Even before we got engaged, I’d always assumed I would change my name to my man’s last name. Although I am someone who strongly believes in equality, changing my name was just something I felt I would do when I got married.
Even after we were engaged, I still was sure I would change my name. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even really give it much thought. Changing your name is just what happens when you get married right?
But over the last few months, as the day when it will actually happen, I will actually have to give up my name, draws ever closer, I have started to give it some thought. Serious thought. And now, internet, I am horribly confused. This subject has thrown up all sorts of uncomfortable questions for me, and at the moment I just don’t have the answers.
I have strong wonderful memories relating to the family that have given me my surname. Part of me feels guilty for considering giving up this name. Shouldn’t I want to stay part of this family that has encouraged me and backed me for my whole life so far, and who I know will continue to be there for me in my marriage?
But this is when I start to get confused. I actually have fabulously happy memories from my mother’s side of the family too, who obviously have a different name to me – and I have never felt bad for not having that name. So why do I feel guilty for thinking about giving up my paternal surname?
I also feel the indirect pressure from the feminists in my life. Feminism is all about giving women the choice. The choice to go out to work, or to stay at home. The choice to have babies, or not. The choice to get married or be happy on your own. And also the choice about whether to take the person you intend to spend the rest of your life with’s name as your own. And I am all for that choice, I really am. I’m glad that women who went before us fought to enable us to have this choice. But what I really don’t feel comfortable with, is the feeling that by choosing to change my name, I would somehow be letting myself and the entire feminist movement down. I feel that some people would be disappointed in me for not making a stand and saying ‘I want to keep my name and no other’. I get the impression that some people think less of their female counterparts who do take their husbands name. Women who don’t take their husband’s name stand up and say, ‘hey, I’m a strong, intelligent, independent woman, who belongs to no-one but myself’. I AM all of those things. I want to be part of that club. I want to make that statement about myself. Yet I also love the idea of creating a new, mini family. I don’t feel that if I CHOOSE to take my man’s surname, I should automatically be excluded from the strong independent woman’s club. I can still be all of those things, whilst still choosing to use my husband’s name. Can’t I?
So, internet, it’s been a hard choice for me. Do I go against my feminist morals, and say hey, I actually would like to change my name, or do I go against what tradition dicates, and keep my name. Or – could I compromise, and hyphenate our names?
Although hyphenating comes with all of its own connotations doesn’t it. Our names together do in fact sound rather great in hyphenated form, and a little bit of me would quite like to do it, so that we could create our own unique mini family, and have our own unique name to pass on to our children. But I again, worry about other people’s opinions. I feel that I would have to justify my decision to every person I meet. No, I am not a social climber who has given myself this name because I want people to think I come from some long line of nobility. I am doing it in an attempt to find some middle ground between giving up my heritage, and becoming a new team with my man, ok? Which, on the 73rd time of saying, could become rather irritating, for both me and the listener. Do I really want to have that discussion every time I tell someone that that is what we’re doing? And I say ‘we’ there hesitantly. Of course I’ve discussed with my man not taking his name, and he would be happy either way. But I would be taking liberties if I assumed that he would be happy to hyphenise his name, just as I would be shocked if he tried to force me into changing my name to his. So that would be something I would need to have a long, and very honest conversation about with him, if I felt that it was something that I wanted to do. And would it sort of defeat the object, if he didn’t also change his name? Would my mini family then not exist? And which name would our children take?
The children. That’s a whole other issue isn’t it. One of my reasons for previously assuming I would take my man’s name, is that I always wanted my children to have the same name as me, to create a cohesive family unit. The more I think about this though, the more I wonder how important that actually is. Will my (future) children really not feel loved and part of a family because their mother has decided to keep her own family name? Of course not. They may even grow up having respect and admiration for their strong mother who didn’t bow down to pressure from traditionalists. Who knew I could be a role model just by not changing my name? So that in itself, leads me to more confusion. Ultimately though, surely any child would be happier if their mother was happy, and not bitter about a choice that they felt they were forced into making even before they were born?
So that really hasn’t resolved any of my issues. I can see it from both angles. The great thing about this choice though, is that I don’t feel like I have to put a time limit on myself. If I haven’t made a decision by the day of our wedding, I will stick with my name until I do reach a decision. As I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other, I won’t be offended, as I know some of you may be, by people calling me Mrs Mymansname in the meantime, but I may also not go ahead with changing my name officially until I’ve tried it out a bit, to see if it works for me.
Choice – I’m grateful for it, I really am, but god, is it ever confusing.