Posts Tagged ‘name’

i’m curious.

So, i’d planned to post about my new idea re: lights for the reception, and i’m definitely going to do that soon, but i’ve been thinking lately about names and identity and specifically about identifying yourself as an individual who’s also part of a couple, and i’m wondering where you all stand on the idea of the post-marriage name change.

This all came up when Joe and i were switching all our bills over to the new house and sending in the first mortgage check (!!). He asked how i wanted to write the return address: Joe’sLastName-Caroline’sLastName Residence? Or Caroline’sLastName-Joe’sLastName Residence? Initially, i didn’t know how to respond; it was honestly something i hadn’t once considered. (Bad fiancee!)

I suppose i should back up. Well before we even got engaged, Joe knew that i had no plans ever to take the name of the person i married. There are lots of reasons for this, but primary among them is that the thought of changing my last name always gave me a sense of losing my identity and becoming merely secondary to someone else. I make no apologies for being ardently feminist, and the concept of a “maiden” name and changing my name at marriage just smacks to me of Woman As Property.

Also, but definitely secondary in my reasoning, is the fact that i’m 31 and have been out in the world for years now. While changing names might work for some women getting married right out of high school or college, it didn’t seem like a smart choice for me, since i’ve been using my own name in school, at work, and at play for, well, lots of years. Simply put, it’s confusing, and i feared it would be detrimental to a woman working to move up in her career.

I realize this is an immensely personal decision, however, and i really don’t want anyone to interpret what i’m saying about my own decision as a judgment call on anybody else’s. I get that there’s a lot of romance and ritual in changing your name to match your husband’s, and i can admit to having on occasion thought that it would be neat to have the same name, as a badge of our unity. I just can’t — for my own self — give up my name and take his and call that “unity” so much as “possession.”

But back to Joe’s question. We’d talked about hyphenation, briefly; his mom actually brought it up as a gender-neutral way of affirming our couple-ness to the world. Although i agree in theory, i think i honestly have an aesthetic objection to hyphenated last names. Writing that out, it seems really silly, but it … okay, bear with me for a second. I used to study linguistics, back in the day, and one of the issues we looked at was the whole concept of the Universal Male — i.e., using “he” to represent everyone, including “she.” I used to think that that was just the way language had evolved and that everyone should just get over it, but upon further study i learned that using “he” really did matter, really did make women feel excluded, even (and often) subconsciously.  So, the stopgap solution was to use “he or she” in place of “he.” Which i find terribly clunky and generally just calls attention to the issue rather than solving the problem.

Using hyphenated last names feels kind of like “he or she” to me. Don’t get me wrong — i definitely want the whole world to know that we’re together. But hyphenating our names just seems like calling attention to the “i don’t want to take his name; look at me i’m a feminist!” issue without actually addressing the problem of how to announce our couplehood without subordinating my identity to his.

So, when Joe asked about how to identify ourselves in our return address, i kind of had no idea. I ended up suggesting that we just go with Lastname/Lastname and asked him to pick the order.* No hyphenation. I don’t know why the slash, as opposed to the hyphen, made me feel better, and i suppose in the end it’s just another stopgap measure, but it gave me a cozier sense of our two names co-existing peacefully without having to Make A Statement.

Whew. That was rather a manifesto. I do hope i haven’t offended anyone and say again that these choices are intensely personal to me; i’m not in any of your shoes and have no room to judge what works best for your lives and your relationships. I would, however, love to hear your take on the Name Thing. Are you planning to take your husband’s or wife’s name? Hyphenate? Make up some cool new word entirely? Let me know — i’m curious!

*We ended up going with Joe’sLastName/Caroline’sLastName, FTR.


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