On Name Changing And Weddings—The Follow Up

So. Name changing. Turns out we hit a nerve with that one, huh? The lovely Liz commanded me to write a response post, since 570 comments was getting, “A little hard to follow.” That Liz, she’s a master of understatement. So here we are.

I learned a lot  last week.  A whole lot. I learned that we nearly universally dislike the term Maiden Name. I learned that we near universally hate being called Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. And I learned that we near universally thought long and hard about our name choice, no matter what the outcome. But more than all that, I learned empathy. I think it’s impossible to read the epic 570 comment thread without seeing, really seeing the women around us: seeing and respecting their choices, and seeing and respecting their pain, their joy, their sacrifice, and their pride in family. Someone emailed me today to thank me for the post, because it helped them get their head around why other women change their names, and helped her start to learn to be ok with that. And I think the thread was that way for a lot of us (it was for me), in helping us really understand the choices we *didn’t* make (or choices we haven’t yet made).

I spent a lot of time last week thinking of all the women who came before us, who didn’t have choices. We always think of these women as delighted and un-pained by changing their name when they married, and some of them were. But I realized last week that women run deep, and that it was probably not always easy to take your husbands name, or more to the point – to feel like you didn’t have a choice. So I feel like that when we make our choice today – no matter what that choice is – we have a chance to take a moment, and honor all the women who came before us. The women who didn’t get the chance to choose:

Go back 20, 30, 40 years and how many women gave (or were able to give) the whole name-change at marriage idea a second thought? Today, what each women decides regarding her name isn’t the point, it’s the fact that *she* decided. One’s name is so important to a sense of self of who one is, and while I have struggled so much with the name change, that struggle has given me a great opportunity to reflect on who I really am. So often in life we run through each day, taking ourselves for granted. This decision gave me a chance to slow down and really take stock of who I am. Even though I am not keeping my name, the process of deciding gave me a new appreciation of my family, and a new awareness of what marriage IS. Without this struggle, I’m not so sure I would have become so consciously aware of my true feelings regarding my new, baby family that I am about to create. – Carrie Dee

I did not change my name when I married last year. My very catholic grandmother that I only this year became really close to was in my car the other day. She saw one of my husband’s business card and commented on his last name. She then said my first name with his last name indicating that she thought this was my new name. I quickly responded “Oh, I didn’t change my name.” To which she said “You have that option?” and I said “Yes, you do.” End of conversation. – Avie

I also learned that we have to involve our fiances, because  they don’t necessarily know what we are going through. We have to involve them, because they are OUR PARTNERS, and if this decision is hard for us, they need to be there – to really be there for us through the process:

Men are given a free pass through the whole name-changing anguish — and that is simply not fair and it’s not just wives that feel that pain — the people who love them as well. We have to remember to channel that anger towards the system that allows men to disengage from the process of identity navigation that women are forced to go through when they get married instead of directing anger at women who make choices different from our own. – Sarah

It does suck that in this culture the bias is towards the husband’s last name for naming both couples and children, and that women have to wade through a lot more name-related crap than men do. But the flip side of facing disapproval or confusion from someone no matter what choice you make is that there is more freedom to make that choice based on whatever factors are most important to us personally, and (generally) have it treated as a personal choice. – Jennifer

And the always wise Giggles had such an eloquent comment on her choice to take her husbands name:

I settled this by deciding I wasn’t going to “change” my name. The word “change” just seemed so weird to me. I wasn’t changing who I was fundamentally so why would I change my name? What I was doing was adding to who I am. I was taking the person I’d developed over the course of my life time and who I’d come from through my family and adding wife/lover/my own family to it. So rather than “change” my name, I decided I would add to my name. And as I was adding my husband to who I am, I added his name to mine. I added, not changed. – Giggles

And finally, Mayweed left us with such a gift. Her brother’s family uses a (somewhat modified) Spanish tradition, that is the single most elegant solution I have ever heard:

My brother’s girlfriend is Spanish, and in her family it works like this: Children have double-barreled names, mother and father. When they get married, the children drop one half of the name (daughters keep their mother’s and sons keep their father’s) creating another new double barrel for THEIR kids. – Mayweed

Which means of course, that all women carry the heritage of their matrilineal line, and all men carry the history of their patralineal line. In makes me feel like (finally) there is a equal space for us at the table. I loved this so much, that after some discussion, David and I decided that this is the tradition we are going to try to encourage for our own children. It makes me feel that giving them a double barreled name is a privilege, not a burden.

So thank you all. I’m continually in awe of the magic you create jiving off each other.

And! Of 570 comments, I only had to take ONE mean comment down. ONE. Can you believe that? I love you guys.

PS – David said I’m totally asking for it, posting a follow up. He was like, “Are you CA-razy? You want another 500 comments?” And I love that has become the house threat…

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