Archive for June, 2011

The Name Game

I got a phone call today from our dental insurance company regarding coverage for Milo.  (Milo recently had his first dentist appointment with a great pediatric dentistry practice.)  The insurance company wanted to know if Milo had any additional insurance coverage.

I told them no, Milo was covered under my name.

The insurance person asked, “So, no additional insurance coverage from the natural father?”

Excuse me?  Natural father?  “No,” I repeated. “He’s covered under my name.”

“Oh,” said the insurance person.  “It’s just that your names are different.  He’s Clark and you’re Chen.”

I explained that I just didn’t change my name and that Milo’s father and I were indeed married.  But nevertheless, Milo did not have additional coverage under his father.

As I hung up the phone, I felt a little indignant.  I understand it’s a little confusing that I didn’t take my married name, but in this day and age, why make the assumption that the different names meant that I wasn’t married to the father of my son?  Because that was the implication with the term “natural father.”  Why not just say “father”?  And what does it matter anyway?

Milo’s full name is “Milo Chen Clark.”  Chen is his middle name.  We decided not to hyphenate, but that Milo would be “Milo Chen Clark” and that we would be known as the “Chen Clark Family.”  Still, on the insurance forms, he was “Milo C. Clark.”  Annoying that insurance forms don’t conform to our vision of our child’s name.  I realize this will not be the last time  we have this confusion over my relationship to my own child.

Still, there are very specific reasons I chose not to take my married name.  I got married at the age of 38, after I was already well established professionally and personally as Sabina Chen.  I had no desire to re-invent myself as “Sabina Clark” or even as “Sabina Chen Clark.”  More importantly, being Asian American was a big part of my identity and changing my name to “Clark” seemed to undermine who I was.  “Clark” is so very…WASP.  It felt incongruous to me.

Blake didn’t really care what name I took and we knew plenty of families like ours: mom keeps maiden name, children take father’s name or some combination of the two.  Welcome to the 21st century, right?

The other day, I heard Blake explain Milo’s full name to someone.  Then he said, “We figured when he gets older he can choose–”

I interrupted, “Choose whether he wants to embrace the Chen side of his identity?  Because he doesn’t have a choice about the Clark side!”

Did I destine my child to be a WASP?

Probably, when Milo comes of age, he will reject both his parents’ names and make up some anagram of the two.  Milo Carlcheck or Charnleck.  Will accept suggestions for anagrams.


Milo working on his identity. I gotta be me!

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