Why I’m keeping my last name

14Dec09

This is a big topic. I can’t cover all aspects of it in one post. But I can demonstrate one reason, thanks to Meg at A Practical Wedding. She posted this ad today:

(Aside: I think the rings are beautiful. Not a fan of solitaires in general, but this one isn’t bad, especially with the ring of diamonds around the band.)

I object to this ad. Not because it suggests that a woman’s jewellry says a lot about her — really, it does. A woman wearing these rings is a lot different than a woman wearing just a plain wedding band, for instance.

Rather, I’m offended by the suggestion that a woman’s identity is determined by her marital status. I am me regardless of whether or not I am married. And this is where this links to the name issue. Changing my name suggests otherwise. It suggests that I identify myself in relation to my husband, not on my own merit.

This is a decision I’ve struggled with quite a bit, actually. Before getting engaged, the decision was easy: there was never another person to consider. Now, M knew early on: I think I told him the same time we had the conversation about how I wouldn’t marry him if he asked my dad’s permission first. But when we did get engaged I started to wonder if it was the right decision.

My sister got married a few years ago (almost 3, I think?) and kept her last name. She’s had some struggles with it, with people getting confused and don’t understanding their different last names. But it wasn’t that that made me wonder.

Rather, it was the idea of becoming two people in one. As much as I believe that I am me despite getting married, I also believe that, in tying myself to another person, things change. My life is no longer just mine and his life is no longer just his. The symbolism of a shared name is, in some ways, beautiful.

And yet, I cringe at the thought of losing the name that has been mine my whole life, the name that has tied me to my parents and my brother and sister. Why do I have to set aside that name, that system of connections, that history to take on his which just don’t fit the same way?

See? It’s complicated. But I have come to a conclusion. It doesn’t include hyphenation, and it will hopefully avoid confusion, but it will let me keep my identity unchanged while everything else in my life shifts and moves as M and I become a part of each other.

I’m going to stay me, name intact. I’m going to use my first name in all situations that allow for it and my own last name in situations that insist upon it. But should there get to be confusion, should someone ask for Mrs. V instead of Ms. dB, whatever. And should, over the years, my name more frequently become Mrs. V, I’ll correct the Mrs. to Ms. and let the rest go. Because I’ll know what my name is. And M will know. And my family will know and my close friends will know.

And I’ll still introduce myself as JdB.

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4 Responses to “Why I’m keeping my last name”

  1. 1 Rivikah

    The most interesting thing that happens I find is this:

    When being introduced to new people they usually just assume that whichever last name they hear first applies to both of us. Depending on how your social situation evolves, M could get Mr. dB just as often as you get Mrs. V.

  2. 2 Ryan Fox

    My mom kept her last name, and for some reason, I got my mom’s last name. Weird. I think my name’s cooler this way though. It does mean that my dad sometimes becomes Mr. Fox, but only rarely, and only with people who don’t know him.

    There are also some matrilineal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrilinear) societies out there, where ancestry is traced through the women. I guess these traditions are hard to start though, as men as often too self-important to allow it to happen.

  3. 3 Haloran

    “…men are too self-important to allow it to happen”

    So you want to start a tradition of men taking their wives names, but think that men are too self-important to allow it? A couple of questions: is it fair to make negative generalizations about a entire gender? Or I should say I know it is acceptable to do it to men, but would it be equally acceptable to insult all women in this way? Next question: if you think men objecting to taking a wife’s name is proof that they suffer from self-importance, do you also think that women who object to taking a husband’s name also suffer from self-importance?

    • Haloran: Note that Ryan’s actual statement was that men are often too self-important to allow a matrilineal society to happen. Not all. And I’m afraid I must agree with Ryan. Maybe self-important is the wrong term, but I do know that, especially in religious communities, men are often viewed in a superior light. I’m not making a generalization and I don’t think Ryan is either, but despite how much we would like it to change, it is still the going trend.

      As for your second question, maybe I do “suffer from self-importance”. My name is important to me and who I have become. Why is his name, and, by association, he, more important than my name and me? What I would like to see happen is a relationship of equal importance. How can that be achieved when one partner is required to change their name which contains a lot of personal significance? Honestly, I think both partners should “suffer from self-importance” in order to fully bring their full selves into a marriage.


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