YOUR NAME MATTERS

That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet... Juliet Capulet

Juliet is telling Romeo she loves him, not his name. Good for her. But she's also implying that names don't affect who we are. Shakespeare used words to exquisitely convey understanding of human nature. But he got names wrong in Romeo and Juliet, whereas Johnny Cash got it right in his song A Boy Named Sue. Names have a powerful effect on who we are and who others perceive us to be. Names matter.

When I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D. C. I was disappointed to see just a long, black wall engraved with names of people I didn't know. I'm not sure what I expected to see—perhaps a statue of John McCain, Oliver Stone or Colin Powel?

Then I saw a woman tracing a name on the wall with her finger—stroking each letter as if she had never felt anything more precious in her life. Didn't matter who that person had been—husband, son, father. Her silent stroking of that name on that wall spoke loudly and clearly to me. Names matter.

Romeo was willing to change his name from Montague to Capulet, for love. Most men wouldn't change their name for anything—certainly not to the name of their wife. Doing so might make them feel as if they were submitting to the patriarchal lineage of her father.

Most women, however, are willing to change their name for love when they marry and for contempt when they divorce. My wife changed hers from her ex-husband's name to mine. I had encouraged her to use her maiden name, but she reminded me that her maiden name belonged to another man: her father. So I've always tried to not be her next ex-husband, and not just to save her from having to change her name again.

When parents put a name on your birth certificate, they don't know who you are or who you will be from one stage of your life to another. Some fathers even name their sons after themselves. Mine did. Some sons grow up liking that. I didn't. It was a stumbling block to my quest for individuality. Names do not make you who you are. The cause and effect chain of thoughts, actions, habits and character make you who you are. But you can make your name reflect who you have become. I did and was born again to myself.