Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whooooo are yoooouu? Who who, who who?

Even though my commute is much shorter these days, I still have plenty of time to listen to the morning radio stations. On one this morning, they were discussing women changing their last names when getting married. This came about because one of the hosts will be on The Marriage Ref tonight with her husband regarding this issue. The show had her husband explaining why he was upset she still hadn’t changed her last name after 4 years and it basically boiled down to “It’s tradition and she should do it.” Very few things get me in an uproar, but this is one of them. Why in this day in age are we still thinking that women have to change their name?

The “tradition” that is so often referred to came about back when women were property of men. When the woman married, proprietorship changed hands from her father to the new husband, hence the maiden to married last name. Times have changed, women can vote and work and yet some still expect a woman to take her husband’s name immediately upon marriage.

Some points that were brought up this morning were good ones, I’ll admit to that. One was that if the parents have different last names and decide to have children, it can make it hard for the whole family. I know this first hand. Those of you who know me, know that my mother did not change her last name when she married my dad. Thus, my siblings and I had hyphenated last names, Mom’sLastName-Dad’sLastName. Not only was that long enough as it was, but my mom’s last name is a ridiculously long German name that no one on Earth can pronounce correctly unless you’re part of my family. So growing up, I was that kid whose name substitute teachers fumbled with at attendance. And most of the time, I went by my dad’s shorter last name, purely for brevity. Also, official school forms had to be redone many time because people would fill them out automatically assuming we all had the same last name. Or others just thought my parents weren’t married. This, frankly, wasn’t that big of an issue because I grew up in Boulder, land of the Hippies. I did like the attention that was brought on by having such a unique name, but nonetheless, there are some challenges to having parents with different last names.

However, there were some opinions on the show that just angered me. We also got a lot of mail at the house that was addressed to Dad Mom’sLastName, but luckily it didn’t upset him since it was usually just junk mail. The morning show host’s husband did mention being called Mr. Wife’sLastName on occasion, but that it bothered him terribly. If it’s so annoying to be Mr. Wife’sLastName, why is it any better for her to be Mrs. Husband’sLastName? I don’t understand why the woman is expected to just roll over and accept a whole new identity because it’s not normal for a man to do likewise. I would think that if a guy was stuck with something like Smith or Jones, they’d be happy to switch over to their wife’s last name. Someone called in and said “If you really loved your husband, you would do this for him.” Umm, I’m pretty sure she proved that by marrying him.

Here’s where I’m like M. Night Shamalayan and throw in the twist (or where you call me a hypocrite). I took Aaron’s last name when we got married. *GASP* Even though I got to a point where I was proud of having a name like no one else, it still got rather tiresome filling it out on documents. So when I was looking at my options and saw keeping my 13 letter maiden name or changing it to only 8 letters, it wasn’t too hard of a choice. And my first name is still very unique (see above: HippyLand) so I still get “Ohh, what an interesting name!” If we do decide to have children, there won’t be the confusion that I grew up with. Finally, Aaron’s family is a semi-traditional Japanese one, so I knew it was important to him. But my main point is that I had a choice! I’d like to think Aaron would love me just as much if I still had my maiden name. Wouldn’t you Aaron? (please say yes, don’t make me look stupid now…)

It’s refreshing to see some women not falling victim to the idea that changing names is just something they have to do. I have plenty of friends, who did decide to change, but they moved their maiden name into the middle. That way, they still hold onto that previous identity. I would have done that except the Social Security office computer might have exploded from entering 5 long names at once! I’ve also heard of the husband and wife creating a new family name out of both their names and I love this idea. Why not add a new surname into the world? A woman should be allowed to choose what she wants to do with her name and not be judged one way or another for it. Isn’t that right, Ms. Phoebe PrincessConsuelaBananaHammock?

1 comment:

Amy said...

Nice post! And I totally agree... at times I wish I had kept my maiden name (it's now my middle name) at least for professional use, but I think it will be easier when we have kids to all have the same last name. Still, I don't see why it should always be the man's last name that couples must use. Hopefully this is a custom that will fade over time.