As I approach the two year mark of marriage, I find myself reflecting on ‘the surname dilemma’ as I’ve named it. I go backwards and forwards about my surname; Spottiswoode is a name I’ve grown to love (try spelling it as a 5 year old!); it is the name of my family and, in all its peculiarity, I find myself resistant to give it up. It would have been so much easier if I married someone with a more generic surname, but Speirs is a special name and it is a name that means a lot to the family who are offering it to me.
I legally changed my name not long after we married, I’d booked a holiday as Speirs so rather than paying £200 to change the name on the booking, I figured the easier option was to pay £70 to have my passport renewed with my married name. Since then I haven’t fully committed to either name, switching between the two as it suited me. One of the trickier things is that I haven’t been consistent. With our house move I’ve signed up to various estate agents and each time I ring them I have to say ‘Hi, Jen Spottiswoode here, or it could be Jen Speirs – I’m not sure who you’ve got on your system’. It’s getting a little tiresome. I’ve also had other issues; it’s confusing at work when my legal name is Speirs but I’m known as Spottiswoode, I’m in our HR system as Jen Spottiswoode Speirs, people write to me as Mrs Spottiswoode (weird, weird, weird) and as Miss Speirs (who’s that?!). I’ve utterly confused myself and the people around me – all because of a name.
My mum and dad raised me with great values, morals and a keen awareness of how wonderful our family is. I love the Spottiswoode family with all my heart; they are some of the most important people in my world. It is a pleasure seeing the family grow, with baby Arlo, and my brothers’ and sister’s other halves and I treasure Spottiswoode family time – sitting around the table, drinking wine, trying to steer the conversation away from politics. I owe everything I am today to my family and give thanks for the love and opportunities they have given me.
The past six months have been a period of grief and growth. I’ve grown closer to my in-laws during these months of tragedy than I ever did in the previous eight/nine years of knowing them. If six months ago I still hadn’t figured out my place in the Speirs family unit, I certainly have now. The Speirs’ are a fiercely strong family; protective, supportive and competitive. If you are one of them, they’ve got your back and that goes way beyond the four walls of the family home in Bristol. My role as a Speirs is reinforcing the softer side of family; loving each other, talking about feelings (something I’m learning to do too) and sharing memories – both happy and sad. In some of the darkest moments the family have been there – not always physically together – but always there, a family who are strong enough to share the pain and talk. I’m part of a family who are learning to laugh again, but who still have a long road ahead.
I have come to the conclusion that it is time to choose a surname. I feel the loss of diluting my Spottiswoode identity (and being the only Jen Spottiswoode on instagram – there are THREE other Jen Speirs!) but I feel honoured to be taking the name of the man I love and his family, who I adore. I know it’s another surname I’ll be correcting the spelling on for the rest of my life (“I before e except after c”, unless you are a Speirs because we’re unique!) but if you ask me, Speirs is spelt L-O-V-E.