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What’s in a name and how did you get yours?

I was second born to my 11 month older brother in Winnipeg, Manitoba on November 28, 1958. I have 4 younger siblings of which 2 were girls and 2 were boys. I was given my father’s name Rowland, even though my parents were not married until five of the six of us were born- I was told this nugget as a teen. I was named after the perky character from the song in the movie “Tammy and the Batchelor” which came out the year before my birth. My middle name “Gay” had only one meaning “happy”. So it seems to me my parents hoped I would be a perky character who was happy.

I kept this name until 1981 when I married my first husband after both my sons were born. I was thrilled to ditch a name that came with the pain and misery of my childhood. I wanted nothing to do with the name or who gave it to me. One sister married young I believe in part to escape it and another went to great expense change hers. My sons, like me were given their fathers name at birth before I married. Hmmm…seems somehow familiar. I never saw the many staggering parallels between my mother and me before!

I think we figured getting married would fix everything. We were wrong. I started my first business with my first husband’s name and I kept it even after the 3 year divorce. Somehow I thought that because I created a business and had children with that name, it was who I was. My EX-husband said he felt like I was keeping something that was his. I never understood that. I am still the mother of HIS children. That didn’t change!

Funny, I remember that my father felt that way too after my parents’ divorce. My mom kept his because she was in politics in Winnipeg when they divorced and she told me it was who she was and also felt nobody would know who she was if she went back to her maiden name. She still flails her name about -to speak to city officials or politicians. Like when the mosquito count is up and they hadn’t sprayed her street in Winnipeg, yet. Her neighbors all believe that she is important and has pull in anything of importance or legal matters with the city police, but that’s a completely different story.

Eventually I remarried in Montreal, Quebec exactly 6 years after I met my NOW husband. In the Province of Quebec you are born and die with the same name. I legally married with my maiden name, but still used the name I had been known as for 14 years. Keeping my name the same seemed important- then. That is who I was to my customers, business associates, friends and family and me. I also was known by this name on my passport and at the bank. My teenage sons asked me to keep “their name” too, so it mattered to them at the time. My NEW husband said it didn’t bother him what name I used, who knows. In hindsight, nothing was the same except my desire to keep it so. I had made many changes in my life, but most I felt were for other people. I really thought this was who I was.

Eventually I needed a career change, and along with that came many other changes. It took time to detach myself from a job that I thought defined me and gave my name substance. Not that being my kid’s mom wasn’t important or my husband wife either for that matter. I had just never defined myself in those roles at the time. I finally realized that I was not what I did for a living or in my life. As I went through that most recent metamorphosis, I needed to figure out who I was and what to call me.

I could change my name legally like my sister for countless dollars. Two things occurred to me other than the money. First, my new name if I took my current beloveds would sound like a porn star or a stripper. Secondly, I am not who I marry, I am just ME. Born Tammy Gay Rowland and I will die Tammy Gay Rowland. Marrying my husband was a commitment to both him and me, not a decision to be someone else.

I am constantly evolving as a person and expect to until I no longer breathe. My family, even my sons are fine with my decision because it really doesn’t change who they know me to be. It matters to me because it changed me. Just being able to be who I am, has simplified my life immeasurably. There was a heavy burden that I previously attached to names.

It’s another new starting point in my life. I am the sum of my experiences layered upon the happy, perky character that I was born. Not all of my experiences were happy or fun but I am at peace and happy with the result of whom I have become today, through having lived them.

I am still a caring daughter, a good mother, a respectful ex-wife and a loving wife. I am also a kind sister, true friend and a good person. I am a woman constantly learning and ever evolving as I mature and live new experiences. But mostly I feel like me, Tammy Gay Rowland and that’s more than good enough for me.

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