28 March 2007


Not only did I not change my name when I got married - after all, it's been mine for a very long time (and we got married when I was 34) and I don't believe all that patriarchal shit and yes you can poke holes in my argument given that it was my father's name - but our one and only pre-nuptial agreement was that if we had children, boys would get his name and girls would get mine. Hence, our only child, a girl, Miss M., has my last name. The clerk at the hospital who was typing up the birth certificate actually called my room to ask me if that was really what I wanted. If everyone did what we did, that patronymic thing would be history.

I just needed to say that.

I rarely run into issues with this, but recently we were at the neighbors' house for dinner, and I was referred to at one point as "Mrs. HisLastName". They are a family that thinks that kids should speak to grownups formally, that is, no first names. I'm generally pretty indifferent to, if not actually against, honorifics like "Mrs.", but I'm not going to step on someone's toes about it. But there I was, having to explain that I didn't use W.'s last name, and it was curiously awkward because we don't know them all that well - they moved in about six months ago, and we've not spent a lot of social time together. I can't quite identify the awkwardness, but it may stem from the fact that they are right-leaning churchgoers. But why on earth would I care about being judged by right-leaning churchgoers?


mamaloo said...

We all just want to be loved, baby!

Which I think was at the root of my own decision to actually take my husbands name. But, not really. See, in our area you can "assume" your husband's name. So, I can legally be Mrs. Sean or Mrs. Leanne, whatever I prefer. I publish under my own name and I'm known socially under my married name and I'm pondering whether to begin getting all renewable id type cards in my married name or not.

For me, I thought the idea of changing my name was kind of fun. Why not. Sorta like changing your hair colour! Haha!

Mayberry said...

I think it's just hard to correct someone, period -- no matter which way they lean!

Anonymous said...

I think it's always slightly difficult when you need to explain why you have made a decision that doesn't fit the status quo.

I wish I had given my kids my last name outright, instead of giving it to them as a second middle name. I talked about this with my 8 year old the other day and she informed me she planned on using MY last name from now on because she "likes" it better.

I agree it's fun, or healing, even, to change your identity - if you want to, if you want to disassociate from your previous identity. It's just unfortunate that the main way of changing your name is to take the husband's name. Why not just make up an entirely new name? The history/pattern is you take your husband's identity (and symbolically give yours up) and that sucks.

Aurelia said...

Is the entire blogosphere talking about this today? I just commented over at Natural Scientist, and YES, I do think that patriarchy applies if you have a last name from either of your parents, because it assumes that you are the property of your parents, even as an adult.

niobe said...

I didn't change my name when I got married either. But that choice has never raised any eyebrows in my Indigo Blue corner of my Cobalt Blue state. So I can't help you there.

Our girl twin got my last name on her birth and death certificates. We didn't have to make a decision for our boy twin, since he was stillborn, but, I suppose, I would have given him my last name as well.

Julie Pippert said...

Because it's just awkward. And who likes that?

It's not hard to take a quick second to think and ask rather than assume.

It's not hard to take a quick second and ask, "Do you have a preference how my child addresses you?"

But then...we'd all have to think, and think that there are multiple ways that are okay. And not assume there is One Right Way (read: mine).

Was that too ranty?

I don't know if you ever read My Beloved Monster & Me (the latest incarnation of Rob's long-running blog) (he started it I think even before he and his wife married, sheesh probably ten years ago?) but I like what he and his wife did: merged their names.


I know another couple who took their two names and made a new one, too.

And plenty of people who keep their own name.

Anonymous said...

People get confused by unorthodoxy. It's just the way of things. And it's always awkward to have to explain yourself to people who don't share your values.

I did the traditional thing with the names, but even so people are constantly getting it wrong. I moved my (unusual) maiden name to my middle name, but for my grad school and at the hospital giving birth, I still somehow got labeled as Mrs. MyMaidenName. I don't understand the problem. Oh yeah, the problem is that other people are stupid.

Anyway, I admire you for your decision. I had always planned not to change my name, but when the time came it seemed fun and I don't regret it. But I certainly did it in part to fit in and not to have to explain myself (I live in the deep south).

pinknest said...

precisely. who cares about the judgments of right leaning churchgoers, or really anyone else for that matter. i say revel in your own last name.

Anonymous said...

Hi Magpie, found you via Niobe.

The patronymic, the patronymic, it's a pet peeve of mine that my hetero feminist friends all keep their names then give them to their kids as middle names while dad's name is the last name. But what are you going to do about other people's compromises?

We're both women, the dynamics are different, but we wanted the same name for everyone and did a last name hybrid for euphony--both our last names end in the same syllable so the hyphen thing wasn't going to work. We more or less alternated letters from the beginning of each name and preserved the common ending. Then each of us kept our own original names, too, Rodham Clinton style. That was maybe more complicated than necessary, but I think we were kind of hesitant about whether our chimera would take. But it has.

Because I birthed her, in the NICU our daughter was "Baby Girl MyOriginalLastName OurFamilyName," which I admit I liked.

Unknown said...

I have my mother's maiden name. I wish I had given my daughter the nme too. The only problem I've ever run across is when people ask for your mother's maiden name and you give them your last name and they so " No, your mother's maiden name."

Isis said...

Hi Magpie,

This happens to me sometimes too. But then sometimes my husband gets called Mr. Isis, which we both find really funny.

I'm enjoying discovering your blog. Thanks for coming to visit mine.