I had the idea of how I wanted an ideal marriage to go long before I ever conceded that I myself might get married one day. I didn’t want kids, and on most days still don’t. I wanted a husband who took as much responsibility for the house as I did. I never would tolerate being called “woman,” and I for sure would never change my last name.
So when I met a man who loved the fact that I was strong-willed and progressive, I scooped him up fast and we got married earlier than anyone (us included) would ever have imagined.
From the start, I made it abundantly clear that I would not take his name. First off, I don’t love his last name for me. I love it on him as it suits him and is indicative of his extremely Irish heritage, but it’s just not a great name for me. For me to give up my last name, a name I adore, a name that suits me and has in a weird way been a sort of identity to me, outside of being a mere moniker, I would have to love how his name sounds with mine, and frankly, I don’t. Second, my name is extremely important to me. I grew up in a tight family. Our name has always been a badge of pride and I didn’t intend to give it up for a name I had very little connection to. Lastly, my husband is so supportive and has always made it clear that he was happy with whatever name I chose to have.
It’s not that I don’t respect every woman’s choice to do what she will with her name once she is married, but for me it was a no-brainer. I had no intention of becoming my husband’s “property.” (Cue the eye-rolls because I know, it’s so clichéd feminist and hippy-liberal.) It’s also just how I feel about it.
Plus, having different names means that in the areas that are important to us we can stand on our own. I am published academically under my maiden name and can write online without implicating him. He has built a successful career and presence through his own name that is not easily traced to me. We come together through our relationship and commitment, which are much deeper than eight letters can ever describe.
Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. Since we did marry so young I got the side-eye many a time when people realized I didn’t change my name. Once my husband was sick and called his doctor from work for a prescription. I went to pick it up for him and the nurse almost would not give it to me as I didn’t have the same last name as my husband, never mind that we had the same address on our ID cards. We’ve had more than one landlord ask that just one of us go on the lease because boyfriends and girlfriends often break up causing a lot of issues, and trying to do anything with a bill in just one of our names is usually a headache. Some people even refuse to acknowledge that I didn’t change my name and have continually called me by my husband’s name.
Minor annoyances aside, I can’t imagine being called anything else, and I think my husband would find it funny for me to share his name. There was a time where we thought we would both change our last names to something new but decided, paperwork in hand on the way to the courthouse, that it wasn’t in the cards for us, we were both so attached to our given names. In the end, we each have the name we have chosen to have and we feel really good about those decisions. It’s certainly not the choice most make but I recently came across a website that shares the stories of those who for one reason or another stray from tradition when it comes to married names. I love reading it and seeing a whole array of perspectives on what is really in a name. What’s in my name is family and history and loyalty and understanding.
So I’m really curious, did/will you change your last name or not? Can you ever see yourself doing it differently?
Brandi is a lawyer in Denver who spends very little time actually lawyering. She can usually be found working for free at a non-profit, hiking up mountains, or bossing her husband around because he made the mistake of asking her for help with his business one time. She’s horribly technologically inept (unless people still use AIM in which case she’s a genius) and takes one bite out of every donut instead of finishing a single donut in its entirety, which is probably a metaphor for something but she hasn’t figured out what it is yet. You can read more from Brandi on her blog, Randi Nickle.