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.
Post #5—My story and my viewpoint that it’s not a good thing for a woman to change her name.
Love–The Most Persuasive Reason
I was deeply touched by my women friends’ outpouring of love for their husbands.
For me, taking his name is the clearest representation that we are a “couple” (even more than rings) and that I am committed to this person for better or worse.
PS – it’s such a giant pain in the ass that one should only do this for True Love.
I was very much in love with T___ and was delighted to take on his name. Somehow being a [husband’s last name] made me feel more “one” with him. I also felt that taking on the name would honor him.
I took on P’s name without hyphenation because I was totally in love and was very excited to be a [husband’s last name].
I was honored to take my husband’s name. I never hesitated. Still am.
The Matter of Jennifer3
I was reluctant to write Jennifer3, my conservative close friend from college. She is an evangelical Christian, so I was pretty certain what I would hear.
There was another reason. When I was getting divorced, I got an email from Jennifer3 saying I was doing the wrong thing. That God hates divorce, and that I should find a way to make it work. I was married to a man who was doing some pretty horrible things. Things she knew about. It was very hard time for me, so it was a tough email to get.
I didn’t answer the email, and Jennifer3 later expressed regret at having sent it. But the wound was there. The interaction made it clear we had taken different paths in belief and life. That was sad.
But friendship is friendship. Whenever I have the chance to talk to Jennifer3, I find her just as I did thirty years ago, one of the funniest, sparkliest, warmest women I know. She just comes with some beliefs I don’t agree with.
Jennifer3 being Jennifer3, she happily responded to my request for input. And I was surprised.
Initially, Jennifer3 objected to taking her husband’s “brand.”
I was happy to wear sweatpants that say “Nike”, shoes and suits that boasted the understated but elegant “Chanel” logo – I even was happy to have a bumper sticker that identified me as a member of a political party and an alum of an Ivy League university. But taking my husband’s name as a personal ‘brand’ identity seemed like a completely medieval, torturously-permanent branding affiliation that I would forever wear and ‘be stuck with’ no matter what my mood or style that day.
A few years into her marriage, though, things weren’t working out as planned.
[We had] a life filled with all the good things of the American Dream – homeowners of a charming revolutionary-era house that we flat-out owned after just a few years of Wall Street bonuses, two delightful children, and a life filled with Rock-resort vacations and lavish wardrobes, [when] our marriage hit the skids.
Jennifer3 knew what was wrong. It was separateness.
Unity in marriage is a heart attitude and not a paper or certificate or an eventuality from living under the same roof for years. And my attitude (and his) wasn’t there.
Then came a mutual re-discovery of faith.
It was when we both … hit rock-bottom in our marriage that we turned to the very last option after all other solutions failed. …Somehow, we stumbled upon it by going to church one day. The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that women should take on men’s names – so that is not the point of my mentioning it. But it does say that there is something bigger than the two of us.
She was reminded of the verse.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; … Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” When I looked at that list of what love is, I practically had to put an ‘x’ next to all the boxes in my own personal heart… And my husband was equally challenged – he failed the list too!
Jennifer3 changed her name.
I think it was then that I realized that I had been happy to value and wear many other ‘identities’ – brand names – but had never really been willing to uphold my husband’s name as something I could positively identify with. I am in this for the long haul and am I committed to a little bit of ‘dying to self’ to build a oneness of marriage that really would not belong to either him or me – but to both of us.
I cried when I read Jennifer3’s response to my request.
It’s possible, at the root, beneath names and religions, and paths in life, we are in fundamental agreement after all.
I also realized that the years she was going through the rockiness in her marriage directly coincided with the years of my divorce. It explained the hurtful email.
We often think our friends could benefit from the solutions we ourselves have found.
I am truly grateful to Jennifer3 for writing so openly and honestly—knowing, as she must have, that her recipient might not be so sympathetic to her point of view.
Why I’m Still Against the Idea
Half the Sky, by dual Pulitzer Prize winners, Sheryl Wudunn and Nicholas Kristof, starts with a tour de force of numbers illustrating the modern-day violence against women in the developing world. They include millions of
- Sex-selective abortions
- Preventable deaths in childbirth
- Sex-selective infanticides
- Families who take women and girls to doctors for vaccines and care at half the rate at which men and boys go
- Honor killings
- Rapes, sex traffickings and murders
Kristoff and Wudunn write this chilling statement:
More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine “gendercide” in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.
It takes my breath away.
Yes, this is the developing world. “Other” to most of us, (Except Jericho and, interestingly, Jennifer3.)
By consulting Post #4, however, you will be reminded at the reality of the “developed” world.
None of our mothers could have gotten a passport in her maiden name if she wanted to. (This was changed in 1972.) And many of our mothers, if they lived in the south, could not have gotten a mortgage in their own names.
If it’s about love, I sure wish we could find a better way to express it than one so culturally laden with “gender-cide,” both past and present.
Words matter. Symbols matter.
- Confederate flag
[I’ve spared you the clipart on those ones.]
No man I know has ever struggled for ten seconds with the idea of changing his name when he gets married.
The only one I have ever heard of is fourteenth-century Mr. Hethe who became Mr. Grene.
Hope for the Future
Some friends’ responses filled me with hope there is a solution rising.
Another reason I thought it would be cool to take my husband’s last name is that it’s actually his mother’s surname. His father left the family when my husband was 5 and paid very little child support. Taking my husband’s hard-working, determined, extremely strong mother’s name seemed like a fitting tribute to her.
I’ve had students whose last names are a combo of both parents names. One was a brand new name made from a syllable of each parent’s name.
I didn’t change my name because it is the law in Greece to keep your own family name when you get married. So no dilemma.
The Difference Role Models Make
As the 5th of five daughters and the 4th to marry, there was a strong precedent set by my older sisters. As an 8 year old, the first really important wedding I ever went to was my sister Ann’s, and she kept her name. That had to have an impact. Then, when Tad and Ellen did the same, it would have been quite a statement to do otherwise.
Thank you to all my friends for so generously sharing your views and your voices.