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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.



( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 11th, 2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
I think the voter ID stuff is a bit weird really; in lots of places voters are required to bring ID as a way to reduce fraud, it seems like a fairly simple measure. But apparently I'm failing to understand the difficulty of obtaining appropriate ID in the US - perhaps "make it easier to get appropriate ID" would be better.

I really hate people who say things like "if you really loved him you'd take his name"; they never seem to say it to *men* after all. And the very idea that your child's name is any business of your inlaws (or your parents, or anyone other than you, any co-parents of the child, and the child) is just horrid. People can be really vile over other people's choices :( :( :(
Nov. 11th, 2013 05:08 pm (UTC)
As someone who lives in TX, I think the voter ID complaints are highly overblown. My voter ID card does not have my maiden name on it, and for those who do they sign an affidavit and are allowed to vote. No legitimate voters are being turned away because their maiden names are on their voter ID card.

That said, it's perfectly respectable to not change your name when you get married. I changed mine because I like the tradition as a show of unity/permanence beyond the legal/financial aspects of joining our lives, but my husband would have been fine with it had I chosen differently. We both agreed that regardless of my name we don't have a plan B/exit strategy and that's what's more important to the success of the marriage. Like you, I have friends who have gotten married and changed their names, gotten divorced and changed them back, and now have gotten remarried and changed their names again (even though they said they'd never deviate from their maiden name again after that gut-wrenching divorce). It'll give you whiplash in a short time period like the example you used. I know plenty of other women who changed their names when they got married but kept their married name after divorcing (usually with longer marriages, like my MIL who got divorced after 20 years of marriage). I think that's just from force of habit. I can't imagine going back to my maiden name after 8 years of marriage, let alone over 2x that time...

I don't judge people who don't change their names despite any awkwardness I've inadvertently caused when I forget in addressing formal letters to both or introducing them as a pair, etc. I hope they don't judge my choice either. Different strokes for different folks.
Nov. 12th, 2013 10:21 pm (UTC)
As someone who lives in TX, I think the voter ID complaints are highly overblown.

Are you white?
Nov. 13th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
Nov. 13th, 2013 02:09 am (UTC)
I'll take that as a yes.

25% of Black people don't have a photo ID, and Hispanics in Texas are 46-120% more likely than whites not to meet the ID requirements.
Nov. 11th, 2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
I still haven't changed it legally although I have socially. I keep putting it off. Not that my husband cares, and I don't know if my in-laws even know. I eventually want to because the family I have with my husband is much healthier than the one I have with my father (although I love him). But I understand why people wouldn't, and I don't like the pressure that I "should."
Nov. 11th, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC)
We knew when we got married that we wanted the same last name. However, my husband took my last name, so he had to do all the changing. :)
Nov. 11th, 2013 07:05 pm (UTC)
I also kept my maiden name. By the time I married, I was established, had credit cards, etc. in my name, had a job and was known by that last name. I considered changing, but in the long run I'm very glad I didn't.

The taking of a different last name feels wrong to me. Does then, still does now.

I have friends who did choose to change their last names, some are traditionalists who feel that a woman should take the name of their husband. At least two of them extremely happy to break the final tie of their inherited last name with the family that gave it to them.
Nov. 11th, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
My name is SO MUCH COOLER than my husband's boring last name. :)

That's really the reason, although of course the one I tell people is that professionally it made way more sense for us each to keep our own last names.

Our kid has them both, not hyphenated. We figured she could choose which one to use when she got older (or use both).
Nov. 12th, 2013 12:20 am (UTC)
I kept my name because it is not an Asian tradition to change it. I believe it is not a tradition in much of Europe either, as I have many German, Austrian, Swiss, Croatian, and Polish friends who do not change their names, and I don't think it's because they are forward-thinking "feminists" but rather name changing is not part of the culture.

The statement that "changing your name unifies the family" grates me the wrong way, as I never did believe in cleaving from your parents. Like you, I realized that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but I'd never forsake my parents. After all, I've known (and always will) know my parents for 20 more years than my husband, for the rest of my life.
Nov. 12th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC)
Lord. Since both you and Kim changed your names on FB, AND, I had no idea you hadn't changed them legally. \o/
Nov. 12th, 2013 01:48 am (UTC)
I also had no intention of changing my name (to the great annoyance of my in-laws). I had papers published under it and I like it. We didn't want to hyphenate though as my name has 3 syllables and my husband's has 4. So we gave our daughter my name as her middle name and we refer to ourselves as the A-B household (the first letters of our last names). As it turns out, it's a much shorter moniker than either of our names independently :-)
Nov. 12th, 2013 02:46 am (UTC)
I changed my name because I liked the symbolism of sharing name, his name was not objectionable, and, honestly, the paperwork is so much easier for women. It also factored in that I had not started working yet and so had no career/reputation to worry about. In retrospect, I'm really happy with my decision. My "new" name signifies a shift in the chapters of my life. My maiden name feels very far away and tied to a different self. I almost feel like everyone should get a new last name every 20 years or so. ; )
Nov. 12th, 2013 03:37 am (UTC)
You know, I've been wondering this for years. And I have to say, your suggestion of keeping your name but 'socially using' marc's sounds perfect.

Do you have much difficulty with legal documents coming in with his last name, or has it been pretty simple to keep that separate?
Nov. 12th, 2013 05:13 am (UTC)
I can't speak for spacefem of course, but I haven't had much trouble with that. If anything it makes it easier to filter the spam. Did you call me Mrs S? then I don't know you, and you don't know me. Did you call him Mr D? Same.

BUT I do have to specify that our names are different, people will assume (while filling out forms) that they are the same. (Like when we bought our house etc) Recently one person actually asked without assuming! I don't think that's ever happened before!

This is in a fairly progressive metro area, so I imagine it's harder elsewhere.
Nov. 12th, 2013 04:02 pm (UTC)
I changed my name. It somehow was expected and caused so much trouble. I couldn't change it on my SSN since I was back in the US on a visa and can't till I have a job and/or a green card, etc. So my passport had my new name & my local ID had my maiden name. Bleah. I never thought much of it. We already had started off on the wrong footing at the wedding and I didn't want to fight over something I didn't really deem important. Just a name.

It's funny though, my in-laws kept insisting this is tradition, but everyone (of our generation) in their family were completely surprised that I changed my name. grrr… ah well. Just makes life easier. My maiden name was so much harder to pronounce/spell.

On social media though I have both names, people after all remember my maiden name that they spent so much effort remembering!
Nov. 14th, 2013 05:43 am (UTC)
i changed mine cause i hated my maiden name.

dunno what i would have done if i hadn't. i married at 20, so i probably would have changed it because it made it feel more real, less like i was a kid just pretending to be a grown-up.

i have a friend who not only kept her name when she got married but she and her husband decided to give their daughter her last name and not his. it was a long drawn out argument but i had the final vote, i said, give the child the better last name! you kept yours because you liked it better, so that's the name your baby should have. the irony here is that he wanted the baby to have her name and she wanted the baby to have his. her MIL has not forgiven her, even though it was her own son's idea to do this.

i also know a few couples that did a double hyphen. like she was smith and he was jones and then when they married they both became smith-jones.
Nov. 20th, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
In Germany, women tack on their husband's name to the end of theirs. It's a funny system, but it can work. In my generation though, I have known a man change to his wife's name, as well as women taking their husband's name. Another solution I have seen is another friend who has legally changed her name, but kept her professional name.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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