I’m getting married in a few months and I’m not changing my name. (Neither is Mike.)
An article in the New York Times a few days ago says more American women are choosing this route (although I don’t know why they used the archaic word “maiden” in the headline and throughout the story). It’s now at 20 percent, up from 14 percent in the ’80s.
My choice to do this was undoubtedly a foregone conclusion to anyone who knows me well. Off the top of my head I’d say 60 percent of my married friends have kept their own names, while about 40 have changed their names, so this isn’t anything unusual in my world.
After reading the NYT story last night I had trouble sleeping because I was thinking about all the ways that the rituals associated with marriage are so patriarchial. Like the practice of women changing their names. Like having the father walk the woman down the aisle to “give her away.” And the bridal bouquet toss at the reception, which is essentially placing the single and female wedding guests into what is, to me, an undignified scramble.
Now that we have marriage equality in the U.S., I wonder how it’ll change what we see as traditional when it comes to marital ceremonies and naming practices. Maybe things will evolve, maybe not, but everyone is free to do what they want, which is awesome. I love to see offbeat and unconventional stuff at weddings, though, because it feels like the couple is sharing more of themselves.
I dislike the concept of tradition, especially when it comes to upholding practices that really make no sense in the modern world. It’s like following a script written long ago, and the reason for doing it is because “that’s how it’s done.”
While I stared into the dark last night I thought of a way to express all this without offending everyone who followed the usual wedding traditions, because most people do, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s not for me, though, and Mike and I knew from the start that our wedding would be what we wanted it to be.
Not only that, my name would be what I wanted it to be. Every person has a right to be called what they want to be called, regardless of gender identity, marital status or anything. I’m not changing my name because the one I have is just fine.
And while I don’t particularly like it that much (why didn’t my mom agree to name me Samantha like my dad wanted?!) and they didn’t bother to give me a middle name for some reason, it’s served me well. (Here’s a thought: What if I change my name to Samantha when I get married?)
Sure, you can argue that not changing your name after marriage is no less anti-patriarchal than doing so —after all, your birth name is your father’s name. But that’s the name you were given at birth; you had no choice in the matter. I’m getting married to the man I love, not becoming his property (which is what it meant in the 19th century) nor is he becoming my property.
My name always has been and always will be my own, and the same applies to Mike’s name. I’ve established my own identity under this name, and I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of my identity becoming merged with Mike’s. I see it as retaining my independence as an individual human being, which seems particularly important when making a loving commitment.
And yeah, of course, this is feminist. Somehow that word has become perceived as a “bad word” lately. I’m my own person and, as the rallying cry goes, the personal is political. Guilty as charged.
On top of all this, changing your name is a hassle and it’s expensive. Even if I was inclined to change it, I still wouldn’t do it because I know myself well and I just wouldn’t bother following through on all you need to do — passport, license, Social Security card, credit cards and really anything official that’s in your name. Meanwhile, the guy doesn’t have to lift a finger. Infuriating.
If I were open to changing my name, I’d ask Mike to change his too just to make it a fair process.
If you’ve read this far and you disagree with what I’ve said here, I want to explain that what others choose to do has nothing to do with what I choose to do. People should do what’s right for them and not think that because someone else takes a different route that their decisions are bad or wrong.
I accept everyone — okay, if you’re a mean, racist, homophobic person, I would have a hard time accepting you. But if you changed your name when you married or you plan to do so, or if you had a traditional wedding, please don’t think I’m saying anything negative about the choices you made or will make.
It’s kind of like this: I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years but I still wholeheartedly love and accept the people in my life who eat meat. It has nothing to do with me and I don’t care. (And they seem to have no issues with me eating rabbit food.)
I see name changing and wedding plans as the same thing. We have a right to lead our lives the way we see fit, and we all have reasons for doing what we do. As long as we’re not being assholes, who the fuck cares? Love is at the heart of it all, anyway.
If you agree or disagree with what I’ve said here or if you have something you want to say, please leave me a comment!