Sunday was a meet-with-good-old-friends for me, few of which are married, soon-to-be-married, in a relationship and 2 like me struggling to be single. While we had so much to talk about, we happen to dive neck-deep in one topic. It wasn’t really heated but dare ask ‘that’ question to a woman who is engaged to be married, then you are not a supportive friend at all. With all the things going on in her life at that time: trying to live her current life; plan a wedding; and dream of making a great life with the person she loves, here we became a party pooper, sour puss, curmudgeon who just won’t allow the people you say you care for to be happy. Wow, the more things change, the more they remain the same – we are still grappling with THE married name thing?
I thought we were long past that stage. But looks like things haven’t quite advanced beyond a generation ago. I was amazed how each of us had different reasons for doing or not to do it. What’s in a name? Everything. Your identity, your personal and family history, your beliefs, sometimes also your religion.
Surely in most places it is up to each married woman to decide for herself which name to use and it’s up to the rest of us to respect that choice. In few places, where there is a lot of sexism, and many people are religious, women don’t change their last name. It’s not a feminist thing, it’s just not done. I think sharing the same surname goes along with white picket fences, i.e. it’s something of a myth that it’s the ideal. Few do so because it made an important statement to themselves and their partner, and a symbolic way of saying that they are a family for life. For few, not changing their name is for professional reasons.
How about hyphenation of maiden and married name? It got lots of grief for it, including from husbands who feel offended with hyphenation of maiden and their last name. Amazing, and think this way of thinking still is amazing…not, incredible. If you hyphenate your name will your daughter also? Will she be Suzie X-Y? If so, when Suzie X-Y gets married will she become Suzie X-Y-Z? How many generations do you go with that before you start dropping last names? Go figure.
If the woman changes, she might still be asked “But you are such a strong, independent woman”. Yes the woman is still strong, independent and all the other things she was before she took her husband’s last name.
Few of my friends took their husband’s name because of their religious belief that when you marry you become one flesh so why would they have the need for a different name. They felt strongly that it didn’t take their identity or uniqueness but added to it because they are married and it is a part of them. I am proud of their choice too. I don’t feel it is old-fashioned and I see no reason to not take your husband’s name.
Remember that not sharing one’s thought processes isn’t the same as not giving a decision careful consideration. They are no big secret, but they do sort of lead to a deeply personal conversation about one’s relationship with their family. It’s not a conversation one might want to have with a casual acquaintance.
If one is truly curious about why someone kept their name or took their husband’s or hyphenated or changed their name completely, we can ask “How did you come to the decision you made about your name?” rather than the question “Why” we put in it, which sounds so judgmental. The whole issue of what do about names after marriage is a very individual choice but still very interesting.
I will definitely keep my last name in the event I marry. I may hyphenate for the fun of it when it suits me (Nonetheless it feels cozy indeed). Moreover, the reasons given why women should change their name have always been un-persuasive to me and don’t seem to erase the original intent behind the whole name changing fiasco.
Frankly, it’s none of our business, some people do it because they want to, because they think they need to, because their husbands would like it, because aliens came down from Mars and told them to, etc. So first you ask why they change their name, then they need to justify and prove to you why it was the right decision? That’s incredibly condescending. For many people, their name is tied strongly into their identity, while for others, less so. There’s nothing wrong with either mindset. I think it’s futile to try to convince some people to care less about their name, or to convince others to care more about it.
Would it be more fun to pick a new name altogether. “Hey, I don’t like ‘ABC’.” “Great, I don’t like ‘XYZ’.” “Ok, let’s get married and be Mr. and Mrs. Zen-Sanity.” “Ooooo, that sounds good!”