Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's just a word, after all

(I started writing this, after a lot of time thinking about it, on September 9th. Now it is way in the past, sort of)

Among the frivolous decisions about flowers, and cakes, and processional music and chocolate fountains, there are a few mines hidden in the wedding process. One thing I'm stuck on is names.

There are a lot of decisions that really ought to be personal ones, but that once made, people will jump to all kinds of conclusions about. In the wedding process, this one is probably the worst. If you change your name, it must be because you've given in to the patriarchy, that you've given up your identity, and not done any independent thought. You can't really be a feminist, surely, if you throw away your name and adopt your husband's.

And if you decide to keep your own name? You're being difficult, confusing, and not a team player. What name do your kids get? I've heard of them getting the father's name (why?) and I've heard the most bizarre one where the girls get the mom's name and the boys get the dad's name. All these names seem really silly and confusing. What is the point of a last name, if not to indicate which group you are with? And if you each have a different name, why not drop it altogether?

You could hyphenate, and saddle yourself and your children with an ever-growing list of names.
You could both change your names, to a hybrid, or some other name you like
Your husband could change his name to yours.

There are plenty of good reasons to change, and plenty of good reasons to keep my name. Unfortunately, I don't have very strong feelings either way. Paul knows he wants to keep his name unchanged. He feels strongly about this, and he doesn't care what I do with my name.

If I had an extraordinarily cool name to start with, I'd probably want to keep it. But my name is pretty generic. I like it because I share my dad's initials, as well as his dad's, so I've determined that by default I'll inherit all of his tools and anything else he's initialed. (ha!) Another, very strong, reason I lean toward keeping my name is that it is very hard for people to find you if you change your name. It's unfortunate how difficult it is to track down old friends and colleagues, and worse when you try to track family history. What about all the long lost friends who've found me on LinkedIn and such? What about all of my business contacts? It seems unfair that only women are really saddled with this problem.

I could move my maiden name to my middle name and take Paul's name for my last name. But I am a lover of our silly little traditions and conventions, and everyone in my family shares the same middle initial. And my middle name necessarily comes with my first name in the myth of my creation (something about my parents deciding they wanted a girl with my first and middle name)

And, on a level I hadn't thought would bug me, there's this question I see voiced in wedding-planning forums, something about, "my last name is my family, my identity. I don't want to erase my identity when I get married." This seems a little silly, since your name isn't your identity. Except, even knowing this, a part of me is sad to leave that name and unit behind. Can I still visit the Compound as a part of it, or just a visitor? For me, personally, I carry the family name of my dad's family, which, frankly, we have not been as close to as with my mother's. My dad's dad was a very good man, a loving man, and one I regret not making more time for. I carry my mother's family traits with me most visibly, what I have of my dad's family is more subtle, except the name.

oy. Just a part of growing up and moving out, I suppose.

Anyway, I came to a fairly certain conclusion that I would change my name (the desire to create a family unit, a TEAM name is the deciding factor, I think), but then couldn't force myself to print it on my placecard in preparation for the wedding reception. This doesn't bode well. Then since I had to book a flight for November, I decided I couldn't change it until after dealing with the nice smart TSA agents.

In the end, well, it isn't at the end yet. I think I'll be changing my name, but, not yet, and not without serious doubts on both sides.

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