It has been almost 4 years since I got married and one of the touchiest questions I’ve had to field besides “when are you having kids?” (that question deserves its own post), is “Why didn’t you change your name?”
It’s not the curiosity that irritates me because I can relate. I myself am nosey almost to a fault. What is frustrating is the way they ask. There is typically a layer of judgment hiding behind the question; “Wow, you decided not to take your husband’s name, how does he feel about that? What about when you have kids, won’t it bother you not to have the same last name as them?” Other times the judgment isn’t even hiding. For example, a male VP at my former job asked me, just days after getting married, what my new name was so he knew what to call me. (Not that he ever called me anything but Kelley) When I told him I didn’t plan on changing my name, he started in on a diatribe that began with “I don’t get women these days …”
That is when I stopped listening.
Opting whether or not to change your name is a very personal decision, one that should be able to be made without the judgments of others. Women changing their name after marriage was so commonplace that many women did it without thought or without knowing the history behind the practice. But these days there are so many other options – hyphenating, a combo of both your partner and your name, creating a new name altogether for both you and your partner or simply keeping your own name. I personally chose to keep my last name for a couple of reasons.
It’s a lot of work to change your name and even more paperwork. There are so many things that are affected by a name change, insurance policies and benefits, bank and credit cards, driver’s license, passport and global entry. At the point of my marriage, I still had 4 years left on my passport which also had several visas that had cost me a pretty penny that would expire with a new passport. Also, I will do anything to avoid a visit to the DMV.
There is a Double Standard
The tradition of taking your husband’s name is deeply rooted in the patriarchy and was a sign of the transfer of ownership from father to husband. While I recognize a lot has changed since the tradition began and it is no longer a symbol of ownership, it is still something that is generally expected of women while men rarely, if ever, entertain the idea.
A Common Name Doesn’t Make A Family
The question of what we will do when we have a family has always been a silly one to me. To me a name doesn’t make a family, the love, support and commitment you demonstrate makes you a family. Also, my husband is from Paraguay and it is tradition there (as it is in most Latin American countries) for children to carry both the name of the mother and father. I have always loved that idea, considering I will be very involved in bringing our future children into this world!
I Like My Name
Last but not least, I love my name. It is who I am. I like maintaining a bit of independence. It has been with me for over 31 years and I don’t want that to change. I love the symmetry as both my first and last name end in an -ey. There are two syllables, so they flow when said together. I also love my middle name so replacing it with my last name wasn’t something I was interested in either.
The beauty of the progress we have made in society as it relates to gender equality and feminism is that women have more options available to them. Whether you decide to change your name or take advantage of one of the myriad of options available to you it is your choice and yours alone.
Did you or do you plan on changing your name when you get married? How did you decide one way or another?