- 4 years ago
- Wedding: October 2013
Here it is, my giant stream of consciousness about whether I should change my name when I get married. Man, it’s a tough decision. I don’t think I’ve spent this much time agonizing over a decision before. I want to do what’s right for me, my marriage, my family, my career, and feminism. So…it’s hard to know what’s best overall. In no particular order, here are the factors influencing my decision. (As a side note – notice I said MY decision. I would expect someone else’s decision and process to look entirely different. These are by no means things that I think everyone needs to consider. These are very specific to my particular situation.)
Changing my name would be a big pain in the ass. Bless his heart, my fiance refused to tell me what he thought I should do with my name because he knows it is 100% my decision and doesn’t want to influence my decision. When he was drunk, I got the truth out of him – he’d like it if I took his name. But he admitted that he didn’t want to tell me that and pressure me into it because he understands what a big, fat pain in the butt it would be to change it. Whenever his family asks what I’m going to do, he reminds them that at my stage of life, changing my name would be a real hassle. Convenience is a huge part of this decision for me.
I am a 31 year old attorney. I’m not a young high school grad who just has to change her name with social security, DMV, and the bank and be done with it. My college degree, law degree, state bar admission, admission into my lawyers association, business cards, email and email signature, forms authorizing me to appear on behalf of clients, insurance, numerous online accounts, are all in my current last name. I get most of my business through client referrals. If I change my name, clients might not know where to find me. My receptionist will have to explain to every. single. client that I have changed my name. Over and over again. If I change my name it will be years of bureaucratic hassles. As a lawyer, I don’t need more bureaucratic hassles.
On the other hand, his last name is much shorter and easier to pronounce. I’ve always hated writing out my whole last name. A shorter one would be nice. So there’s that.
Culture and Privilege
My fiance is Mexican and has a common Mexican last name. I am white and have a cumbersome Dutch name.
90% of my clients are Mexican, and almost all of them have trouble pronouncing my name. They would love it if my name were easier, and it would help with referrals because instead of saying like “my lawyer was great, you should call her, her name is Sarah…uh…some weird name” they can say “my lawyer was great, you should call her, her name is Sarah [Easy Last Name]”
On the other hand, what will clients do when they call and get an appointment with Sara [Mexican name] and this white lady greets them? (Side note that may or may not be relevant: I speak Spanish with the majority of my clients, but not very well)
A friend of mine asked a great question: are you sure you want to give up the privilege of having a white name? Being white, of course I hadn’t thought of this until she pointed it out to me. What happens when I call a call center using a Mexican name? Will people treat me differently? What about a job application? Do I really want to expose myself to racism if I’m privileged enough to not have to?
On the other hand, I am so privileged that it likely won’t matter. I will likely never have to fill out a job application. If I lost my current job, I would probably just open my own firm. If I did have to apply for a job it would be in my field, where being bilingual and/or bicultural is an asset (I practice immigration law). So really, I don’t think I’d run into problems.
Connection to family of origin or name
I have no particular connection to my last name other than that it’s mine. I share it with my dad (obviously), mom, sister, and my dad’s side of the family. But I’m closest with my mom, sister, and mom’s side of the family. If I could take my mom’s maiden name, I would, because that is the side of the family I feel most connected to. So giving up the name I have now wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Still, it would make me uncomfortable to take another family’s name. I’m not leaving my family to go to his. We’re both leaving our individual lives to join as one, but neither one of us is going from one family of origin to another. So it’s not like I want to shed my last name in favor of his, as if I was jumping ship.
Luckily, my fiance is really the only one in his immediate family with his last name. His mom has taken his step-father’s last name. His sisters have taken their husbands’ names. There is no one left with his name except his father, who he has no relationship with, so it’s like the name is uniquely his. That means that if I take it, it will be uniquely ours, more or less. I like that.
My fiance and I are fairly conservative when it comes to what we value in our own marriage (but we don’t care what you do with yours, or who marries whom!). For us (and only us, again, not other people – they can do whatever they want and we support that), marriage really is forever. It’s two separate people choosing to unite as one. it means you make sacrifices for each other. It means it’s you and him (or her) on the same team, no matter what, forever, even if sometimes that doesn’t make you very happy.
That vision of marriage isn’t super compatible with having two last names. I told that to my fiance and he said it didn’t matter – we can still have that kind of marriage with two names – but that (surprisingly) didn’t sit well with me. Logically I agree with him, but in my heart I feel like if we are truly joining as one we should symbolize that in our names.
Also, it’d be nice if we both shared a last name with our future children, and hyphenating seems inconvenient.
So why doesn’t he take my name, you might ask? Great question. This is what I always struggled with. I am totally behind the idea of sharing a name, but why can’t that name be MY name? (sidenote: I’m not into us both taking a whole new name. No particular reason; I’m just not) I don’t have a good answer for this other than that’s just the way this patriarchal society works and it’s not right or fair but that’s the way it is. I wish it were different. WOULD he take my name? Maybe. He was seriously considering hyphenating with me. And that’s all I need. I just need to know he’d be willing to do something that probably makes him uncomfortable.
And here’s the thing. I shouldn’t even have to ask him to change his name for me. I know he would. He would lay down his life for me. He makes sacrifices for me all the time because he takes our relationship and our future marriage seriously.
In a marriage, we believe that it’s not two people each giving 50%. it’s about both people giving 100%. I don’t need to see that he would give me his part before I give mine. So maybe changing my name is inconvenient, but it’s the least I can do if I think it’s best for the family. When I think about all the things he does for me, and how much we both benefit from being together, changing my name doesn’t seem like such a big sacrifice at all.
This is basically the #1 reason I’ve been hesitant to change my name. Women changing their names is caught up in all kinds of sexist bullshit. I hate the idea of being transferred from my father’s property to my husband’s, or whatever the hell is behind the name changing thing. I also hate the idea that I have to do something that my husband doesn’t have to and would even be criticized for doing.
I think about my mom, how she would have liked to have kept her name but chose to take my dad’s and still kind of wishes she hadn’t. (They’re still happily married but that’s beside the point)
I thought about what I would tell my future daughter about marriage and independence and changing her name. Even if I make the well-thought-out choice to change my name, I don’t think that’s right for everyone, and I don’t think any woman should unless she is so, so sure she and her husband are on completely equal footing. I don’t want to tell my daughter all the wonderful things I said about marriage above and have her get married too young and sacrifice parts of herself. I’m 31. I’ve figured my shit out as an individual. I wouldn’t want my future daughter to marry until she’s had the opportunity to figure her shit out. I don’t want her to think she needs to find some man to share a name with.
But ultimately I think I will talk to her about choice. Feminism gives women choices. I had the choice to go to college, then law school, the start a career. I had a choice in whether or not I wanted to get married, to whom, and what our marriage would look like. And I had a choice in which name I would take. So I guess whatever I choose is a feminist choice, and one I can be proud talk to my daughter about.
And I’m sure as shit not going by “Mrs”, at least not professionally. I’m still a Ms. My marital status is irrelevant in the professional world.
The decision (for today anyway)
So I think I know what I want to do. I think I’m dropping my middle name and making my middle name my current last name, and making his last name my last name. That way at work I can still use both names to prevent confusion, but when it’s convenient to have a shorter name I can still accurately just use his (our!) last name.It’s easier to drop my seldom-used middle name than my last name. I feel like this gives me the flexibility of using both names (this will come in so much handy at work) without the hassle of having a long hyphenated name. And I do want to share a name with my husband. I just do. I never thought I would, being the independent feminist that I am, but then I found the right person and it started to make sense.
So, there ya go. Sarah [My last as middle] [His last as our shared last]. At least that’s what I’ve decided today. Ask me again tomorrow.