When I got married, I thought long and hard about what to do with my last name. Keep it, change it hyphenate it. Long drives, showers, drinking coffee. I thought a lot. And even though keeping it might not have been the popular choice, it’s the one I went with. Since this option is the less common one, I wanted to write a little about why I decided to hang onto it.
For one thing, it’s my name. When you get down to it, I would no sooner change my first name for some cultural rite of passage. So why my last name? I also couldn’t understand why no one expects men to change their names. The only real response I’ve ever gotten from this question is that men are…men. So they’re excempt.
There lied the problem of why I wanted to keep it. The tradition stems from when women were treated as property, and the name changed because we were transferred. No thank you. I wanted my marriage to be a joint partnership, with no ball and chain, and definitely no dowry. Sometimes the argument is made to me that I’m just keeping my dads name. But again, it’s mine once it was given to me, and passing on that tradition doesn’t change that issue.
When I announced this to people, it got a surprising amount of resistance. Mostly from family, from some friends. People didn’t get it. They asked questions, told me it was my role, and used the ever popular “what about the children?!”. The children actually really got me thinking. And is what makes me want to share my story – so other people can read it. And maybe it will get them thinking.
One thing I don’t want to tell my kid (should I choose to procreate) is that I was pressured into making a choice because it’s what people told me I should do. I’d much rather be able to say that I made a choice that might be unpopular, but it’s exactly what I needed to do for myself.
That realization – that I was standing up for something I believed in, even though it is so not popular – was really a major moment for me. It went from a small decision I was making, to a mindset. I believe that women changing their name should not be the default. I hope one day to see a whole mix of things – women changing their last, men changing their last name, both couples hyphenating, whatever. But we have to start the conversation, and ask why.
It’s been two and a half years now. Sometimes people who know better, still call me by Gabe’s last name. But I’ve never regretted it, and I haven’t found a single thing that seems to be more difficult. It doesn’t make us feel any less married, or any less like a “unit” (a common reason people give for changing it). Being a unit makes me feel like a unit.
As a note, this isn’t meant to knock whatever choice you’ve made. It’s to talk about my choice, and all the pros and cons.