What’s in a name? Everything to some, based on a number of critically biting comments I’ve received since changing my name to “De Freitas” after tying the knot last autumn. It might not be the new millennial, pro-women thing to do, but I had always known I’d do this since I was a little girl. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I was well aware that it was no longer a societal requirement to do so. There were plenty of women who opted to maintain the name they had since birth. Some did so because they were established in their profession and had become well-known by their maiden name. Others had adapted a more modern feminist stance that they didn’t need to shed their name for a man’s—despite the fact that most had their father’s surname.
Still others kind of split the difference by use of the very politically correct hyphen, like “Ms. Mary Jones-White” or “Jessica Smith-Hall”. This seemed a plausible solution that could appease both the traditionalists and feminists. Having two names can actually sound quite privileged to me, even stately. So why didn’t I choose this option B? Well, one reason, to be frank, is that having “Alisha Flemming-De Freitas” would’ve just been too wordy. Try fitting that 23 letter behemoth on a driver’s license or bank card. How about taking the time to scribble that every time I made a check card purchase. And the spelling? Forget about it! I already grew up having people assume my name was spelled “Alicia Fleming,” which are the more common spellings. However, my mom opted for “A-L-I-S-H-A” because she thought it sounded phonetically correct. Turns out, I prefer the Indian origin meaning of it better than the European “Alicia” anyway.
As for Flemming, well, who knows why some ancestor thought it better to have two “m’s” as opposed to one. It is what it is. I never liked it too much as a child. I’ll never forget Clem McIntyre’s middle school tease of “Phlem-ing.” He would pronounce it while half coughing and then clearing his throat. It was a popular and disgusting nickname that popped up repeatedly through high school graduation. Believe me, I was never enamored of a last name that induced thoughts of mucus and bronchitis. I often pondered why I couldn’t have had my mother’s common (and middle school approved) maiden name of “Williams”. I vowed to myself (ok, and to my entire family repeatedly) that I would drop the offensive “Phlem-wod” name (another 6th grade hit) for “Alisha Williams” when I became a famous writer as an adult. While I did do a few freelance articles, I never attained any kind of fame (well, my Mom and K think I’m a star) and I used “Flemming” for the writing credit.
Despite my childhood dislike of the name, I achieved much as a “Flemming”. Winning academic awards, a tween beauty pageant, being a cheerleader, having my first kiss, first boyfriend, the Prom, high school and college graduation…. Years, memories, laughter, tears… all as “Miss Flemming”. Adventures and misadventures, my journey under my birth moniker has been a true learning and growing experience.
Yet when Miss Alisha D. Flemming, full of past hurt, present joy and future hope, took my Knight’s ring and promise of fidelity and enduring love on our wedding day, I accepted his name, with the true honor it bestowed on me. Kelly Clarkson’s song could’ve been me:
Miss self sufficient
Miss keep your distance…
Miss don’t let a man interfere, no
Miss on her own
Miss almost grown
Miss never let a man help her off her throne
In marrying Keiron, he not only swept me off my feet, but actually seated me on a new throne. No longer a princess, I became his queen.
So, by keeping her heart protected
She’d never ever feel rejected
Little miss apprehensive
As my love for him has grown, the fear caused by past hurts has subsided, along with apprehension. I no longer have to keep up a wall around my heart. He guards it valiantly, protecting it with his all.
What happened to Miss independent
No longer need to be defensive
Goodbye old you when love
when love is true…
With “I do”, I bid goodbye to Miss Flemming. Not with feelings of loss, either. Like the completion of a chapter, I turned the page. Memories intact, lessons learned… not all tied up in a neat package, of course. Nevertheless, on October 24, 2008, I finished being a Flemming, and wrapped myself in De Freitas.
So despite the negative comments I’ve received from overly critical co-workers and associates intent on sharing their opinion that I’ll always be a “Flemming,” I am Alisha De Freitas. And it fits me much better than Miss Independent ever did.
(You can see Kelly Clarkson’s “Miss Independent” here.)