I am taking my fiancé’s name for a number of reasons.
First of all, my own last name is descendant from a man who started a family with my Great Grandmother when she was 19 and left her in the dead of night with a newborn (my grandfather) and a toddler (my great uncle) in the midst of a harsh Detroit snowstorm, parting with the most cliche of last words - “I’ll be back, I’m going to the corner for cigarettes.”
He went on to do all manner of things I’d rather not speak about, but most importantly - he never came back, although his name remained.
My grandfather once even entertained the idea of changing our family name, due to my great grandfather’s past transgressions. I think it ultimately became more trouble than it was worth, and he decided against it.
So you see, I really feel no particular affinity for it. Sure, it is part of my identity and my family’s history, but identities change. Lives transform. You become connected to others and start to think about leaving behind your own legacy - and the possibility of a fresh start with the person you love most in this world begins to sound more and more appealing.
In a way, I kind of wish my fiancé (Jamie) and I could make up our own last name. When prompted to make one up, he immediately came up with “The Boopingtons” - not an entirely unworthy option.
As it is, we don’t have the luxury of becoming Mr. and Mrs. Boopington. I could keep my name and Jamie could keep his, I could take his, OR accept a hyphenated mash-up of the two.
On the surface it appears to be a pretty simple decision to make. And at first, I felt pretty confident about it.
When I told Jamie I’d like to take his name, his reaction was not unexpected.
“Don’t you want to keep your name?”
My argument against this was also quite simple - “I am going to be with you for the rest of my life and I want to share a name with you. I want our children to share our name and I want us to be a unit, a force to be reckoned with. I want your name to be OUR name.”
This exchange would start a discussion between us that lasted for months. Just when I thought I’d finally made a decision, I’d start to feel like maybe Jamie wasn’t on board with it. For some reason, he seemed to care more about the preservation of my surname than I did.
We even thought for a while about the possibility of Jamie taking my name. I brought this up at Thanksgiving dinner with my parents, to which my dad replied (in Jamie’s absence), “You may as well chop his dick off.”
Because his name…Is in his dick?
Turns out that for a lot of reasons (mostly due to the fact we are applying for a fiance visa so that he can finally move to the states) Jamie is stuck with his name. But that still leaves my own name to contend with - and a decision that is mine alone to make.
There is a part of me that is wary of being perceived as a “bad feminist”, surrendering myself to the very patriarchy that I’m meant to be fighting against - but that’s not how it feels, to me.
We are both feminists. We both understand the implications that come with sharing a name or not sharing a name.
It doesn’t make me any more or less dedicated as a wife or a partner. It doesn’t mean that I would begrudge any other woman the right to keep her name, or that what I decide on is the best option for everyone.
The bottom line is, I know that Jamie doesn’t view me as his “property” and taking his name doesn’t make me “his”. It makes us “us” in a more obvious way than if we had two different surnames. It’s about what’s right for US. And that is all.
I realize that I am in the majority. Even now that we’ve had the option not to for quite some time, the bride still prefers to take the groom’s surname 90% of the time.
I still feel that this is something that deserves to be challenged, for those of us who feel a particular affinity for our surnames - but I am not one of those women. So I don’t feel particularly empowered to take it on as a personal issue.
The truth is, I quite look forward to changing my name and starting a new chapter alongside my husband.
While my name may change on paper, I can still bring it back as I please. I may even continue to use my maiden name situationally, especially as it is so engrained in the history of my work as a designer, activist, and writer.
So, does taking my husband’s name make me a hypocrite? Have I lost my right to be critical of patriarchal traditions because I’ve chosen to go along with one, for my own reasons? Do I really care? What’s in a name, anyway?
I am totally with Haley, even though when I get married I have no intention of changing my name, and told my partner this in no uncertain terms (to which he replied “duuuh”), I don’t think it is at all anti-feminist to take your husband’s name. There are many circumstances (like Haley’s, or say if they woman’s family or origin is abusive) where taking your husband’s name is in fact a feminist decision. As long as it is a freely-made, conscious choice to either keep your name or take your husbands, then either choice is completely consistent with being a feminist, in my opinion. I think feminism is fighting for the freedom for women to make the choices in her life, not dictating what those choices should be.