Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Name Game

For those of you who do not know - I do nothing.

I feel like Hugh Grant's character in 'About a Boy' when he is talking to Rachel Weisz's character and she asks him what he does. And he says - nothing. Now - granted I don't live off a bank account amassed by my father's one-hit-wonder.....but nonetheless I do nothing. I get up and I go to work - and I know you're thinking to yourself 'that's something!' but that is where it ends. Once at work I sit at a desk. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I play solitaire. Sometimes I even get to address birthday cards. But that is all I do and well....seeing as how it doesn't amount to much it's just easier to say I do nothing.

So...that in mind I have a lot of time on my hands to contemplate random things for long periods of time. This is one of those things......

(I am not married. I have never been married. This hasn't stopped me from contemplating the following......)

The Name Game

My name is Michelle M - has been for the past 26 years. I like my name. I would also like to get married one day and this has got me thinking....

What will happen to Michelle M when that day comes?

According to tradition I will take on my husbands name. This name change is meant to signify that a new relationship has begun. By changing my name I am acknowledging my union with my husband.

Aside from the vows that we both take - exactly what does the husband do to acknowledge this new union? According to tradition he gets to keep his name! How easy is that?

I understand the reasoning for this tradition but those reasons are outdated. Last time I checked I am not going to become my husbands property upon marriage. I will be able to buy my own property and do so in my own name. So why have we held onto this tradition?

I had never given it much thought growing up but now that I'm reaching that point where marriage is on the horizon I've been thinking about it a lot. And the more I think about the more irritated I have become. Why has no one questioned this tradition? There are certainly other issues that more urgent but to me this not something to be glossed over.

My name is Michelle M.

While M was certainly handed down generation to generation via this archaic tradition it was not handed to me this way. M is my mother's name. She was not married at the time of my birth nor did she marry my father afterwards. Because of this she was not allowed to post my birth announcement in the local paper - in 1980 (doesn't that just make you angry?)

She still could have given me my father's name. I see it in the paper all the time - couples who are not married (and for the sake of argument are not going to be) and yet the baby almost always has the fathers last name. Aside from the obvious - what contribution did that father make to warrent passing on his name to that child? Sigh...I'm getting sidetracked....

The point I'm trying to make is that we need more options - a new tradition. For instance - what about the husband taking the wife's last name?

I'm serious. I do not offer this as a solution (a fair solution would involve not having to give up both - which some cultures do do) but it's definitely an alternative.

What is wrong with my last name being handed down through the generations? Women bear the children and for the most part - in accordance with other traditions - do most of the why shouldn't that child have her name?

I've brought this up from time to time and have gotten the same reactions - disbelief. Some smile and think it's cute while others flat out laugh and disregard it immediately. This only motivates me more.

I think it's time people start taking this option seriously. I am bothered by the fact that some men think of this as demeaning - to take on the last name of their wife. Why? You are entering into a life long union with the woman you love - what could possibly be demeaning about her name?

I was doing some reading on the internet and came across the story of one man who did take his wife's last name. The comments that were left astounded me!

For example....

"Man has no sack... takes wife's last name."


"a Man would never do that. This guy is a shell of a man beaten down who can stand for nothing."

These comments angered me. I would consider it a lack of balls/dignity to not seriously consider this a viable option. If a man is that threatened by the mere suggestion something is seriously wrong and I think it speaks volumes about how he'll treat his wife in other areas of the relationship.

This is my opinion on the matter. Not a solution but an opinion - and a damn good one if I don't say so myself!

I've only skimmed the surface of this topic but it's one of great interest to me and I intend to research it further. For instance - did you know they make it more difficult and expensive for a man to change his last name? This definitely needs more attention.

So keep your eyes peeled - I'll be back with more. In the meantime I'm curious to know what your thoughts are - especially since most of my readers are married and have gone the traditional route (a decision I'm not attempting to demean!). Thanks!


K-dog said...

They also make it damn hard for a divorced woman to change her name back - and expensive. My cousin decided to keep her asshole ex-husband's name simply because she couldn't afford to change it.

I agree completely with everything you said. We should just keep the names we're born with - all of us. It's the first thing we're given, after all.

I have no intention of ever changing my name. I'm not sure what last name any future children might have, but I do know that I will be a Sommers for the rest of my life - even if that is the name my mom took when she got married.

ck said...

I have had conversations with (now ex) boyfriends about the potential for both of us to change our names if we were to marry. The men were not interested. In fact, both liberal-minded, progressive future-PhDs refused. I suggested the hyphenating option, as well as a blending of the both of our names into something new (as we would be starting new traditions and blending our lives together), but that was also not acceptable. I am honestly okay with giving up my father's last name, because unlike your mother, mine married (and divorced---2 years later) the reject that donated the sperm, thus I conceded. However, if I felt strongly about my ties to my last name, I would not surrender. It's reassuring that other women feel the same.

carrster said...

People bring it up all the time - hence hyphenating names, brides keeping their last names, etc. I for one am a fan of tradition and didn't have a problem changing my last name when I got married. I am happy to join his family and "take" his name. I will always be "Carrie Rossow" - that will never change...but now I'm Carrie Boberg too.

Plus I want our children and us to have all the same name. There seems to be great unity tied to that for me.

As far as husbands taking their wives last name - go for it. If it works for you then it'll work. To each his own, I say.

KeLL said...

I'm the last person in my family with my last name. My dad was the only son, and he had 2 daughters, me being the youngest. I'm the last. I LOVE my last name as complicated as it is. But I wanted the solidarity of having the same last name as my husband, my children. Richard didn't want to take my last name. And I would never make him. I like that I can trace my last name to the land my ancestors owned in Austria. I like that Richard knows the history of his last name. If we combined ours, we'd lose that history. Given we would start our own history, but it isn't the same. Ultimately, I took his common, easy spelling last name. My last name would have died with me regardless if I kept it. My kids will have Richard's last name. But they may have my crazy last name as a middle name.