November 11th, 2013

planet

on changing your last name when you get married, and why I refused

The recent news about Texas' voter ID law screwing with women's right to vote has given me one more reason why I'm really glad I never changed my last name. I don't live in Texas, but Kansas is such a conservative state and we've had some similar bullshit ID laws go into effect recently, enough that I could write a separate entry on that, but I can see something like this happening in our state and it sucks. And I have a feeling I've written about this before, but can't find the entry, so it can't hurt to tell my story again.

I never had a huge stance on the whole name thing, hyphenating seemed like a pain in the ass but that was my only opinion. Then Marc and I set a date and I was thinking about it, mostly because it'd be so nice at the wedding to be announced as "Here everyone, is the ___ family!" awe.

But then I got an email from a coworker, sent to me and about 500 people. It read "Dear friends, my email has changed from A.Johnson@company.com to A.Smith@company.com. Thank you."

The issue? Eight months ago, we'd gotten the same email telling us to change our address books from A.Smith to A.Johnson. And I'd BEEN TO HER WEDDING. And she was invited to mine... an invite she politely declined, citing "family issues", despite the fact that my wedding was four days away and I'd already paid for two meals... but that's another other entry.

My point is that her marriage quickly fell apart and everyone she worked with professionally got to know about it, and it really shook me. She and her husband had dated for years. Not a perfect relationship (marc said he saw it coming) but whose is? It made me look in the mirror and realize that although I was also sure my marriage would last forever, what does that mean? Isn't everyone sure? That's why they WALK DOWN THE AISLE AND PROMISE TO BE MARRIED FOREVER? (again... Marc says no, everyone it not so sure, but his life experiences lend a different perspective that I'm going to glaze over here).

A MAN could get married and divorced a million times and nobody would ever know. That trips my bullshit alarm off, ladies.

So I told everyone that I was definitely not changing my name. The wedding was a little awkward, our culture needs to be trained to skip some announcements. My inlaws were a little concerned that I was ashamed of them or something, my older relatives probably questioned my seriousness, but we got over it. And after that, life was easy.

And despite the many articles I read from conservatives about how feminist marriages are totally doomed because us ball-busters just don't know how to love, marc and I have managed to stay happily married for almost seven years now.

I felt like Marc and I were supposed to be a family, that the two of us combined were enough to be something historic as that, that's why I married him. I also know that my sister and I are family. What if she'd changed her name, I reasoned... would we not be family? What about my aunts, and grandparents, who have a different last name? Last names do not make you family. It's just something for you to put on the things you do, the books you write, the degrees you earn... and you earn those for yourself and they shouldn't have different names on them if they're by the same person.

In a more perfect world, I would have passed my last name onto one of my kids. But I decided not to piss off my inlaws that much. I also changed my last name on facebook because I don't mind using Marc's name socially, and we have so many friends we've met through our kids, I wanted my last name to be the same as theirs a little bit so people wouldn't have to remember my separate one.

But at work, where it's important, where it's etched on my email address, it was nobody's business whether I was married or not. I kept my name, never looked back, and I'm still so glad I did. I've known several women who didn't change, and they feel so much more validated and better about their decision when I tell them I did the same thing and it all worked out. I feel like were building momentum against this convention, and that's good.