your own generation will make the first name seem more likely. I think use Snowden only if that's a family name for you. Otherwise I'd look for other family names, or perhaps use Stephanie or your current middle name there, or your mother's maiden name, or something else of that sort. Or if you're again saying, "HELLO, I asked about MY list!," then I say Ellery Snowden is good, and I'd do Braeden Winter or Braeden Ellery.

Or I might do Braeden Sofia. It's feminine enough to make it clear Braeden is a girl name in this case. And Sofia is similar to Stefania, and yet Sophia was already #211 in 1981 (and in fact made a huge leap between 1980 and 1981) so it wouldn't be odd as a middle name for a 30-year-old.


Name update! Stephanie writes:
I wrote in a couple months ago about wanting to change my name as an adult from Stephanie. You and the people who commented offered some excellent suggestions and made some great points and after using various names at restaurants and such and narrowing the field down to a winner (Ellery Braeden!), I looked at the calendar and realized that between scheduled travel and out of town things and court schedules, there wouldn't be time to make it official until next year. And the fact that residency of at least a year is required and I'm planning on moving before then and it's something I'd rather not put off till 2014 so am compromising with myself and going with something that could be a reasonable stretch from Stephanie. And I've landed on Sutton. I love it, have loved it, it's unusual enough to make me happy but still easy enough to avoid most confusion and while I'm-Stephanie-but-everyone-calls-me-Sutton isn't the most natural of flows, I think the similarity in s and t sounds make it plausible. So that's the update, hooray!

The follow up is - how do I transition into using my new name in professional/formal circumstances. It seems like it shouldn't be too complex, I think of the people who have legal names of John and are called Jack or are Mary Sue Claire Smith and exclusively go by Claire but...how does that work?

Do I put Sutton on my resume and just mention in any future interviews oh hey, my application says Stephanie but I go by Sutton? My license/credit cards will still say Stephanie but what about at doctor's offices/store loyalty cards/other non social situations where I'm writing my name but it isn't a legal document? It seems like a familiar enough situation that I should be able to discover some answers but it is proving to be rather un-googleable. So am turning once again to you and the fabulous community.

Thank you!

53 comments:

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I agree with Swistle that you should resist the urge to choose a name for yourself that is currently popular for babies being born now. Or would sound like a little girl's name instead of a grown woman's name.

Of your list, I actually disagree with Swistle and I find that Penelope and Vivienne actually works on someone our age (I was born in 1982). And I also like Ellery.

I really like Swistle's suggestion of Sofia for a middle name, it's really pretty and feminine and Italian sounding (like your last name).

Best wishes! I think that naming yourself is actually really cool!

Jenny Grace said...

I was born in 1982, and when to junior high with a Penelope and two Vivians, so it CAN be done.
But I agree with her suggestions, I think from a social perspective, people will be less judgy if you can brush them off with "It's a family name."

As an aside, I'm a Jennifer, born in 1982, and I have never liked my name, it's so dated as a Popular Name of the Eighties.

Rayne of Terror said...

What is your current middle name? My name is Jennifer Rayne and so I have gone by Rayne for about 16 of my 33 years. Tons of people go by their middle names.

Swistle said...

Yes, there were 348 baby girls named Vivian in 1981. It's the Vivienne spelling (so tied to Angelina Jolie's child) that seems NOW.

Sarah said...

I think Swistle gives some very good advice.

If it were me, I would be scanning the list of baby names given to babies the year I was born and picking from that.

Erica said...

I think Swistle's advice is bang on. It would be jarring to meet someone close my age with a currently trendy name. I would almost immediately think "I bet that's not her real name."

Clarabella said...

I am 33 and have a (same-ish age) friend named Braden. I believe, in her instance, it is a family name. It doesn't seem weird on her at all. To me, though, your Braeden seems startling because the spelling is SO late nineties/early 2000s). Brayden or Braden might make it more palatable, at least on the page.
I think the best advice Swistle's given you is to explore the family tree. That way, the name will have that extra meaning.
Good luck!

Claire said...

I think it's very unfortunate that you dislike your name so much. If it's true that you've hated it since you were a kid, there were probably many other junctures (like the beginning of middle school, high school, university) where this would have been easier to address. The positives are that it's spelled the normal way, and while I appreciate that you don't like the nickname 'Steph' - it doesn't exactly have any negative connotations associated with it.

If I were you, unless you're uprooting your life and going for a fresh start somewhere, I think all you're going to accomplish by this is to make your acquaintances think you're completely insane. I think you're still going to get called Stephanie by the people who are used to it, and it's just going to create all manner of confusion and - I don't know what profession you're in - but I don't think it's going to do you any favors (unless you work somewhere so big that you're basically anonymous anyway). If you don't like being called 'Steph' - tell people so. Or as another commenter put it - go by your middle name. If you don't have a middle name, maybe you can pick one you like and keep Stephanie on your paperwork, and at least make up some sort of lie that you moved in with a new roommate Stephanie and it's just too confusing so you want to go by your "middle name" instead. But really, from someone who doesn't know you at all - and trying to be helpful, not mean - this makes you sound CRAZY. Take this into consideration if it might affect career opportunities or relationships.

Carolyn said...

I would either try to use the current middle name or if that's not an option, move Stephanie to the middle name slot.

Braeden Stephanie has a nice sound to it. I also like it with Stephania for a middle name.

Braeden Stephania
Ellery Stephania

I agree with Swistle's advice of finding something closer to your generation. Other names that I knew growing up (I'm 28) and that are still given to babies are Natalie/Natalia, Claire, Lucy, Bonnie, Nadia, Anna, Julia

Therese said...

I'm having trouble relating because I have a family name and pretty much love it. I say that because at first reading, this sounds a little crazy to just up and change your name (like a previous commenter said), especially at what is a (for what we know) random point in your life. I do know 3 people very well who did change their names at points in their life. My cousin quit going by a childish sounding nickname (based on his middle name) and switched to his first name when he was going to middle school. Two other friends quit using their first names (Jenny and Jessica) when the entered college and both started using their middle names (both Katherine coincedentally). I give those examples because (although it has taken quite some time) the changes were easy to "swallow" and without too much trouble the people became their new names. I won't lie, I do slip occassionally and use the "old" name but it's not intentional and they seem to be okay with it. So, all that to say I really encourage you to think about your middle name (you didn't mention it) and/or another family name rather than a completely randon selection. I say this only because I think it will make the transition easier for you. Now, if you are just deadset on using a name from your list, I like Vivienne (but maybe spelled the "older" way, Vivian). Good luck with whatever you decide!

OH, PS I do use three names (first, maiden, last) on many occassions, mostly work, and it's not a big deal. I think it only works because my last name is very common and boring and the flow is okay. So, keep that in mind.

Anonymous said...

I can't comprehend totally changing one's name. It would seem to erase your past as well -- all the family members, friends and others who did this or that "with Stephanie" don't have memories of doing them with Vivienne or Braeden. It seems to me that if you get rid of your name, you also get rid of the identity and memories -- at least for others -- that went with it. Like it or not, our names are an integral part of our identities. Is there some part of your name now that you could use -- your middle name or a name similar to Stephanie? Perhaps another name beginning with S - Stacy/Stacey, Sydney, Summer...

Hope T. said...

I can really sympathize with Stephanie. I admit, though, that I did not start disliking my name until I started reading baby name blogs! Then I found out that my name is not only very dated but was very common in the decade in which I was born. I did not know this since I only ever knew one other girl with my name growing up. (Hope is not my real name.)
I don't feel my name fits who I am as a middle-aged woman but I don't know yet what else would fit. For that reason, I stongly urge Stephanie to wait until she knows exactly what she wants. The names on her list are all over the map. When she knows who she is, she will know what to call herself.
I would suggest in the meantime, try the change to Stephania. This is actually what I am thinking of doing to my name (adding an -ia at the end). One letter DOES make a big difference and could lift her spirits, as well as be a more gentle transition for friends and family.

Anonymous said...

It's not unusual for immigrants to change their names when becoming US citizens. Usually this is because they want an English language first name rather than their foreign sounding name, which often Americans can't pronounce correctly. I know someone from South America who changed her name from M@rcel@ to Britt@ny. (I would more likely change my name the other way!) The result has been mixed and confusing. ALL of her large family still call her M@arcel@, as does her husband who met her as "Britt@any". Yet her legal name is now Britt@any, which causes a fair amount of confusion. For example, she entered a hospital to give birth under the name Britt@any T., yet her family and friends called information to find out the room number of M@rcel@ T. I don't know how badly she wanted to be Britt@ny, but it hasn't worked out for her.

I am the same "Anonymous" as above. I didn't want to say too much about the impression this name request letter gives me, but rereading through other comments, I guess I'm not the only one who wonders if it's only your name you don't like, but something else about yourself, or your life, that you think will greatly improve if only you had a different name. I hope you can accept yourself as you are, including your name.

I like the name Stephanie very much and have two friends with the name -- one in her late 60s (UK) and one - St├ęphanie - in her late 30s (France). Both are called by the full name, although English Stephanie's husband pronounced her name as "Steph-nie". I think Stephanie is a fine name. Remember, Princess Grace chose the name for her second daughter too!

Giselle said...

From personal experience, let me tell you that this process will take a LONG time...unless you are cutting all ties with your old life.

My name on my birth certificate is Giselle, but I was called Gigi from birth. When I turned 16, I decided that I wanted to be Giselle, as I always preferred it. It took 2 years...let me repeat...TWO YEARS for people to stop calling me Gigi or Gee-imean-Giselle. My true success at changing came when I went away to college and got to start over.

I just went to a wedding with family and I was called Gigi exclusively. And it has been 17 years since I started insisting I be called by my legal name. I don't care, for the record. :)

So unless you have a chance for starting over, I'd say buckle in and get ready for a long transition. And keep in mind that if you can't stop people from shortening your name to Steph, then they will likely be making up nick-names for your new name. Elle for Ellery, Merry for Merrielle, etc.

Anonymous said...

I know people who have successfully changed their names at some point - usually at some juncture like starting a new school, moving to a new town, etc. Some did a legal name change, others just assumed a new nickname (Patti went to Trish; Julie went to Jules, etc.) Honestly, I think changing too much from your name might be a little odd. Is there a nickname of Stephanie you can live with? Stephie, Stevie, 'Fee', Fannie,...? If you really like Stephania, I think it would be easier to get people to call you that (even get it legally changed to that) than to go totally off-course with Vivienne or Braeden.

Christine said...

I would go with Stefania if you like it. It's easy enough to explain to new people that you prefer to go by your "full name" rather than Stephanie. You're still going to get holdovers, unless you plan on moving some place different or getting a new career, and still your old friends will still call you Stephanie or Steph. (I know a doctor, let's call him Sam, personally. He's tried to convince people to call him by his middle name, Mark, and still comes up with resistance from those who knew him when he was Sam.)

If you like Sadie, I think your best option is introducing yourself as "Stephanie, but I prefer Sadie." It's similar enough that someone could theoretically see it without too much questioning as a nickname, and yet it falls along your preferences.

I've never loved Christine, but it's always felt like me...so you can take my advice with a grain of salt, but (always a but) I wouldn't change your name if you don't have a specific name in mind. I know a Stephanie who has always gone by Stevie, and plans on changing her name legally to that...but when you're pulling from a list of names without a connection to your life (and I'm assuming here - for all I know, Braeden is your grandmother's maiden name and Ellery is your mother's maiden name and you want to honor them)...then I don't know, the whole thing kind of feels...forced?

Good luck no matter what you decide!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments above and also think you can do SO much with your name, going with a nickname rather than drastically changing it. I.e. Annie, Fee, Fia, Steffa or more random Nina, Skye, Shay, Sanny.

Swistle said...

I'm uncertain what to do with a few of the comments on this post. As you know, we have a policy of RESPECTFUL comments, and some of these contain elements that are definitely not respectful. On the other hand, those same comments ALSO make legitimate and respectfully-phrased points. Back to the first hand, I notice they came in during a short period of time, and none of them with attributed names (that is, no link to show who the person is online), which is often a mark of a single person leaving multiple comments.

For now I'm leaving them because of the respectful points mixed in with the non-respectful ones---but I'm not sure about this, and if things continue along the same lines, I will start deleting.

Jenna said...

I was born a Jennifer in the 1970s. And because I had a very common last name (think Smith, Jones, Williams, etc.), there were always three or four Jennifer "Johnson"s in my same class, ten at the doctor's office, and plenty more when waiting for a dinner reservation to be announced. I hated my name. HATED it. I was a number, a nobody.

But we nobodys have lives, too. My husband (then fiance) suggested I just pick something else. His only regret was that he'd never be able to call me anything but "Jen"... "I fell in love with you as a 'Jen'," he'd said with a shrug. "No matter what you pick for everyone else, you'll be a one-of-a-kind to me." So the hunt for a reasonable variation began.

At one final job interview, the manager (who also, by chance, had my last name) said, "Well, what should we call you? We have a Jen, a Jenny, a Jennifer, a Jenn, and a Jenni." It was a turning point. Here was my opportunity to make a big switch. And in a clutch, I said, "Jenna."

On my 21st birthday, I went before a judge and made it legal. Then came the DMV, social security office, bank accounts, IRS, medical records, college records, etc. It was a (very worth it) pain.

It is phenominal to me HOW many people just could not get behind losing the 'fer' from my old name! It has been eleven years at this point, and I still get called "Jennifer". Family members were VERY upset and won't call me anything now besides pet names. High school alumni have been absurd. I often hear stories of "Oh, I had a niece named Clarice once, and she had her name changed to Opal Moon".

And here's the kicker: I didn't advertise my legal name change! Maybe it's where I live or the company I keep, but the resistance to a simple change has been unreal.

But... I love my name. I love 'Jenna' with my husband's last name. I love that I kept my very-boring-but-passed-through-the-generations middle name. I love the whole thing when it's written or spoken. I would do it again a thousand times over.

Just don't expect everyone else to get on board. It's not about them anyway, right?
Personally, I'd go with Stefina. That way, in case you're in public with someone who doesn't know you ever had a name change, and you two run into someone in public that you once knew, when they say, "Stephanie", your new friend will think, "Sad, they didn't ever remember her name correctly!"... as opposed to "Did you have a name change?" Stefina looks beautiful with an Italian last name, too!

As far as the nickname of 'Steph', if someone says it, you can always wince a little and gently say, "I'm sorry; I really don't prefer being called that. Most of my friends call me (fill in the blank... example: Sadie)."

Seize the day here! Go get your real identity! You're not crazy. Remember to keep that smartphone list for your future offspring! Best of luck as you make the switch.

StephLove said...

My name is Stephanie, too, and around middle school I started disliking it. I thought it sounded shallow. We moved in 8th grade and I took advantage of the fresh start to get people to call me (now this is a bit ironic) Steph. It was my Dad's nickname for me and felt so much more like ME.

Even with the move it was a LONG time before I could get anyone who knew me as Stephanie to call me Steph, which is a pretty small change compared to going from Stephanie to say, Penelope. And in a perverse twist my Dad immediately started calling me Stephanie again and never went back to Steph. But everyone else eventually came around.

So, where am I going with this? I do understand wanting to use a name that feels like YOU. I think I'd wait though until you know what that name is because you have a lot of stylistically diverse choices and you definitely don't want to go through the process of getting everyone you know to switch over more than once. Are there any other nicknames for Stephanie that work for you? If you're not Steph, are you Stevie? A lot of people have suggested going by your middle name, but I'll throw that in there, too. Or how about your first and middle initial. Mine are S.D., which I could see using as a name.

If you do go for a complete change, for what it's worth I like Ellery, Penelope and Vivienne (or Vivian) but it should be about what you like.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I had the hardest time deciding whether to change my last name when I got married. A name is SO MUCH a part of a person's identity. So I think if you feel Stephanie isn't your name, you should change it. And I want to second Jenna's comment that this is about YOU and what name you feel is the most YOU. Some people will hate your new name; some will refuse to call you by it; but if it's YOU, then go for it.

(My aunt, by the way, changed her name when she was in her early 20s. She went from a very traditional name that was in the top 1000 names from 1946 to 1970s... to a name that wasn't in the top 1000 until 1981. And it's SO HER. Of course, her mother sometimes calls her by her given name - even though she is in her 60s now. But the name she chose is perfect for her.)

AirLand said...

I love the name Ellery. But with Snowden, in my opinion, it sounds like a fictional character out of a book. Ellery Stephania sounds pretty good.

A thought about Merrielle... My name is Ariele and when I introduce myself, "Hi, I'm Ariele" the "m" and the "a" run together and I'm constantly having to correct people who think my name is Mariele. I would think you might have the opposite problem too. You can just say "My name is..." each time, but sometimes it sounds formally weird. Also, I guarantee people will mispronounce it, misspell it, etc. I don't necessarily wish I had a Top 10 name, but it gets old pretty quickly correcting people. You're already going to have to do that by changing your name.

Amber said...

From one 80's baby to another (Amber - eek! My name is dated as well.) I would choose Sadie or Penelope as a first name from your list.

The others do sound too "current" to my ear. I would find it out of place to meet a girl my age named Braeden or Grey, especially.

I knew one Sadie and two Penny's growing up (Another consideration for Penelope, do you like Penny?).

Also, I work with two women who changed their first names in their 40's; each due to different life events. As previous commenters have mentioned, it literally took YEARS for co-workers to get used to this. Four years later, occasionally some people still slip up and call them by their original given names.

My brother took my step-dad's middle and last name when he was 26. Even though it was a decision I fully supported, sometimes I accidentally address mail and/or introduce him by his original last name.

I guess my point is, be prepared to have some patience. Although this is something you have been contemplating for a long time, the change may seem sudden for others, and it will probably take a while for them to start associating you with your new name off the top of their head!

Good luck! Sadie or Penelope get my vote!

DomestiKook said...

I was born in 1979 and my mother decided on Cassandra Rose, Cassie for short (which I HATE). Over several other names that I thank her quite copiously for not naming me. Cassiopeia, Amy Rebecca,and my least fav Adamli, (which my dad named my poor little sister by another wife) Rose is a family name and I am the 3rd girl to bear it. If it were me I would go with Ellery Sohpia. Even Ellory Sophia. Sophia keeps with the Italianess of your name and Ellory is just so pretty!

Stephanie (for now) said...

Thanks swistle for posting my question and everyone for the responses. No major underlying insanity behind the change, Stephanie simply isn't me :) I'm not as worried about possible current trendiness since my list has been evolving for years and has been pretty consistent (never wanted to change to Madison in the late 90s for example). Middle name is Eileen which does nothing for me either. Have told the parents and the family and while they aren't thrilled, they understand. And I won't be mad if mom still calls me Steph. Is decent timing as far as work goes, previous employees have changed their names and everyone just said ok and moved on. I almost wish I did like any of the Stephanie nicknames/variations as that would make this an easier process but I don't. Oh and mom and dad couldn't agree on a name so they just came up with Stephanie so no deep rooted meaning there. Think that answers all the questions that were raised, thank you again for all your input!!

Sarah said...

The issue isn't simply the current trendiness of the names you like. The issue is that the names you like for yourself are very similar to names your peers are choosing for babies.

This is WHY names get trendy--I've loved the names Anna and Caleb since I was 10, back when Madison/Brittany/Taylor etc. were popular. But the rest of my peer group did too, apparently, so what I thought would end up being special and personal is going to end up fitting in perfectly with my peers' choices of names (Hannah, Isaac, etc.)

If you choose one of the names on your list, you will have the same type of name as the babies of your peers. This will be jarring for those peers, even if they didn't know you changed your name, and may lead some of them to think that you changed your name. Respectfully, this is not something that a lot of people do at random times in their life, so you are (in all likelihood) going to get, at the very least, some funny looks. Picking something more common from your peer group or something with some other connection to you will lead to fewer of these looks, because fewer new people will be likely to guess that you changed your name.

Part of the issue is that the names you like, again, respectfully, sound very made-up, like an author making up character names. This is heightened by the age mismatch. Merrielle seems very invented. Braeden, for an adult woman, seems very invented. Grey, for an adult woman, unless a family name, seems very invented.

Look, if you don't care, you don't care. But you said yourself that you work in a very conservative industry. To me, all of these, given the context, are incredibly eyebrow-raising. What wouldn't be would be: a variation on your first or middle names; a name with some family connection; or a name that fits in with your peer group. Have you considered names that have a more subtle connection to your current names? Etienne is the french (male) version of Stephen, and it seems like it might be more your style. Stephen means "crown" or "garland"; Atarah is a biblical name meaning crown. In Yoruba, it's Ade. Kelila(h) means "crown of laurel" in Hebrew; related names would be Laurel, Laura, Lauren, Laure, etc. Eileen opens up all the Helen variations: Elena, Leni, Eleanor (and all its variants), etc.

Jen said...

I can really appreciate wanting to change your name. In a sea of Jennifers, I decided in late elementary to go by Jenna as a nickname. I was AMAZED at how difficult some people found it. What did you say? Can you spell that? Etc., etc. I didn't think it was that much of a stretch to consider it a nickname for my given name but ugh, evidently a lot of people did. So when I went to college, I switched back to Jennifer or Jen. People who knew me in high school, STILL call me Jenna. Which I totally don't care because to me it has always been a nickname.

But anyway, I guess my point would be pick what you like and go with it. It's your name, life, etc. and eventually people will come around. Some people might not but most everyone will adapt easily. I think of your list the quickest adoption rate you would find would be for Stephania. I personally like Ellery quite a lot and I could see it being on someone your age, even though the stats don't agree with that. Ditto for Vivienne and Penelope.

Frazzled Mom said...

Every once in a while on name blogs I will run across someone who wishes to change their name as an adult, and I always think, "Wow. I have never loved my name but don't hate it to the point where I would go through the hassle of changing it."

I do however, like to imagine what I would have named myself when I was born if given the chance - which sounds completely absurd I know. Like if I could be my Mom on the day I was born, I would have named myself Gabrielle, but I hate Gabby so I’m not so sure. This naming business can be hard!

Stephania, Stefania, Stefina would be the easiest for others to adjust to, I would imagine.

But life is short, and if you find a name that speaks to you, even if it is completely different from your original name, than why not go for it, even if it takes a while for others to get used to?

Personally I agree with the other posters that feel Braeden, Grey, Winter, and the Vivienne spelling seem forced for your age group.

Sadie, the Vivian spelling and Penelope I feel would work just fine.

I'm unsure of Ellery and Merrielle. Ellery is very similar to Ella, Ellie, Eleanor, which are all becoming fashionable for babies now. Merrielle just seems overly complicated with the double r's and double l's. However, Merrielle does have the elle ending that does fit with the Michelle's, Danielle's, Nicole's of our generation (ok, so I'm a 70’s baby - but as Swistle said, that’s a minor detail).

Good luck.

Miles said...

On the flip side of the "life is too short, change your name if you want" comments (which I totally understand!), consider the amount of time and energy you are going to devote to what is, really, a superficial end. I don't mean the concern itself is superficial - I'm a Jennifer from the '70's, and I've had my moments when I wished like heck my parents had gone with their "wild" name contender, Portia - but changing your name isn't going to change your life in any concrete way. And if you're feeling so glum about your name, maybe there is a deeper cause, and something more meaningful you can throw your energy into, other than changing your name. Just a thought. Good luck & have fun!

Anonymous said...

I also wonder about career things, if you work in a conservative field and have to show, say, your resume or diploma's and they state a completely different name, then won't that raise more questions?

I think I'd go with Stefania, or Stephania as you mention you prefer the "ph". I agree with an earlier commenter that said that if you do that you can say, please call me by my full name, Stephanie is a nickname. Also, I know plenty people who have a longer name and just say to people that want to shorten it - please don't. I don't like being called "Steph". You could do that too - I don't think it's unfair of you to tell people that and ask them to respect your opinion.

Would you like Nia? You wouldn't have to change your name legally but it still would make sense.

Meg said...

No helpful name advice, just wanted to say, you're 30, not a kid, not an idiot, you've obviously thought about this, good luck, and gee this is a long sentence. (har har har)

This obviously means a lot to you, and I wish you all the best in finding the right name for you.

Swistle said...

Sarah- I hope you will stop referring to this as a "random" change (adding the word "respectfully" doesn't make condescending/dismissive language respectful). She said clearly that it's at the point of her 30th birthday, which is a widely-used milestone: people say they want to marry before/after 30, have a first baby before/after 30, accomplish something by the time they're 30, etc. If Stephanie has been bothered by her name for a long time, it makes a lot of sense to think "If this still bothers me when I'm 30, I'll change it."

She has also pointed out in the comments that co-workers have changed their names without much fuss.

Annie said...

Hi Stephanie. I sympathize with you over your name. My name is, first name, Annie, middle name Mae and I'm 24 years old (No, I'm not in my 80s for the record). I HATED my name growing up, it's a "grandma name". Both my first and middle name are family names, which I didn't care about at elementary school age. I hated that it was so uncommon, I couldn't ever find those personalized pencils or bicycle license plates with my name. (The things you worry about when you're a kid). I do get tired of the "ANNIE! Get your gun!" thing and "Are you really an orphan?" But I just make some quick, clever remark and go on. My mom's family always called me "Maebelle" growing up, which I didn't mind. It is an older sounding name, but not as bad, or at least I didn't think so. I was considering trying to just go by that when I got older. However, as I aged I realized. Hey! My name is unique. I've never met another Annie! Let alone one my age! It's very defining, my name. I absolutely love my name now even though I receive AARP mail addressed to me already (ha). I'm honored to carry a family name that between my first name and middle name honor 5 relatives. I know you dislike your "common, dated" name and I'm sure this isn't making much sense (it's still early in the morning, sorry).

Moral of story: Stick with Stephanie, but go by Annie :) Get it, StephANNIE? lol

Otherwise, I say try to use your middle name for casual occasions. You might regret legally changing your name later down the road....but I could be wrong. Good luck with whatever you decide!

Sarah said...

My point was that a birthday is, comparatively, a random milestone compared to other milestones at which people often change their names (death or birth of a family member, beginning of a new job or going to a new school, marriage or divorce, etc.). My best guess is that the other people in OP's company who changed their names most likely had something more like that going on, which for me is less likely to raise an eyebrow, simply because it is the more common occurrence.

I work in a conservative industry. So does the OP. My eyebrows are raised. I suggested some ways they might be less raised. If the OP were a work-from-home novelist, I wouldn't have commented, but she works in a conservative industry and specifically said anything too eyebrow-raising was out. I thought the OP should know that,

Anonymous said...

Regarding comments made about this situation: I haven't read any that were written unkindly and I think that all reactions to Stephanie's determination to change both of her given names -- first and middle -- are a good reality check for her. These are the kinds of thoughts and comments such a change will most likely elicit and the kinds of difficulties she will face trying to get others to accept and remember her new name. It seems to me that all who commented are just trying to be helpful, with no disrespect meant.

Swistle said...

Sarah- The rest of your comment was valuable input. My only caution is with your word choices.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- They might not mean to be unkind or disrespectful, but some of them are nevertheless being both (accusations of "sounding crazy," for example, are in no way kind or respectful or helpfully meant). Because the comments ALSO include valuable input/feedback that is respectfully phrased and helpfully meant, I'm allowing them to remain undeleted---but as I said, I'm uncertain about that decision.

We also have the common internet situation of possibly one commenter commenting multiple times under different names (none of them linked to an online identity) in order to agree with herself and build up the illusion of a stronger stance. I'm allowing it all to stand for now, but I am attempting to keep things from crossing the line.

M.Amanda said...

You've no doubt thought and discussed the pros and cons of making such a change, and whatever you may not have thought of was probably covered by other commenters. Since you specifically mentioned not liking having Stephanie on formal documents, I'll skip my Power of Nicknames spiel.

The transition will be easiest if you pick a name that means something - a family name, a person who made a big impression on you, a favorite author, something related to a hobby or soemthing you are passionate about. That way, it is not only easier to explain to nosy people, but you know it has staying power. You won't end up 15 years down the road thinking, "Why didn't they talk me into something less 2011?" (For some reason I keep thinking of this like picking out a tattoo....)

If you want all three names for formal occasions, consider the flow. There is a reason a lot of little girls have middle names like Ann, Marie, and Rose. Also, I recommend choosing a full name that you don't mind hearing often. It's much less weird to hear someone call you Ellery Claire Lastname (a fine choice, btw, but again, it's a rather personal choice and I don't know you well enough to know if it fits you) regularly and shorten it to Ellery for everyday interactions than to go by Ellery Lastname 99% of the time and suddenly have them call you Ellery Claire Lastname. People (I, anyway) would be thinking, "Oh, is that her middle name? Why did they bother using it? It's not like any of us know another Ellery Lastname," and also maybe, "Oh, crap, they aren't going to use mine, too, I hope. I hate my middle name."

Good luck.

Ashley said...

There are other nicknames possibilities to Stephanie (like Annie or Fannie or even Stevie) and you could always go by your middle name or even a nickname version of your middle name. If your middle name lends itself to nice nicknames, like Elizabeth (or is a lovely name itself), why not just legally switch the two names and become, say, Elizabeth (nn "Elle") Stephanie P___a?

But if you're dead set on changing your first AND middle names, then I have to agree with some of the commenters on Vivienne/Vivian and Penelope being the choices that seem most "normal" to me (I'm only a couple years younger than you). I grew up knowing of a Vivi and a Fifi (nn for Vivienne/Vivian) and a couple Pennies (Penelope), but have NEVER heard of Braeden or Grey or Ellery for anyone around my age.

Ashley said...

Oops, I missed your reply, Stephanie! Eileen can be worked with as far as nicknames go, too- Elle or Ellie, Lena, etc. Eileen Stephania is pretty! Could you maybe change Eileen to Ellen or Elena?

For what it's worth (totally my opinion, and NOTHING against you!), if a family member or friend or coworker COMPLETELY changed their name, I'd probably think they were crazy, like Claire said above. Or just weird. But if they just changed it to their middle name or switched names or even changed it to a variation of their original name, then it would be much easier to accept. Again- nothing against you...just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

I think something important to keep in mind is that you, as a grown woman with a career and established social circle, should approach choosing your new name very differently than how you might approach naming your child.

Imagine walking into a business luncheon, or your friend's son's birthday party, or a cocktail bar, and introducing yourself. These are things that you don't really think of when naming your child, but are important because these are things you'll be thrown into right away.

Can you imagine introducing yourself to a client as Winter or Braeden? While these are beautiful names, they just don't seem to fit into the situation quite right. Of course, this is just MY opinion, and it is YOUR name, so if you feel totally right shaking hands with a new neighbor and saying, "Nice to meet you, my name is Grey," then there you go! If it's what feels right, then there's your answer.

If I were the one picking your new name, I think I would go with Sadie. It's beautiful, a little different but still familiar, and it works for a grown woman today. Ellery is very pretty and not so out there that it seems totally ill-fitting. I think this is my second choice for you. BUT be aware that most people (especially people you meet post-name change) will want to shorten it to "Elle" since "Ellery" is kind of a mouthful. Can you handle going by "Elle?" You could tell them you prefer Ellery, but that won't stop everyone from delving out a nickname. Something to keep in mind!

Stephanie (for now) said...

Thanks again for the input everyone, very helpful to see the reactions and ideas. I did my 'trial by fire' when I told my aunts my intention to change and showed them my list so I know I'm able to roll my eyes laughingly when they came back w/ how would they know it's a snow day if you called and said I'm snowd-in, haha. And my last name is unusual enough that I'm used to the pronunciation slip ups or the what the heck is that reaction. Thanks again Swistle and everyone who commented!

Aislidh said...

Stephanie- I like your name, and Annie's suggestion of going by Annie instead of Steph! But I understand hating a name (mine is stupid-hard for anyone in the States to figure out)...so good luck, and I hope you'll update us on the name you choose!

quirkybook said...

Hi! I am a lurker here, and have no useful name suggestions to give to Stephanie-for-now, but did want to share with you some tactics that my friend has used as she's been going through her own first-name-change process. (As background: she's single, in her early 30s, and is changing her name for similar "it's never felt like HER" reasons as you.)

She has actually tried out different names in "safe" spaces -- i.e., by asking me and other super-trusted friends to try calling her something new for a while in casual conversation, as well as with various "new" acquaintances that she's met over the past couple of months who don't have the baggage associated with her old name as older friends do. What I think is really neat with this approach is that it allows her to simulate life as an X, or a Y, or a Z, to assess it for fit and comfort.

Because that's what strikes me as the golden difference between going through a name change as an adult, versus naming a newborn baby: YOU get the supreme advantage of test-driving YOUR name to your heart's content, without a delivery or adoption date or any other kind of deadline. I hope you can take advantage of that, and that ultimately YOU get to decide whether you feel like an Ellery, or a Sadie, or something else entirely.

Sorry if this was already part of your game plan, but I thought it was such a good idea of my friend's that I'd throw this suggestion out there. Good luck with your decision, however it goes!

Superjules said...

I think you should either:

1. Just start going by Sadie, with or without a legal change.

or

2. Change your name to whatever you want! I disagree that you shouldn't pick a certain name because it might be jarring since it is popular for current babies. I think it is an important factor to consider but it isn't a good enough reason to not choose a name you like.

Melissa Haworth said...

If you really want to use the middle name/full name I suggest two first names. I currently know two little girls (with what feel to me like non trendy) double names: MaraRose and MariaSofia. Both use both names most of the time with Mara and Maria (or Sofia) serving more as nicknames. I also know someone my age (30s) who is a RoseMarie (NOT Rosemary so that got confusing) but I think a double first name might be a nice option particularly with your italianish surname.

Also I have a cousin who completely changed her name (first and last) as a young adult--she changed it to the names of the towns where her parents/grandparents where raised so she became Blair N0rthw00d (don't want her to google her own unusual name). Kind of a random family connection--guess it worked for her. I actually have no idea what name she was born with.

Caitlin said...

Just commenting to say...this is a very personal decision and I'm sure it's difficult, and I wish you the best of luck.

My MIL never quite felt like her birth name fit her. In her mid to late 40s she was inspired on a trip overseas to a country of her heritage, and changed it to a name she heard there. She is now in her early 60s and has decided she "is done" (her words) with that name, and has moved on to another name (which is a variation of her original name, and is NOT common on someone her age).

Point being: it can be done. I hope you finally have a name that feels like YOU!

Diane said...

Anyone else remembering the episode of Full House where Stephanie decides she wants to change her name, or is that just me?

I definitely think you could go by Sadie and get away with it for a while without legally changing your name. If I met someone named Stephanie, and she said "Oh, I go by Sadie!", I wouldn't even give it a second thought. Not a traditional nickname, but it's close enough that I think you could use it for a year or two until people are used to it, and then change it legally.

I've been brainstorming nicknames from Stephanie (which I'm sure you've spent countless hours doing since childhood), and the only one that I haven't seen mentioned is Effie.

One suggestion I have is to ask if there is anything anyone has called you in your life that you DID like being called. Even if it wasn't a NAME name, perhaps you could draw some inspiration from it.

Good luck!

Superjules said...

I'm glad you found a name you really liked. I guess my suggestion would be to just start introducing yourself as Sutton and field questions as they arise. You don't have to explain to everyone that you meet right away that "I'm Stephanie but I go by Sutton."

Also, can you just put your first initial and your last name on non-legal documents? Like put S. Lastname at the top of your resume, etc? I feel like that would be the easiest way to go since Sutton and Stephanie both start with and S.

I recently had a patient who had changed his name from something like Phil Saulpalo to something like John Griggs. He hadn't done it legally so there was some tricky business with the hospital forms and such but in the end he would sign Phil Saulpalo on all his forms and we would call him John Griggs. Soooo I guess what I'm saying is that name changes take a little getting used to but eventually it should all work out. :)

leah said...

Congrats on finding a workable fit! I have a little boy who is going by his middle name to avoid confusion with other family members. Our pediatrician does as well and has given a sympathetic eye roll when the nurses called him by his first name. :) Really I love the idea Superjules had about using S. Lastname, using Sutton to introduce yourself, then busting out Stephanie when you're signing on with HR or tax information or something. :)

Ginger said...

If it helps, I'm 29 and have never gone by my legal name (Virginia). I was named after my mom's mom - they always called her "Ginger" and that's what I've been since birth. On any legal documents, I'm still Virginia - I sign checks that way and any other legal things that way. It hasn't been a problem at all - other than my occasional cringe when someone calls my legal name out (like off a class register or something). :) Oh & my bank is so used to it that if someone makes a check out to Ginger, I can endorse it and cash it that way, no problem. :)

Anonymous said...

I would just start introducing myself as Sutton, don't even explain the "Stephanie-but-Sutton" thing unless it's warranted (ie, in legal situations, job interviews, etc). A dear friend of mine goes by Carly, which is a nickname derived from her MIDDLE name, so absolutely no one would expect her to be "Carly," since it's not even close to her given first name. She introduces herself as Carly, unless of course someone sees her real name, and then she just explains that she prefers Carly, and that is that. I have never seen it be a problem for her, as people are always more than willing to forget her real first name. Obviously you will never be totally rid of Stephanie, but it'll just be a quick correction and that will be that. Also, my friend has always put "Carly" on her resume, never her given name.

Jenny Grace said...

Introduce yourself as Sutton.
On your resume, Sutton Lastname, or maybe S. Sutton Lastname.

Just field questions as they arise.