I have a question for you. Did you change your name when you got married? Or hyphenate? Or make your maiden name your middle name? Or not change it?
I ask because I really like my husband’s last name compared to my maiden name, and my maiden name was never easy for non-Hindi speakers to pronounce. And so I changed it.
And I have always felt a little bit ick about it.
I love my husband, and I love his family, and I feel entirely like we make a new family with the two of us and our two kids, and yet…I don’t know. There’s something about not taking on a man’s last name that strikes me as strong and feminist and all of that. But I’m wondering if I’m making a Thing out of something that’s not a thing.
After all, one of the reasons I changed it was because Gregg wanted to have the same last name as me, and if I didn’t change mine, he was going to change his to my maiden name. This was not a manipulative move. He was earnest and honest and would not at all have minded changing his last name in the least. Except, for a man to change his name after marriage (at least in the year 2000), it would have cost us several thousand dollars in court costs and time and a lawyer. All I had to do was fill out a few forms and get a new driver’s license. Sexist? Yes. Easier? Yes.
So, I changed my name, and for the most part I’m alright with that. I really do like the last name. But. It still strikes me that I did an unfeminist thing. I do not belong to my husband, and yet I changed my last name as if I do. I don’t like that connection, which I know is not a connection HE made or *I* made, but a connection that, as it is, exists in society. Women didn’t have rights. Women belonged to their spouses.
Worse, many years ago I had a job as a research assistant to a history professor. She was co-authoring a scholarly book on modern women, and my job was to go through back issues of magazines from the 1920s to 1950s and photocopy anything that might fit in with their research–ads, articles, illustrations, etc. One illustration stuck with me. It was a drawing of a 1920s woman with a wedding ring…around her neck, like a shackle. The article decried that women shouldn’t marry men, and that marriage was in its essence a sexist institution.
I don’t know that I agree with that sentiment. I mean, sure, in the 1920s, marriage probably WAS a sexist institution. I don’t believe that MY particular marriage is unbalanced or sexist. If I tell Gregg, “You need to do the dishes because I’m tired/I have work/I’m going out/I don’t feel like it,” he doesn’t say, “BUT IT’S YOUR JOB AND I OWN YOU!” He does them. Because, you know, not the 1920s.
But still–I changed my name, and he didn’t. No matter the reason. And that’s the expectation, isn’t it? That women will do it. Do you think it’s alright to change your name? Because I still don’t know. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and honestly, I don’t quite understand the why behind it. WHY do we need to share a last name? WHY does this make things easier in society? WHY?
Obviously, 13 years later, I’m still questioning whether I made the right decision.