Thursday, November 29, 2012

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," said Juliet to her Romeo. And she's right of course. But I don't know if there's another name that would sound as sweet. I'm biased, being a Rose myself!

My father named me Heather because we are of Scottish ancestry and because he liked the name. Many other mothers and fathers in the 1970's also liked the name. I was one of four Heathers in my Kindergarten class. Because the other three had all been in the same school in preschool together and there was already a Heather R., I got to go by Heather Ann, my middle name. My mother gave me that name, which is also her middle name. And of course my father gave me my last name, Rose. In the 1970's, an American woman was still 99% likely to take her husband's last name, and therefore my parents very nearly named me Heather Rose Rose, so that when I got married, I could keep the Rose part. Altogether, I have a very floral name, heather being the little purple flowers from Scotland. Ann, if you add an E could be Queen Anne's Lace. And rose of course, the flower that Juliet thought smelled so sweet. In fact, my bridal bouquet was made up of those three flowers.

Me and my name in flowers.

When I married my husband, I was all of 21. And though I loved him to pieces, I had a hard time immediately casting aside the Rose in favor of his Chase. I adore my heritage and the family name, and after all, I did grow up hearing about how my parents almost gave me Rose twice so I could keep it. I wanted to keep it! Michael supported my position, and never once pressured me to change my name. Oddly enough, he has a sister named Heather, who was Heather Chase before marrying a Young (and I regularly get confused for her on Facebook). The year I turned 25 I went in and somewhat altered my name. I didn't drop the Rose, I added a hyphen along with the Chase. Most of the reason for adding it was social pressure. After all, even though I wasn't legally named Chase, everyone we knew called me Heather Chase.

Toward the end of my 25th year, I had my first son. As babies in America don't get a legal name until the birth certificate is filed, his wrist and ankle bands all said "Baby Boy Rose-Chase" because I was registered as Heather Rose-Chase. I had no desire to saddle my first born with the name I had chosen for myself. And friends who had met me after I was married couldn't find me at the hospital, being unaware that I had a Rose in there before the Chase they knew me as. It was the first time I felt somewhat guilty about keeping the Rose at all.

Interestingly enough, applying for visas as an accompanying spouse when we moved to Japan ten weeks after Nathan was born was no problem at all. It would appear that having the same name as your husband is only a weighty issue in America where the divide between conservatism and liberalism grows ever wider and keeping one's name post-nuptuals throws you at the most liberal side of the scale. Which isn't really where I belong, I'm just a girl who really, really likes her name (and for the record I fall all over the place, extremely conservative in some areas, quite liberal in others, and somewhere in the middle for most. I don't fit labels as well as I fit my name).
The Rose Clan crest, motto, and tartan, which my grandfather Ernest Rose brought back from Scotland, which came to me after both my Rose grandparents passed away. This has hung by the door of every home I've ever lived in, traveling all around the world with me. My parents have the same thing hanging by their door, which will go to my brother. My Dad's two sisters each have one as well. I am the only girl on my Dad's side of the family with the last name of Rose, and my brother is the last Rose in our branch of the family tree.

When our oldest hit Kindergarten we'd just moved back to America from Hong Kong, where once again going by a hyphenated name different from my son and husband's was no big deal. But registering Nathan at the neighborhood school in California provided the school staff with plenty of opportunities to bring up the fact that our last names didn't match on all the forms. Maybe it's a safety issue, but I can't tell you how horrible it felt to have that pointed out by everyone who read the forms to enroll him. Because in this day and age of divorce and remarriage, there are plenty of kids whose last name doesn't match that of their parents. Right?

Once again we are abroad, and this time in a culture quite a bit different from the rest when it comes to names. In China, if you meet a Mr. Lao, you should never turn to the lady by his side and say, "And you must be Mrs. Lao." It is guaranteed that his wife is not Mrs. Lao (though hopefully the woman by his side is indeed his wife!). The women of China keep the name of the family they were born into. Keeping the Rose here is a non-issue. Adding the hyphen and the Chase only brings up the occasional question of which name is that of my family and which is that of my husband's.

I've grown to love all of my names, especially because what got added on is shared not just with my husband but with my two sons, and hopefully with any children they may have, waaaaaay down the line.

In closing, I'll leave you with a link to a galaxy 300 million light-years away from Earth, seen from the Huble Space Telescope. My husband, who loves me by any name, tweeted tonight that it was named after me, Galaxy Rose. I don't know how it smells, but it sure is pretty!


  1. Hi Heather,

    I found your blog through expat-blog. I got one of those blog awards and I'm supposed to pass it on to a bunch of other blogs, so I picked yours. This explains it

  2. In Chinese culture, you would still be Mrs. Chase (Chase Tai Tai), because you are married to Mr. Chase. You would never be addressed as Mrs. Rose because you are not married to Mr. Rose. However, your name is always Heather Rose because that is your family name and your family did not change it's name.


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