People have always said that I am the spitting image of my father, so it comes as a bit of a surprise for them when they realize that I don’t share his name.
When I was younger, the scrutiny over having my mother’s last name used to make me self-conscious. Almost everyone I knew got their last name from their father, or else they had a hyphenated name, but no one ever had just their mother’s name. Many people assumed that my last name must be a remark upon my father’s capabilities as a parent (because what other reason could there be for giving a child her mother’s name?), and I found myself having to explain to more than one person that it had nothing to do with my father, who is, and always has been, an excellent dad.
I don’t pretend to know why my mother defied naming conventions the way she did. When I was younger I used to wish that she’d given me my dad’s name, mostly because Elliott is a hell of a lot easier to pronounce than Bouloy, but also so that I wouldn’t have to answer the awkward questions that came up every time I introduced myself as his daughter.
It took me a while to make peace with my last name, but sometime in high school I realized that the questions that I always dreaded about my family would be there even if I had been given my dad’s name, because people always have questions when they realize you grew up in a non-traditional environment. In the long run, those questions didn’t really matter. The problem wasn’t with my family, it was with society. I stopped wishing for my dad’s name, and I started realizing all of the great parts of the name my mom gave me.
I love my father, but I was raised by my mother. When I look back at my life and the influences that shaped me, my mom is the one true constant. Growing up with her as my mother instilled in me the qualities that I like best about myself: my creativity, my passion for learning new things, and my willingness to see the best in people. My mother has always been my best friend, the person I want to go to whenever something great happens in my life, and the person I rely on for advice when everything is going wrong.
To me, my last name is a symbol of all of the parts of my mom that I aspire to: her strength, her dedication, her joy, and her ability to love her daughter unconditionally. I am proud to be her daughter, and I carry that pride with me every day. I used to struggle with being Alanna Bouloy, but today I can’t imagine going by any other name.