I’ve been getting a lot of mail lately that isn’t for me. I mean, it IS for me, but it’s addressed to the wrong person.
See, I got married a couple of years ago, and I didn’t change my name.
It wasn’t some momentous decision — hell, it wasn’t even a decision, really.
To be perfectly honest, it didn’t even occur to me until the following December. For 6 months I’d been going on as I always had been: using my regular old always-had-it-always-will name in emails and letters, bylines in articles, on my out-going voicemail — everywhere. So it was kind of jarring when we started getting holiday cards addressed to Mr and Mrs His-Name.
I know that no one meant any harm with it — though it’s funny to imagine someone sitting at their desk, licking an envelope and smiling menacingly…”‘NOW I’ll show her!” — but I still thought it was deliciously ironic that people who were so careful in their selection of holiday greetings that didn’t indicate a religious preference, were printed on recycled paper, and purchased from companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to needy children … made the common but blithe assumption that a married woman in the late 2000s will automatically take her husband’s name.
It’s always interesting to me when I stumble across these little contradictions that show we haven’t come as long a way, baby, as we think we have.
I want to be clear here that I’m not condemning someone who does change her name. If that’s what you want to do, then more power to you. I just want it to be a choice, not a cultural automation. Change your name, hyphenate your name, combine them both into something brand new — knock yourself out if that’s what you want to do. Just make sure it’s something that works for you.
When the husband and I are out, we occasionally get asked about the name thing and are culturally compelled to explain ourselves. He likes to say that I had too much invested in my “brand” to change my name. Which, while it’s flattering to think I might have a “brand,” isn’t really true. Because that would then imply that the only reason NOT to change your name is because of your profession.
And the truth is, I just didn’t want to.
I even really like his name. It’s strong, has good consonants, and would totally work.
But it’s not my name.
And for me, this whole thing fails a feminist litmus test when you swap it around and ask if the husband would take the wife’s name.
Until we reach a place where we can ask that question without sounding insane or laughable, then we still have a long way to go.
And until then, it’s not my married name or my maiden name or anything else that defines me by who I’m partnered to.
It’s simply my name. And it’s how you’ll be able to find me for the foreseeable future.