A rose by any other name.

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.
Categories: Marriage, Politics and Feminism, Wedding Planning
16 interesting thoughts on this

15 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted July 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    When I was a child, my parents divorced and my mother remarried. Having a different surname to my mother brought up a variety of problems and confusions that my mother had not anticipated. People often assumed that my mother was a family friend or relative rather than my mother. I recall some difficulties with my childrens' bank account. My mother has moaned about this throughout my childhood.
    As it is now quite common for children to have a different name to their mother I don't think it would be as much of a problem however it is still something to consider and is one of the main reasons why I changed my name when I got married.

  2. Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    This is such a timely post – I think you summed up pretty much everything that I've been thinking!

    I'm so glad that you brought up the hyphenation issue – it's rare to find someone who gets that. One of the (oh so many!) things that baffled me on the various wedding forums was people who chose to double barrel because "it sounds posh". Did they not realise that it has the exact opposite effect? There are plenty of understandable reasons to hyphenate, but to "sound posh" doesn't really feel like one of them.

    The feminist standpoint can have equally negative connotations – using Ms and keeping your maiden name feels, in this day and age, like the type of feminism that strives to get rid of words like "manager" and "history".

    I appreciate that my viewpoints here rely purely on putting the very worst of my own judgemental feelings onto others, and people should probably just blow a raspberry at the world and do whatever they want. The thing is that we all engage with strangers regularly, and I'd rather minimise the obvious things to pick on from the offset.

  3. Posted July 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Eek, it's a tricky one. I think ultimately, you should do what you are most comfortable and happy with. Don't worry about what people will think of you (feminists or otherwise) – the main thing is that you are happy with the decision.

    I kept my name when we got married for a variety of reason, but I am the only one of my friends who've gotten married and kept their surname. Which is kind of surprising in this day and age. I do often feel like I'm constantly having to justify my decision – as though it undermines my love for my husband and role in our relationship. Which obviously is completely wrong! I completely understand the point about feeling like a family – but I have to say that I don't feel less of a family because we have different names.

    I have to disagree with Becca about the connotations for Ms – though I think that is just a matter of personal opinion! I like Ms as I don't feel like my title should be defined by my marital status seeing as my husband's isn't (plus "Mrs" sounds too old and mumsy to me), and though I consider myself a feminist I'm certainly not the kind of person who wants to change words like manager, history etc. And I certainly don't want to ever be called a womyn. Shudder. But I do understand why some people find Ms a bit funny – it took me quite a while to get to this point myself so I'm coming from the same place, eseentially!

  4. Anonymous
    Posted July 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I can see what you're saying. If I can just add my thoughts: we were engaged before we found out I was pregnant with our first child and we get married next year. One of the things I'm now most looking forward to is having the same name as my daughter. I loathe ringing nursery etc and saying 'it's Laura X, Jessica Y's mum' Silly maybe, but I feel us all sharing the same name unifies us as a single unit family. Hope you reach a conclusion about what you want soon, its definitely a difficult issue!

  5. Posted July 15, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Thanks girls….

    I KNOW that I shouldn't care what other people think, and that I should just do what I want – but that's hard. Really hard. The situation would also be greatly improved if I actually knew myself what I wanted wouldn't it…?! some more soul searching is needed I think…

    I hadn't considered the Ms decision either. I essentially have no problem with being a Mrs, bar the fact that I still feel far too young to be addressed that way. (However I am still slightly taken aback when someone tells their child to let the 'lady' pass or some other direction with the word 'lady' in. Lady? You mean me?! So maybe I just need to work on accepting that I am no longer a 'girl', and haven't been for some time)

    I think, like Emma, it will take me while to get used to being either a Ms or a Mrs….

    Fliss xx

    PS Another great blog Becca!

  6. Posted July 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    @Emma – thanks for your response. It's quite scary posting a different-from-most opinion and I'm grateful that you didn't bop me over the head for it!

    @Fliss – thanks so much for stopping by!

  7. Posted July 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Becca, that's exactly the environment I hope to create here – everyone should be able to put forward their own view point without feeling like anyone is going to knock their opinion, or worse, get offensive.

    I'm all for different points of view (you know, as long as they're legal and the like). Keep the comments coming – with any luck they might help me straighten out what I really DO want!

    Fliss xx

  8. Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Becca – nope, no bopping you on the head from me! I was actually worried you'd do the same to me, so I guess that makes us both rather silly. :-)

    Good luck with figuring it out, Fliss! I guess the great thing about not taking his name if you're unsure is that you can always decide to take his name at a later point. Whereas if you took his name and then wanted to go back to your old name it would probably look rather bad…. I'm working on that basis myself as I have no idea how I'll feel once we have children etc.

  9. Jess
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    When my parents divorced, my mum reverted to her maiden name, i never saw my dad and in time took my future step fathers name to save having to change my name twice. But my mum and step dad never got married (although i call him my step dad). so i always felt a bit 'lost'. i can't wait to take Ed's surname and finally feel like i belong somwhere (plus, his surname is a lovely surname!) Jess x

  10. Posted July 16, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Good point. I've changed my name but it atill doesn't feel me – but then using my maiden name also doesn't quite feel right either. I really wanted to keep my maiden name as a middle name, but to do that I would have had to change my name by deed poll – and use that rather than marriage certificate – which I didn't want to use. I've yet to change my passport and it felt strange checking in to as hotel as Miss X and Mr Y not Mr and Mrs Y. I think as you say – there's no dead line ot make the decision and hurrah that it's a decsion we have and isn't forced on us. Let's celebrate that!

  11. Posted July 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I was having the same issues for professional reasons. Women in my line of work always hyphenate their names, ours would SADLY not work AT ALL (really hilarious names!). My husband wouldn't even consider changing his name to my name. I wanted us to have the same surname because I want our kids to have the same name. I decided to keep my maiden name for work and married name for everything else.

    HOWEVER, I am finding it quite hard to have 2 names. My passport is in married name, so if I go away with work, what name will I book it under?

    We cashed our wedding cheques from the well wishing guests which has Mr and Mrs written on them. I didn't have a choice at the bank, I either changed my name or we couldn't catch the cheques. I wanted to keep my own account in my own name for work purposes (wages) but nope they had to change all names.

    I feel quite sad to lose such a big part of me, I'm not a burning your bra feminist type but there are no boys to take over the family name so I feel like having it for work at least there is a lose connection to my past.

    Best of luck

  12. Posted July 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all of the different perspectives everyone!

    @Liberty – thanks for pointing that out – I hadn't thought about the practicalities of it also (I have considered keeping my name for work also)

    Fliss xx

  13. Posted July 27, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Hello Fliss!
    I've just came accross your blog and found this interesting post on family surnames, an issue which I've never thought of.
    That's probably because I'm Italian and Italian women keep their maiden surname after they get married.
    That's to say I would never think of changing it with my boyfriend'surname…it's really something I couldn't do because I'm so jelous and proud of mine…because it has a story behind, the story of my life…

    Sorry for this comment, I hope you don't mind! I just thought to share with you another point of view! Ciao, Stefania

  14. Posted July 28, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    @ Stefanio – never apologise for commenting lovely, I am grateful for everybody's perspectives.

    It's interesting though isn't it how in most of Europe it is usual to keep your own name after marriage, but in the UK it is automatically assumed (by most people at least) that we'll take our husband's name.

    It's a lot to get your head around and I certainly haven't come to any conclusion yet….

    Fliss xx

  15. Laura Slegg
    Posted July 30, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Really interesting post Fliss, just discovered your blog and really enjoying catching up on previous posts :)

    This name thing has been a really hot topic between me and my future wife, I guess being a same-sex couple we don't have the same kind of baggage around what people expect us to do. Of people I know who have had Civil Partnerships there has been a real mix of those who have kept their own names, those who have double-barrelled, those who have combined names (e.g. Edwards and Thomas become Edmas) and a couple who have come up with a new name entirely, only one couple I know are deciding for one of them to change her name to her partner's.

    We really want children, and are firmly of the opinion that we all want to have the same surname – with two mums, and potentially different birth mums we really want our kids to feel part of a unit, and as "normal" as possible – so the kids thing is our definite driver for something having to give!

    I'm super-connected to my surname, feels a massive part of who I am, is a really unusual name and would feel completely and utterly wrong to me to give it up! To begin with my fiancee had decided that she'd change her name to mine; but then after her nana died changed her mind and didn't want to lose her name. I guess she felt reconnected to her family and didn't want to give up that part of her either – guess we're both hugely family people! So, after much deliberation, we're going double-barrelled. We actually like the sound of the names that we get when combining ours, but then we both lose that part of our heritage (Of course we'd still have that heritage, but it's nice carrying it round with you on ID and such-like!) I was really anti-double-barrelled names because "they're a bit posh", but am having to get over it as it's really our only feasible option!!!

    On the Ms/Mrs front – I'm currently a Ms and will continue to be so, I don't like the fact that my marital status would be deduced from my title, and also that if you're a Mrs, there is a presumption that there's a Mr. Informally I probably will be a Mrs, as Mrs & Mrs sounds quite fun, but formally I'll be a Ms!!! My future-wife on the other hand, is much less of a feminist than me, and isn't really bothered about all that stuff/baggage/connotations and is just really, really, really looking forward to being a Mrs! Although thinking about it in future, when we're a bit older and post is addressed to Mrs and Ms Slegg-xxxxxx it might be perceived that it's a single mum and her daughter, oh well!!!!

    Anyhew, that's my thoughts, just figured you might appreciate a lesbian's perspective :D Keep up the posting!!

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    [...] post that I know is going to speak to so many of you. It’s something that both Aisling and I have written about in the past, and something that gets right into the feminism/patriarchal system versus tradition [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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