What should I do?
I noticed on Sunday that Peter and I now have nametags at church, but it took me a minute to figure it out simply because it wasn’t my name.
“Kathy Chang” was next to “Peter Chang”. I recognized Peter’s name, but I did not recognize mine because that’s not who I am.
I did not take his last name when we got married. I was young, idealistic and slightly rebellious. I had just begun to establish a career in journalism, and enjoyed seeing my byline. And when I thought of my parents eventually giving away their two daughters in holy matrimony, there was a pang in my heart. I would become one with my husband, but my name was so tied with my family of origin. If they were really gaining a son, did they have to lose their daughter in the process?
I didn’t set out to make a statement with keeping my last name. I had simply become accustomed to my name in all its oft-mispronounced, misspelled glory.
Hyphenating didn’t make sense. (For those of you who don’t speak Korean, if you put Khang and Chang together with proper pronunciation you get something very close to the word for “soy sauce”.) And as open-minded as Peter was trying to be, we couldn’t think of a way to explain to his parents why their first-born son was giving up his family name. (He still laughs when students or colleagues of mine mistakenly refer to him as Mr. Khang.)
So I stayed Kathy Khang. The kids’ friends call me Mrs. Chang, and I don’t make a big deal about it. When folks ask, I happily explain. I love my husband, and my children with whom I do not share a last name, and I love my name.
There are many women in the scriptures who go nameless. The woman at the well. The Samaritan woman. The bleeding woman. I love their stories. And I really do love the story my name tells. Khang – in Korean tradition the family name comes first. Kathy – given to me by my parents when we immigrated to the states because it started with the same sound as my given name. KyoungAh – my Korean name given to me by my paternal grandfather, according to tradition; the characters mean “congratulations” because I was the first daughter born to the family in three generations.
Back to the name tag.
Despite my slightly rebellious tendencies, I am still Asian American. I don’t want to embarrass anyone by asking for a new tag, and I don’t want to seem too liberal. I don’t want to draw any more attention to our family than we already do when we walk into the sanctuary.
What should I do?