Not that I’m counting, but I’m marrying Mr Phil Gibson in 90 days. (…I am totally counting.)
We’ve decided to have a small wedding; our close family will gather at the registry office for the ceremony, then we’ll go for a meal at a posh hotel and that’s your lot. While I’m somewhat excited for the big day, I’m very excited to be married to him because he’s a lovely person.
With a wedding of this size, we’ve left out things we saw as superfluous to our needs; no evening disco, no cake, no favours, no antique wedding car, no army of bridesmaids and groomsmen, no first dance. We’ve both attended amazing weddings in the past, but together agreed that we didn’t want the hassle and expense of a full-blown shindig for our day. Having cut out many of the traditional wedding features, conversely there’s one thing I’m definitely keeping – my surname.
Not long after Phil proposed we had a proper talk about names. I said that I’d like to keep my surname after we’re married, how would he feel about that? He considered it then replied, “I’d love it if you took my name, but I can’t think of a single good reason why you actually should, beyond tradition or patriarchy.” Excellent answer. I should marry him.
But why am I so adamant about wanting to stay an Apostolou?
Let’s start with the name itself. Llia is short for the longer and more Cypriot-flavoured ‘Vasillia.’ Add my surname ‘Apostolou’ and you have a multi-syllable pain-in-the-arse of a name. A confusing number of Ls and Is in my first name, and far too many Os in my surname. I have to spell it out all the time. However, the older I’ve got, the more I’ve realised how important my name is to me and how it helped to shape my personality.
Way back in the mists of time, my family moved to Surrey. Ok, it was in the 90s, which is actually quite a long time ago now that I do the maths, so perhaps I wasn’t exaggerating as much as I thought.
At the time it was a very white area. VERY WHITE. At my large secondary school, I was one of only a handful of students who looked ‘not-English’ and I was called ‘Paki’ several times. The factual inaccuracy stung more than the intended insult, but that this happened semi-regularly really shows how white it was – just being a person of Mediterranean descent was enough to be seen as different. Factor in a very ‘not-English’ name and it has a definite effect – you know full well that you’re not like everyone else, and you’re not allowed to forget it. You stand out without wanting to, or trying to.
Having a surname beginning with A, I was usually first on the class register. At the start of each school year, I’d see every teacher look down, see ‘Vasillia Apostolou’ and pause for a second. Fair enough. Some would attempt to say it, most would butcher it. Again, fair enough.
In later years, I’d interrupt as I saw them pause, “That’s me. I prefer to be called Llia.” It just made things easier. I found it embarrassing at first, but as I went through school I cared less. I probably sounded like a cocky little shit, didn’t I? Not that I’ve ever been a shy and retiring type, but when you’re an awkward teenager, speaking out of turn to a new teacher in front of a class of 30 students at the start of the year… well, it’s character forming. It’s something. I could just be reaching for excuses for being gobby. (Incidentally, I am gobby enough to have been asked to do readings at THREE weddings so far.)
There’s plenty of reasons to maintain the status quo and keep my surname. I’ve lived with this surname for over 30 years and have grown into it, not to mention that the idea of changing every official document, online account and my email address doesn’t exactly fill me with joy.
There’s one more crucial reason. I’m an extremely endangered species, the last Apostolou of an all-female generation. The others have all gone and got Englishy surnames, the traitors. (Special shoutout to my little sister, who can now type her whole name with only three letters on the keyboard.)
When my grandfather died last year, it strengthened my resolve to keep the surname going in my own small way. Interestingly, (or not) my family’s surname isn’t even meant to be Apostolou, but thanks to some immigration admin shambles several decades ago we got stuck with it… which makes me love it even more. It’s very symbolic of my ridiculous family.
Keeping your surname after marriage shouldn’t be a Big Deal, because it isn’t really. Plenty of people do it. However, it’s generally expected that you will be taking your partner’s name, which throws up some interesting etiquette issues. (Christ, what is it with weddings and etiquette? Yawn.) You feel like you should tell people of your choice ahead of the wedding, but there never seems to be a good time to bring it up. What if someone gifts a cheque made out to “Mr and Mrs Gibson”? What if someone makes a personalised gift featuring the wrong names? Is there a polite way to correct people, without making them feel uncomfortable or upset? Well, we’ll find out.
Of course, there are other solutions to the married surname issue, but they didn’t appeal. Double-barrelling went out the window when we realised it sounded like spitting out a mouthful of gravel, and a portmanteau would be ridiculous. (Apostoson? Gibpostolou? Gibapostolouson? Please…)
There’s only one other solution. I’ve STRONGLY HINTED that he could take my surname and sound like an exotic Greek prince. He doesn’t fancy it. Funny that.