My strong-willed, straight-shooting feminist sister audibly groaned in dismay when I confirmed that I’d be changing my last name when I got married, and I probably should have seen that coming.
For myself, I had my first miniature giggly freakout over this about a month ago when I was ordering business cards for a co-worker. I had been planning on ordering new business cards for myself at the same time. “Bosslady,” I said slowly, feeling all happy butterflies silliness inside, “I should wait on getting these printed, yeah? Until after October?” I’d decided on the name change thing before then, but it took my visualizing a different series of letters, in print on a 3.5″x2″ piece of cardstock, for it to really hit home.
This (more than my white princess dress) feels like the real betrayal of my feminist blah-dee-blah. Changing my last name? Really? Even loving fiancée was a little surprised, because patriarchy reasons, and he knows me well enough not to want to make assumptions.
Now, point one – this is not anything about my family. I have no baggage about being a [MAIDEN NAME REDACTED]. My mother, my father, my sister, and I are total badasses, and when we’re together, all four of us, it can be pretty beautiful. I know some people are more willing to shed their maiden name because of negative connotations they have with that part of their identity (check out this great entry on Offbeat Bride which popped up literally as I sat down to write this), but while I’ve definitely got a certain amount of anxiety about family-issue-this or that-one-time-you-said-that, they’re exceptions to the rule, and the rule is that we rule.
Point two – this is not even really about his family. I love them very much also, but this choice isn’t about an overriding desire to become them. And interestingly, both of us are kind of closer with our mothers’ side of our respective families, so for a while, we joked that both of us should really change names – to his mother’s maiden name? To my mother’s maiden name? So many options…
Point three – I’m not really into the hyphenated thing. It’s not a matter of principle; I just think in some cases, it looks clunky, and looking at our names, [MARRIED NAME REDACTED]-[MAIDEN NAME REDACTED] — or [MAIDEN NAME REDACTED]-[MARRIED NAME REDACTED] — doesn’t suit me aesthetically. I mean, maybe I’ll go for keeping my maiden name somewhere between middle and last name? But that’s not going to come up terribly often.
And besides – I sort of love my full married-name-to-be. It sounds right – as much right and as much me as my maiden name. I can say it over and over in my head, and every time, I think, yeah. That’s me. That’s who I’m going to be.
Of course there’s a ton of patriarchal women-as-men’s-property bullshit attached to this particular tradition. I get that. And I totally understand the multitude of reasons why a bride wouldn’t change her name, or would hyphenate, blend, or whatever. We’re living in a world where there are a lot of options for this available to soon-to-be-married couples, and that’s a good thing. But I think that in reacting to an obsolete tradition, we have the option to drop it and leave it behind, or to reclaim it anew on our own terms.
This name that I’m going to take this fall is a pledge and a promise to love and honor and begin something new and awesome together. This name is a magic word that flings us into the next chapter of life as a couple, and seriously, we need all the help we can get with this whole adulting thing, so maybe magic words are called for. We could both take the name McGillicuddy, if we wanted, except we totally wouldn’t, because it wouldn’t sound as good, but the point is that the letters and syllables are just letters and syllables, and what matters is the symbol of coming together as one name, the symbol of moving forward in our life together united.
Is it unequal that I’m changing my name and he isn’t? Sure. But… well, I’m trying to think of a way to say “Who cares?” without it sounding glib or dismissive of societal or historical context. I like change. Loving fiancée likes things staying the same. Why would it be surprising that this is the path we go?
I’m an unashamed word nerd. The very notion of changing the letters and syllables that makes up my name is fascinating to me. Everything about this is a wonder – introducing myself, signing my name, placing dinner reservations. My signifier will have changed; how surreal is that? How could this not affect me? How could this not be a blow?
And then I think of all the kick-ass married ladies in my life, and I know that there are just as many of them (or more, in fact) who changed their name as those who kept their own. It did not change who they are – just the promise of who they were going to be to and with their partner. And I’m okay with that.
And for real real, I think that [FIRST NAME REDACTED] [MARRIED NAME REDACTED] sounds pretty wonderful.