Identity: Last Name
“Hold me down, keep me safe”
In October my therapist asked me if I would take my husband’s last name whenever I got married, I nodded vehemently, agreed enthusiastically.
Nunez, I told her, wasn’t a name that I felt the owner of, it felt like a part of me that was imposed. A weight that carried with it stories of impermanence, of overcompensating, of a man whose face I do not know, a family I am not a member of, a culture that I am not familiar with. To shimmy out of being associated with it would be less heartbreaking for me than it would be for others.
I am more Delgado than I am Nunez. A constant in a world of unknowns. An ode to my grandfather and to the grandmother who owned both of her last names with assertiveness that was ahead of her time. A weaving of a heritage and culture that speaks to connections between my mother and I. From the same last name, from the same childhood home, from a mother who we shared at different stages because of different reasons.
From the same place, our family.
I know I will be more my future husband’s last name than I will have ever been Nunez, because to take his name will be a choice. To belong to myself and still choose to take on someone else’s name and make it my own, it will be the example I point to when I speak of surrendering in bliss. Love by way of letters. Belonging by way of a created-by-us family.
Safety in numbers, in letters, in home.
Yesterday my friend said to me, “It's really weird how things we don't choose for ourselves become our identity.” I agree. To the world, to some degree, I am and will forever be, Vivian Nunez. My bylines take on those two names. My social handles cut down my own name to make space for my last name. I am Viv, V, Vivi. Never just Vivian. Always an abbreviated version of who I am because it’s what the world chooses to see me as. It's the last name my mom fought to put on my birth certificate because she thought it would help shield me from being called names, or feeling other. If only she'd known that the name didn't shield me from myself on my worst days.
Identity is such a fluid reality. We talk about sexuality more often now and gender fluidness is invited into spaces it was once shunned from. To be Latinx is to acknowledge that the Latino culture is too deeply ingrained in the masculine, thereby erasing all that is female or gender nonconforming.
The X lets us all fill in our own spaces.
To extend its meaning to a personal realm, the truth is that I’ve been standing on my own version of an “X” since October. Where "X" is defined by identity crisis, rough patch, unknowns, infinity, myself, the woman I'm becoming, the names I shed, and the one I protect with my life. The "X" finds me trying to learn who I am, who I’m comfortable being to myself and to others, and the version of myself I aim to continue to grow into.
All three overlap on a simple truth — I’m unsubscribing from anything and anyone who believes that I have to inherit their definition of me. Then I'm holding tighter to those who rally for me and the person I'm becoming. Then I rally for them and the person they're becoming because this becoming process isn't easy. Then I keep them safe through the process, the same way they keep me safe.
It's a team effort, a family business.
The most challenging and honest of truths is that we get to own who we are, through our worst mistakes and our biggest triumphs. We get to look in the mirror and dress the body we wake, and come, and sleep in. We get to walk into the world as the person we intend to be, no permission needed.
In some spaces, I am Vivian. To call me Viv you know me in the middle - in the middle of a kiss, in the middle of a drink punctuated by laughs, in the middle of a conversation filled with tears. To call me Vivi, you know me as one of your own, as a cousin, as a niece, as a friend who speaks your same native tongue.
To call myself Vivian, period, is to understand that I am and will always be complemented by a last name, never defined. A choice when the time comes, a very proud one. One that I will share with him and with a kid, who will carry both his last name and my mom’s.
I’ve lived the entirety of my life being defined by others, then I turned 25. And this was just one of those adult decisions I realized I had the privilege to make.