This has been controversial and I’m guessing will be a super hot topic as the day approaches – for me, a hundred times more than Nathan. It’s so regressive that nobody ever asks him if he’s changing his name, it has all been directed at me so far. It’s also kind of shocking how many people are completely shocked that I will be keeping mine, like it has never occurred to them as an earthly possibility. But that’s our decision, which is completely ours to make.
There are a bunch of reasons for what we are doing. Both of us are attached to our names, and they have been a part of our identities for a long time. I have an image in my head of what Johanna HisLastName looks like, and it’s just not me – it would feel wrong. There would also be the gigantic hassle of changing our name records all over the place, getting new passports and Medicare cards, etc. Then there is also the fact that we both have university degrees under our names, and I have writing published under mine.
My biggest objection though stems from something that I have already seen in practice, receiving mail for Mr and Mrs Nathan HisLastName, before we are even married. I cannot even describe how uncomfortable it made me feel. Like I’m a non-entity, not even deserving of even my own first name, completely erased. It’s just a little thing and I’m sure it’s just second nature for a lot of people, especially of a certain age, but it floored me how easily a name could make me feel so irrelevant, so unimportant, like Nathan’s accessory rather than a fully realized person in my own right who is entitled to a name of my own.
We debated the possibility of both of us hyphenating and gave it serious thought. For us, it was a case of… we’ll both do it, or we both won’t, but it wouldn’t be fair for one person to bend and the other person not to at all. We didn’t feel strongly enough about it, and in the end, why fix what isn’t broken? We will still ultimately be just as married with separate last names.
There have been a lot of objections thrown around though (some of which I’ve been confronted with, some I’ve heard from others), so I’ll answer a few.
It’s not even feminist for a woman to keep her maiden name, because it’s just her father’s name anyway…
It may be, but it’s not just my dad’s name – it’s my name. It’s what I was born with. I can’t control whose name my parents gave me, but I can say that I was given one name at birth and I’ve had it my whole life – how does this not belong to me? It may come from him originally, but so did his name from his dad – surely I can say that my name belongs to me just as much as it belongs to my dad.
If you don’t take your husband’s name, it’s like you are rejecting his family.
So, if he doesn’t take my name, is he rejecting my family too? Because it’s the exact same deal. Plus if I did change, by that logic how could I not feel like I was rejecting my own family? I like the fact that we will be forming a new primary family, but retaining our names as links to our families of origin. It would feel so lopsided and unfair to identify solely as members of just one side.
But it’s traditional.
Lots of things are. Doesn’t mean they are for everybody.
It’s an insult to your husband to not take his name.
Then conversely, it’s an insult to me for him not to take my name (so many of these objections look so silly when you apply logic). Nathan is not insulted that I won’t take his last name because he respects that I am just as attached to my name as he is, and I’m super proud of him for being so mature about it. It’s so unattractive for a man to throw a tantrum about his wife not taking his name without ever considering that whatever he feels about the situation, she’s entitled to feel the exact same way about him not taking her name.
But how will everybody know you’re married / a family?
This one is kind of irrelevant, especially in this day and age of blended families all over the place where there could be three or four surnames among siblings that don’t match their parents either. There are lots of things that women can do to broadcast that they are married – a name, a ring, mentioning a ‘husband’, or just telling people. But even if you do none of these things, it doesn’t mean you are somehow less committed. Nathan and I will know we are married, and I’m sure that our nearest and dearest won’t magically forget that fact because we failed to have the same name.
But surely you’ll change it when you have children?
I’m sure my kids will know who their parents are regardless of our different last names. Besides, we already made plans for that long before ever getting engaged – to be revealed in due time!