Post #1—Women friends say they did not change their names or expressed regret they did.
Post #2—Women friends say they changed their names because they didn’t think about it, to avoid complexity, and some were conflicted but did it anyway.
Post #3—A history of women’s names.
Post #4—A history of women’s legal rights & coverture.
Here’s my story.
Growing up, I never considered changing my name to a man’s.
Then I got engaged.
Oh the romantic and reactionary frenzy that accompanies a wedding! White dresses, garter belts, veils, place cards, bride maids.
I toyed with the name-change idea for approximately a microsecond. I took out a pen and wrote my name with my fiancé’s surname. And that was the end of that. It felt practically medieval.
I was a teacher at the time. As if by common agreement, the kids switched from calling me Miss Murray to Mrs. Murray. Seemed like a good way of dealing with it to me. It marked the transition, and we went on with our lives.
Ten years later, I got divorced.
When I started dating again, I met a nice guy. We enjoyed each other. On date number five, he put two and two together about my identity.
“Hey,” he said. “You haven’t been divorced that long. When did you go back to using your maiden name?”
“July 1966,” I said.
He never called again.
Soon after that, I met the love of my life and got married. My new husband and I both owned technology consulting companies, so we joined those too.
In the mid-2000s, I arrived for a consulting assignment in Phoenix separately from my husband. It was a due diligence for an M&A deal.
At the Marriot check in, I was in line with the lead venture capitalist on the job. He wasn’t an old guy. In fact, he’s four years younger than I am.
In what seemed to be an attempt at small talk, he asked me about the status of my name.
“I didn’t change it for my first husband, so I’m sure not going to change it for my second.”
A little testy, perhaps. But it was 1 a.m., and it was kind of a personal question for that hour.
S_____ was a tall guy, about 6’2″. I am 5’3″.
He stepped into my space, aimed his index finger at my nose and said, “My wife tried to pull that shit on me, and that’s where I drew the line.”
(P.S. It’s ridiculously hard to find clipart of a professional woman checking into a hotel. Try it; you’ll see.)
My Case Against Changing Names
I hate to argue with anyone, especially people I love. But I simply don’t understand the logic behind the most common reasons for changing your name.
Many of my friends expressed this in different ways. But it all came down to the same thing: It’s confusing to have a name different from your husband and different from your kids.
Let’s set aside for a second the fact that your kids could have YOUR last name and let your husband’s friends and family be confused.
Let’s look once again at history.
In the 1800s and 1900s, women almost always changed their names to their husband’. At the time, the life expectancy of men was in the crapper. Which meant that a woman might have two, three, or even four husbands in her lifetime. That was pretty darn confusing.
First you were Mrs. That, then you were Mrs. TheOther, and then you were Mrs. TheThird. The issue was so large it caused a problem in the Library of Congress, where thousands of cross references had to be made to keep up with women authors who had multiple marriages. A ton of confusion. But no one seemed to find a problem with it then.
Of course, in the modern day, we have the prevalence of divorce.
I have heard various women friends make the “confusion of kids’ last names” argument on their first marriage, but then go on to change their surnames a second time when they divorce and remarry. We all know plenty of blended families with multiple last names.
Here’s what’s really confusing: Naming your child Wyoming or Apple.
It’s All Patriarchy
I have to say gals, I don’t find this one persuasive. Just because you can’t solve the WHOLE problem, you won’t take a step in the right direction?
I get it’s your father’s name. But if you kept it, and passed it down to your kids, in a couple of generations, it would be a name associated with a woman. And pretty much everyone will have forgotten about your father.
I hear you there. I hate hassle.
Then I think of Lucy Stone and the others who went through the hassle so a woman could cast a vote in her birth name.
Maybe it would be okay to go through a tiny bit (or even a lot) of hassle to explain, to deal with some red tape, to provide a marriage licenses if required by some bureaucrat—If that hassle would honor the real fight and real sacrifices of the women who went before.
Love—The Most Persuasive Argument