"She's not changing her name," shot back another friend, before I could even reply. "She would never change her name."
|I started working on this post, and Groupon sent this out.|
STOP IT, BIG BROTHER, YOU'RE TOO OBVIOUS NOW.
That's the truth, or at least, that's a snapshot of the truth, right now. But now moves quickly, as does truth. And when it comes to the name game, the whole truth is a trickier and constantly-evolving little beastie.
Truth, Then: Despite being raised by a feminist mom (who hyphenated her name, by-the-by) and open-minded dad, I still grew up assuming that someday I'd grow up, find Prince Charming, marry him, and then we'd be the Charmings.
(Incidental Reality: I didn't ever meet Prince Charming. But I did eventually meet a guy who, as it happens, has a last name that essentially translate as Prince. Close enough for this chick!)
Truth, Now(-ish): I'm really attached to my name. I have several publications attributed to this name, a solid professional reputation linked to it, more than three decades' worth of largely-positive-associations with this moniker - to say nothing of, like, Twitter and stuff. I've done a lot as this person, called by my name. It's understandable that my close friend (several, actually) was shocked I would even consider changing my name. Plus, I'm certainly a feminist, progressive person who balks at the idea of having my identity somehow become adjunct, deferring and docilely submitting my own name and allowing it to fade into oblivion as I now don my husband's name.
My current name, let's be honest, is still tied in to the patriarchy. It's my father's surname, and his father's surname (well, his father's post-Ellis-Island surname; really, this name with this spelling has only been in the family for three generations). My mother hyphenated her own name, but my siblings and I all simply had my father's name. I love my father; I'm proud to have his last name...
Yet, objectively, am I any more or less a part of the patriarchal system if I keep my dad's last name, as opposed to taking my chosen partner's last name?
Still, even if it trotted its way down a patrilneal path to get to me, my name has now been mine for thirty-two years. After this much time, I have claimed it, shaped the perceptions associated with it, and giving it up seems ludicrous. So as of a few weeks ago, I made the decision - and even announced to a few close friends - that I would be keeping my name.
I had yet to fully discuss these thoughts with The Fiance. (BTW, I'm going to preempt the "why doesn't he change his name?!" question and say that honestly, he has a really cool name - an alliterative name that he loves, and makes him feel close to the alliteration-addicted-allies he adores, like Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, etc. Not to get a dig in about age, but he's had his name even longer, and for a variety of genuinely-not-Neanderthal-ish reasons, him changing his name is not on the table.)
And then, yet another chatty friend said, in front of The Fiance, "So, like, are you keeping your name or what?"
I just stared at her for a second. Poor thing had no idea how big a question she'd just asked, especially since she asked it of me, and my mind has thirty thousand thoughts swirling around in it on a slow day.
Luckily, The Fiance, who is rarely at a loss for words and always quick to look out for my feelings, took the opportunity to make this lovely statement: "Oh, I pretty much assumed that you would want to keep your name, and that's totally fine with me, of course. I don't see it as any sort of litmus test, does-she-love-me-enough-to-take-my-name or anything. Anyway, it's a good name. (Says my full name.) I love that girl."
And right then, I realized that dammit, no litmus test required, I do want to share a name with him. The feminist in me pouted, but then she got a little less petulant and a little more poignant about it. It's still my choice, after all, and isn't that what it's all about? Not the ultimate choice we make on issues like this, but the fact that we're empowered to have our own choice in the first place?
People change names to mark transitions. When someone takes on a new faith, or confirms their faith, they often receive a new name: a Hebrew name after conversion to Judaism, a Christian name after baptism, heck-- the Pope gets a new name when he gets the big gig, and far as I know there haven't been too many lady-Popes. So it's not just a gendered thing - although speaking of gender, trans* persons go through the process of finding themselves a new name that honors their identity. People change their names for plenty of other reasons: to advance their career, to better reflect their personality, to mark themselves in some way as something different from how they felt encased in their old name.
I do believe that marriage will be a transition; that something about my identity will shift, though I will remain autonomous and very much myself. I will be committing, publicly and wholly, to throw my lot in with another person's, and create a new family. (Let's not even open the issue of having the same last name is easiest if there's kids - this post is already looooong.) It is a transition, and thus many things will change - but will my name be one of them?
The Inconvenient, Clock's-Ticking Truth: I still don't know. At the moment, I'm considering hyphenation for daily life, but maintaining my current name as my professional name. I still don't have a final decision... but I did buy that Groupon, just in case.
What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from folks who took their partner's name, folks who kept theirs, who hyphenated, whose partner took their name, folks who changed their name due to another change or transition in their life... What was this decision-making process like for you, and when (if ever) did you "know" what the right name would be?