September 18, 2009

Is a Name Just a Name?

When talk of the wedding comes up it is inevitable that someone will ask me if I'm taking Michael's last name. It's a fair question to ask. I appreciate people asking. It's funny their response when I tell them I don't know yet. It's still a hotly debated issue with us. He wants me to take his name. I want to keep the name I have. That's what one calls a little bit of a disconnect.

We've discussed me taking his name, we've discussed me keeping my name, we've discussed hyphenation, we've discussed both of us hyphenating (ok- I discussed it.) Why shouldn't I keep my name? It's the name I was given and it's the name I've had for 28 years. Why should I change it simply because I am making my relationship a legal bond and not just an emotional bond? Michael and I are married in almost every sense. We have a joint checking account, we live together, know each other in the biblical sense and I clean his shit. No one expects me to change my name in these circumstances. If we stayed unmarried but had children, owned property together or were able to put one on the other's health insurance then no one would expect me to change my name. Why? Simply because we wouldn't be married.

Michael feels that in order for a family to be a family, for the children to feel that their parents are a unit, the wife needs to take the name of the husband. He argues that our children wouldn't understand that I'm part of their family if I don't have the same name. Family is such an easy concept my cat understands it. I seriously doubt my children will be unable to grasp the concept my self-licking cat can grasp. Is a family defined by name? By marriage? Are unmarried people who live as a family unit less of a family than married people? No. So why would married people with different names be any different?

Taking the husband's name comes from the same patriarchal traditions as the father "giving away" the daughter at the ceremony. The daughter/wife-to-be used to be considered property and the marriage ceremony was the cementation of the transfer of property from one family to the next. It was a way for rich people to keep everything with-in the rich people. The tradition that women are no longer property is a recent development. And only in Western cultures.

Though I have very strong feelings about this I really don't give a shit about women who change their names. It's their prerogatives. But I don't understand why I'm the one who needs to give up my identity. Why I'm the one who has to make the massive shift. It's fucked up and I'm apparently the only soon to be married or recently married person in my immediate vicinity who feels like this. I guess I'm just old school feminist. And I'm feeling pretty lonely right now.


EmilyAlexandra said...

My mother was already teaching when they got married. While my dad didn't really care, he didn't voice if he did. My mother was always Linda Morrell to me. Not Romanchak. I never had any issue understanding if she was part of my family or not. I knew she was a professor and because she did her thing, she wanted to be known as Linda Morrell. To my friends, to teachers that would introduce my mom when she came to parents day, she was always Mrs. Romanchak. She didn't care if they said that, and I didn't either.
I understand how some men want you to take their name because it's part of them, being with them.

Maybe because my father did not mind it was easy for my mother to do this and it was easy for me to understand it. I understand in one way losing who you are by changing your name.

But again, to play both sides) it is just your last name, not who you are. And you are an amazing person who while carry yourself, your personality, your being in who you are, what you do, your name doesn't make you, you.

If this is important to you than he should respect that. You can always be Mrs. DiMaio to your kids friends, at soccer matches and like myself and my sister, I know your children will understand and appreciate it.

The Common Daisy said...

Man, It's a hard problem. When it comes right down to it, it is 100% a personal decision and you can't let anyone's opinion interfere with what you feel is right. That being said, I personally kind of like the idea of living a dual life... Having a public and a personal persona. I.E. using married name for personal family interactions and using the 'maiden' name for all business dealings. A professor in my department uses this approach. She publishes under her maiden name and everyone at school knows her by that name but in her personal life she goes by her husbands last name. Although this approach may work better in Academia, I like the idea of keeping my work associate with MY name but still being able to be identified with a family unit. Good luck!

Carrie said...

I understand that it can be a tough decision, but the Common Daisy is right... it's 100% personal. I decided to take my husbands last name... I decided. My husband didn't have an opinion one way or the other - or at least he didn't express it.

I actually felt a backlash from a few volunteers at work who thought I was 'too old fashioned' and needed to join the 21st century... simply because they had decided to keep their maiden name.

Either way, you will always be you and, after the signing of legal papers, you will be married - no matter what your last name ends up being. :)

belleshpgrl said...

I can't help but wonder if I was more accomplished professionally that I would be more justified in keeping my name. Like famous people or high-powered lawyers. I'm just a schmuck who doesn't want to change her name.

Lauren said...

1. I know people in higher ed who did keep their maiden names for publishing purposes. It makes it easier for people to search for them in citations or related works. Plus, you earned that M.D., D.O., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., whatever, with that name. Be proud!

2. Changing my name was probably the most difficult thing that I dealt with in the whole lead-up to the wedding. My last name dies with my sister & I, which is upsetting, and both of us changed our names.
Yes, I had that name for 27 years and 14 days (plus whatever amount of time it took me to put through the paperwork). But "from that day forward" <--cheese, my life has been different in a major way. As you said, before our wedding, we did share practically everything - a home, accounts, body fluids. I think that changing my name, while extremely difficult, was yet one more symbol of us uniting into one family. I didn't feel that it diminished my value as a woman or gave the perception that I was property to be acquired... but who wouldn't want to buy a piece of THIS.
Plus, people I knew "before" still call me "Kropp" or "Kroppers", so I get to hear it all the time!

And, like Emily said, it's your last name, not who you are. If you do decide to deviate from S*******, start practicing your new signature now. I still can't get that sonofabitch to look the way I want it to look. I guess I just need 27 years and 14 days of practice.


Kisa said...

1) Is Mikey willing to take your name? Just wondering?

2) Email me the date, yo!

3) I envy your writing. I really really do.

dad said...

Catching up on your blog--for what it's worth, you can have it both ways. Turns out you can call yourself whatever you want day to day, it only matters officially when you start talking social security number and taxes. For example, Sheila did not change her name with the social security office, so she is still Sheila C.... Since our marriage, she has gone by Sheila S..., Sheila C...-S..., and Sheila C.... On our taxes, we are man and wife, and she is Sheila C.... In other words, if you do nothing after you marry, nothing really changes. You can call yourself whatever you want; the only place you must be one or the other is on your taxes. This is probably too fast and loose for most people, I just got used to it because Sheila got agoraphobic and didn't want to go to the Social Security office to redo her number. It took me 2 months just to get her an ID card. You might assuage Mike by telling him your children will all be D...s, which is a pretty reasonable compromise I'd say. Good thing you guys have a while to sort it out!

Teresa said...

Hey I'm really glad I found your blog :)

I understand your distress at all of your recently married friends having taken their husband's name. So here is my take so you can get it from one of those recently-wed. This was not a decision made on the fly. Firstly, I have been wanting to get rid of my BORING last name for my entire life. But my new last name wasn't exactly super exciting and trying to explain to everyone that it is a one-syllable name is not really as much fun as it sounds.

Also, I do have some trouble with the idea that we are still in a society where women are the ones expected to give up the name they have had their whole life. Why can't we just make up a new name for the new family? Mix them? Jowle, or Towes? HA. I'm kidding. But not really.

HOWEVER, my ultimate decision was based on the fact that I want our family, Imogen included, to all have the same last name. And at that point, it no longer mattered whether it was Justin's name or my name, just that it was OUR name.

On another note, changing your name is one of the most irritating processes you can ever go through.

Hope you two work it out. Don't need you fighting in front of all those people on your wedding day.