Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Name Game

I have been struggling with the idea of changing my name for months. Since we got engaged, actually. I always (and I really mean always) thought I would want to take the last name of whatever man I married when I grew up. Yes, that's right, I was one of those girls who thought about which last names of fellow male classmates would fit with my first name the best. It was fun and romantic to think about taking the name of the love of your life and for a long time, I was convinced that it was what I wanted to do.

It wasn't until this past summer that I seriously started thinking I would want to do otherwise. I was organizing photos and memorabilia from my grandparents' wedding for their 50th anniversary when I found a pamphlet that my grandmother had kept in her wedding album. It was a guide for brides who were changing their name after the wedding and inside was a check list to follow. It reminds you to get a new bank card, a new set of personal cheques from the bank and to change your name with any charitable organizations you might be involved with.

And then it hit me. My grandmother had no choice. In 1949, if she'd been resolved to keep her own name, she wouldn't have been taken seriously. It's just what they did back then. It was their way of doing things. And part of me wants to do things like they did back then.

Plus, taking his name really is romantic and it helps to create a better sense of unity as we create our own new family on the wedding day. I wholeheartedly think that marriage is about forging a new family and sharing a common last name helps solidify that family. It makes a host of things easier if I take his name instead of keeping my own: mailing addresses, the naming of our future children, being identified as a family instead of Mr. X and Ms. Y.

But at the same time, unlike my grandmother, I have a choice.
So while the idea of taking his name appeals to me, I'm just not sure I can bring myself to conform to such a patriarchal structure that forces women to give up their names. The fact that women are expected to comply with this system while most men would laugh at the idea of their future wife asking them to take her last name seems ridiculous to me. Plus, I have a nagging feeling that a few members of the families on each side would turn up their noses at the idea.

And he would love for me to take my name. And actually, he seemed surprised (and maybe a little bit of hurt) when i first told him that I thought I wanted to keep my own name.

But, in spite of all this, I have a strange attachment to my name. And the funny thing is that I didn't even realize I felt so attached to my name until I was faced with the idea that it might disappear. Even though I'm only 20, it's been a good last name for 20 years. It's been mispronounced more times that I can count, it's a compound word and it represents my childhood, my family and my identity. There's nothing wrong with the Mr's name. I love it, actually, mainly because it's Scottish. But it's no compound word.

So why should it be me that gives up my name? Why do I suddenly have to adopt a new identity? How am I somehow less important that I should automatically be willing to give up my name without putting up a fuss? These questions bother the feminist in me. And she really doesn't like to be angry.

Other options have crossed my mind, but things like hyphenation or making an entirely new name by combining our last names doesn't seem logical either.

So here I am, back at square one.
And I can't decide.

Oh well, at least I have 8 months to figure it out, right?


Anonymous said...

Don't stress. Just don't do it until you're 100% sure you want to. It's never too late to change your name, even after the wedding or years down the road. Besides, who wants to deal with all the paperwork (bank, DMV, etc) in the midst of wedding planning! :)

Anonymous said...

It's really quite simple. Just don't get married and you'll never have to deal with changing your name. Simple. After all, isn't marriage just another "patriarchal structure"? By the way, referring to your future husband as "Mr. FP" might be undercutting your objection to sharing his name.

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