Thursday, June 15, 2006

Name Calling

These days I get asked a lot of questions about wedding plans. How are they going? Are you getting nervous? What are your colors? Will you wear a veil? What does your dress look like? (Answers: Fine [never tell the truth to the well-meaning person, they really don't want to hear it]; Heck yes; Blue and yellow and pink [long story]; Heck no; and White, with beading. I think it has a train and no, it will probably be bustled the whole time because I hate trains.)

Context clues may give you the idea that I'm a bit of a non-traditional girl. That would be the correct idea.

I also get asked, quite a lot lately, what my name will be after I get married. This has always been a no-brainer for me, since before I began my dating years: I'm keeping my last name when I get married. I like it. It connects me to these amazing people who are my family and who are strong and amazing and it's my name.

I (obviously) have nothing against Nick or his family, but his name is not my name. I want to keep my name and pass it on to our kids (our current plan for possible kids is to hyphenate the two last names. This plan may change, as plans do). Part of the reason for this has to do with my family tree. I've been on-again, off-again researching my family tree and when I go back far enough (300 years and up) the women's names start to disappear from the records -- it's just Thomas Browne married ________ and had Thomas, John, and Francis Browne (no visible daughters). I've always felt frustrated when I couldn't find out who these women were, like I was missing out on a connection between that person and myself. Maybe that's a little foolish, because there's no way of knowing what these people were like, but I like the idea of some traits being passed down through families the way names are (and are.they.ever in some branches of my family--you'd think they only knew 3 names for men and 3 for women).

My aversion to losing my own name got cemented a bit further the other day. There is a patron at the library, a lady of maybe 70-ish years old, and the name on her library card record is (and I'm changing the acutal name here, of course) Mrs Richard VanLandingham. Generations are different in how they view these things, I know, but man--to not even have one's own name on one's own library card, that's not for me.

And I'm not calling out any woman who has changed her name to her husband's when she married him; that's her choice, and it's definitely the mainstream thing, and it's none of my business. It surprises me, when people ask and I answer, how many are taken aback by my choice and how a few even get a little defensive or stand-off-ish.

Has anyone else gotten that, or reacted that way, or have an opinion on this topic? All viewpoints welcome and respected. Comments telling me I'm a damn sinner and going to hell will be deleted. Because I know that already.


Anne said...

I figure it's your name so good on ya.

My bf's family, however, has always been gung-ho against hyphenation - due to the fact that their last name was hyphenated at some point, and then the hyphen was lost and they ended up with a last name 16 letters long and Czech, and with 3 Zs to boot. I think they may be a little biased though. LOL

peninah said...

so funny -- i just wrote a bit on this last night. [and you made me delurk! congrats!]

i've been struggling with this for years. when we filled out our liscence a year an a half ago i just took his name because i wanted a change and was a bit cranky about my name (and i didn't want a hyphen). Right after the ink dried i regretted it completely. Don't get me wrong, we love each other -- but my name... he doesn't really care any name i chose is mine. legally my name is still mine first, middle with his last name but i go by my_first my_last his_last.

my mother, however, sends mail to Mrs his_first his_last. that is *not* me. Since there never is money in them I take my time opening those. ;) [not to mention he does his own ironing, most of the dishes, all vacuuming... and wears pink and purple better than i do]

i do like combining our names because we are combining our lives. i just wish he could easily change his as well.

i'm looking into legally making it first_name last_name his_last_name ... even though i have just completed changing most things to my "new" name.

i also have a hard time saying my name. i have a long pause from first_name last_name (long pause) his_last .. *sigh*

good luck.

do you know about the lucy stone league?

SheCrochets said...

I completey understand. I had made a similar choice when I was a teenager, though mine was that I would hyphenate no matter what. I have an Irish last name and am very close to my dad's family and didn't want to lose that part of me. And as I was 27 before I got married, by that point there were professional reasons, as well, for not completely changing it. I have been very happy with the hyphenation, though have been continually frustrated by most people's inability to deal with it. My work still uses my maiden name most of the time and well-meaning relatives often send cards addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hubby's Last Name. (sigh)

But. I have never regretted it. My husband fully supports it. And I think more power to YOU for keeping your last name! Just be prepared for lots of discussions and blank looks and frustrating moments as people adjust to it!

Rose said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rose said...

I moved my last name to my middle name (it was easy though because I didn't have a middle name) and then stuck his on the end. Of course my hubbie has a famous last name that is extremely recognizable and in some circles garners a lot of respect - so it was a perk. When people asked me if I would take his last name I told them - yup, one of the perks. That doesn't mean I want to give up who I am though and was very specific about having both of my degrees printed with both names. It was only right since he gave me such support and love to get through them.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if this is going to offend (and it might), but someone needs to defend this!

What is problematic to me in this discussion is that all of the “name” sharing goes one way. Sure, his family loves and supports you, and you are now a part of that family, but so too is he now a part of yours. If we want to say that this is not still somehow tied to past tradition, then why aren’t the husbands also sharing/hyphenating names? The problem I have with taking a man’s name is not only the whole identity/family thing Peninah addressed so well, but also the fact that historically, taking a man’s name in marriage (which was required) signified that your identity was now his, that YOU were his. In the law, this was referred to as “coverture:” i.e. your identity was entirely covered by his. Besides what this all meant in terms women’s placement in the home and family, the legal justification (or one of them) for denying women rights was that since coverture laws were in place (and many were not repealed until the 1970s) the government didn’t need to grant any rights whatsoever to women, because the husbands had the rights, and they would vote for the both of them since they were “one.” The taking for a husband’s last name signified this loss or rights and loss of any sort of public self. Certainly marriage is a change in identity, but not so much (hopefully) that who we are still gets swallowed up so completely into someone else. Besides this, I don’t really want to be a part of such a problematic and sexist tradition such as that.

The hyphenating is fine and all, but as I mentioned, unless the name sharing goes both ways, it still seems to be sexist and problematic. What makes the most egalitarian sense to me is for both to either keep his/her original names or share a hyphenated last name. But, of course, I suspect many husbands would find the idea of having to take their wives’ names as problematic (certainly not all, though, I know some who have done this). The fact that so many husbands find this problematic, though, signifies to me the sort of silent gender inequality still lurking in this name-changing business.

In short, Kathy, be strong! Keep your own last name, and all of the beautiful history and silent female relatives it represents!

KathyMarie said...

Anonymous, I wish you had included your name--it sounds like you've thought a lot about this topic.

I am keeping my name (as I mentioned in the original post), and I'm comfortable enough to not need defending. I didn't feel like anyone was attacking me, and I wanted to hear all kinds of views on this.

Thank you to everyone who engaged in discussion. Well played.

(and Nick's mom asked this weekend what I was going to do with my name. Marriage offers many opportunities for hilarity.)

Anonymous said...

Sorry! I didn't mean to imply that you needed defending or that you were uncomfortable or anything like that. All I meant was that many of the comments seemed to discuss hyphenating, and I was defending the keeping one's name POV vs. the hyphenating POV. Nothing personal meant.

KathyMarie said...

At the risk of hijacking my own comments...

Anonymous, no worries. Nothing personal taken. I totally dig your view and your desire to point out the layers of this debate/topic/thing. Shoot me an email sometime, if you like.

Peninah, thanks for the link to the Lucy Stone league. Rock!