Names and Identity, Part 1

When I read Against the Name Change: A Polemic, it gave me second thoughts about my decision to take my husband’s name. This wasn’t an ill-thought-out or hasty decision, but this post made me wonder how many of my reasons were justifications for simply following tradition because it’s easier.

Let me say first off that I have a very egalitarian marriage. We both cook, we both clean, we both try to support each other in that whole “working outside the home” thing and fairly juggle errands and taking care of the fuzzy children.*

And when Mr. Thinkstoomuch and I were engaged, I had examples of all sorts of not changing your name. A friend who was going to keep her name, with no hyphenation, another set of friends where the man was taking the woman’s name. (I actually know *two* guys who’ve done this–it’s a tiny minority, but it is becoming more common.) I knew a number of people who hyphenated, but I’ve never been a fan of hyphenation. If either original name is longer than two syllables, it gets really clunky.

My reasons for name change were personal and idiosyncratic, but I don’t think invalid. I like the assonance and alliteration of my first name with the new last name. And after two years of teaching and a lifetime of answering calls from telemarketers, I was sick of hearing my last name mangled. So, the idea of a shorter and more easily pronounced name was really appealing. (Though I totally underestimated the number of people who can get a simple, but uncommon, name wrong or need it spelled for them.)

There were also identity-based reasons. When Mr. Thinkstoomuch graduated from college and I left my teaching job several hundred miles away, his parents let us stay with them until we got jobs and got settled in our own place. I felt very much a part of his family and wanted to honor that too.

And yet, if I had it to do over again, I might choose differently. The paperwork is a ginormous pain. I still don’t have my bank account stuff straight, because the times I’ve gone, there’s been some requirement they’ve neglected to mention the last time. Sorry, you need to bring your spouse with you. Oh, no, we need a copy of the marriage license.

But the point where I felt a real pang of regret was at my brother’s wedding. He was talking about how many [Last Name]s were there (not many) and described me as “one who left.” Dude, I didn’t leave, I’m right here.

This is getting long, so I think I’ll break it into two posts, with the primary point for this post being that the “easy” choice where the woman changes her name is not, in fact, easy. It’s *traditional* which makes it easy in some respects. And as much as I like having a name that ties me to my in-laws, my new family, it feels as though I’ve some how replaced my family by giving up the name that ties me to them. In reality, of course, I haven’t, but names are symbols and symbols are important.

*No, we’re not goofy people who treat our pets like kids. But like children, they’re cute and dependent, and need a lot of looking after. And it’s a term of endearment.

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One thought on “Names and Identity, Part 1

  1. […] 3, 2010 at 9:11 pm (Uncategorized) Part 1 is […]

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