Wednesday, July 15, 2009

That's my name, don't wear it out!

Here's an e-mail I recently got from a reader. Thought I should share with you all:

"I have a topic idea for you: professional women taking their husband's name when they get married. I have not changed my name in ANY legal way. And I've told everyone that, yet EVERYONE addresses me by my husband's last name. I was completely called-out and berated by my in-laws for not taking his name, meanwhile my husband doesn't care one way or the other. Why do I have to give up my name? Why do I have to have an identity crisis with adopting a new name and have to rebuild my "name" again corporately and socially?

I got like 10 cards all from family and every single one of them was addressed to Mrs.***. WTF?!?! Sorry for my rant. I think it would be an interesting topic though."

Indeed, it is interesting. This topic seems to spark debate no matter where you go. Here is my personal experience:

After we had been dating for about six months and realised that we were probably going to get married, my now-husband and I had the name change talk. Mufti (that's what we'll call him) said something along the lines of " Yeah, we can get a sign for the house that says "The (insert his last name here) Family". I paused for a second, surprised that he would be so presumptuous, then nonchalantly replied that I didn't plan to change my name when I married.

You should have seen the look on his face. I might as well have told him that I slipped him a roofie the night before and cut off his testicles, which I was now wearing around my neck as a symbol of our love. It probably would have elicited the same reaction.

Needless to say, it turned into a huge fight. By the time it was over, I was AMAZED that I had just had an argument in which I had to defend my right to keep the name that had identified me my entire life. It was so thoroughly ridiculous, so offensive and, at least to me, archaic, that I made it very clear to Mufti that we were never having that kind of conversation again because it was insulting.

He thought I was insane because he had never met a woman who hadn't changed her name after marriage (What??Really?!).

You see, my rationale was this: I am a child of interracial hippie parents, very little in my life has been "traditional". I don't cook, I am not chomping at the bit to have babies, and I am not a dedicated housekeeper. Why, then, would I carry this old-school tradition into my post-second-wave marriage. why?Why?WHY? I paid my own way through University, got a degree, got a good job and started my career all under my name. Was I really going to repeat all I did to build that name over the years? F*ck no.

Despite this, just to not be a total shrew, I tried tacking my husband's name (not legally) onto the end of mine after we married. You know what happened? People just called me by his name and it made me cray-zay. I didn't feel comfortable assuming his name as my own. Eventually, every time I looked at him all I saw was a giant penis screaming "I OWN YOU NOW, MRS.YOURIDENTITYISINSIGNIFICANT!"

Aside from that, however, it made me realize just how much you learn about someone by their name; it tells the story of where you came from, it says something about (at least part of) your heritage. When explaining this to a friend, she retorted "Yeah, but isn't it just another man's name anyway?" Yes, but that man and I share blood and history. By changing your name, you disconnect yourself from that history. Sure you are beginning a new history and a new family, but you do that whether you change your name or not.

Does this seem obvious to anyone besides me?

Why are some professional women holding on to this practice? Convenience? Romance? Just plain old traditional values?

Did you change your name after you were professionally established? Why or why not?

Does your man care if you take his name or not?

Let's have it, bitches. I want your feedback.

8 comments:

Jill said...

Well, I am currently waffling on this issue. First I definitely didn't, then I sort of did, now I've tentatively settled on some combination of both. I can see both sides of this coin. I don't think there is any "right" answer, because the whole point of feminism is us ladies get to decide whatever we please. So if whatever you please includes becoming Mrs. Jones, and that is your dearly held wish, then more power to you.

For me personally, though my high school notebooks will speak to the contrary on this, I just never much saw myself being a Mrs. Whatever. The future husband does not care, although I know he would be secretly chuffed if I took his name. On one hand, I sort of want to tack it on at the end (not ditching my maiden altogether) because it really would feel more like we were a new family. However, if someone (like my fiance, haha) calls me Mrs. HisName jokingly, I cringe. I'm not sure if any amount of my lip service to the dual name business can overcome what is clearly a deep-seated horror of becoming just Mrs. HisName.

Only time will tell, I suppose. I suspect in the end, I just won't be able to force myself to sign those papers.

Oh, and then there's the AWESOME topic of "What Will We Call the Children??" which I'll leave for another day.

- Jill

Anonymous said...

shabs is this your blog, like your personal blog answer me. this is sugar bears hubby.

Shabs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am 100 per cent changing my name. My J-Lo name will be K-Os, I'm bored of my signature, and am tired of people spelling it wrong or asking me if I'm related to a certain celebrity ALL THE FREAKIN TIME...
Also, this way, when friends run in to people from my homw town and ask if they know me, they won't be able to divulge any incriminating "stories" from my younger days....

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of on the other side of the fence. To me, I've always assumed that I'd take on the last name of my husband. Perhaps it's because my last name currently comprises of two random and ill-placed nouns. Who knows. For me, though, it just kind of cements the official family dynamic, being the ____ family. You're a group, an entity on your own. You're making your own history, ideals, and most of all, your kids will be a combination of both of you, creating your own lineage. Perhaps I'm old fashioned. I can totally understand those who don't prescribe to this way of thinking. In my way of thinking, though, taking on another person's name isn't going to discount what I've done while I've had this name. I'll still be the same awkward, sarcastic, loud girl. I'll still be doing what I love (hopefully). I'd just take it to signify that another chapter of my life has opened, so to speak. To be honest, I will be happy girl when I can ditch my current surname for a much cooler random combination of two nouns.

Anonymous said...

I think whoever I end up marrying should take my last name...Its unique and there are only about a dozen of us with my last name in North America that I can find and I can't find anyone else with the same last name elsewhere yet either!!! And I've searched numerous times even with how they spell in in Ukrainian...So the answer is no I'm not changing my name

And I also agree that us girls have alot already invested in our names! Women in this day and age aren't often housewives locked away from the professional world...we can choose to either keep our name which formed our identity in the first place or be known as Mr. Doe's Young Urban Professional Bitch Wife Mrs. Doe!!!

(But I guess if you have a bad rep or your name is the same as some one else you might want to consider taking his last name!)

Necha said...

If I can find a man who has a last name that sounds okay with my first... maybe. I like the tradition but I love my name. They are both so unusual and different. I cannot imagine being in a hurry to change.

Anonymous said...

My name is too good to be changed. It's how I built my reputation, and it's difficult to forget. It's complete luck of the draw, but hey, I still love my name. My last name is "Best." To be honest, I almost want to give my husband my name...
One thing is for certain, I am not taking his name, and my children must have my name in there.

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