Not Changing My Name, Not Apologizing

I didn’t change my name when I got married. I didn’t even think about it. The first time it came up was when we were applying for a marriage licence and the clerk gave me a sheet with information about how to do it. I had a half a second of confusion, which was silly. Of course I know that’s what people do. Somehow I just never thought it could apply to me. It’s always struck me as kind of bizarre, like if someone asked you to tattoo your company’s logo on your arm after getting hired, or change your first name to “Mom” after having a kid. A tradition that forces name changes at different major life events might actually be kind of interesting–but why only for women? And why only at marriage?

I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t really see marriage as a major life event. Yes, my life now is way different than when I was single, but it’s virtually the same as my life two years ago when we were living together and not married. I guess to some people “marriage” symbolizes the big commitment you make to another person, but I made that commitment long before Rachel did the official pronouncing. I can’t tell you when, because that kind of thing doesn’t happen in a moment, it happens over a thousand different ones.

Not that this wasn't a good one

Not that this wasn’t a good one

I kind of get the whole “we all have to have the same name to symbolize that now we are a ~family~” but only because I’ve been socialized to. If you think about it, it doesn’t make any sense at all. You already have family who don’t share a name with you–in-laws, cousins, grandparents, whatever. There are people who aren’t biologically related to me who I consider closer family than most other Ladds in the world. Your family is who you decide they are, and you don’t need a symbol to prove it. Even the expectation that children share one or both of their parents’ name(s) is really only common in certain parts of the world. In other cultures, they don’t worry about it. You know who your parents are, right? So what does it matter?

I’ve never been able to seriously contemplate changing my name–first or last–because it’s part of me. Sure, sometimes I didn’t like being Patricia–which can be easily morphed into “Patrasha” if you’re eight and creative–but I’m not about to change it because it’s who I am. And I kind of resent random city clerks and secretaries in my apartment complex looking at me like I’m just trying to make a statement and being completely tiresome messing up their paperwork. I didn’t decide this because I want to make a big issue about the patriarchy keeping us down or not subsuming my identity to a man (although fuck that too). It was hardly even a decision–I barely considered it at all. Changing my name would be like changing who I am–and if someone wants you to do that, you probably shouldn’t be marrying them.

Steven and I had a total of one conversation about it:

Me: Would you change your last name to mine?
Steven: … eh, probably not.
Me: Cool. I won’t either.

It’s also weird to me that this even requires explanation anymore–Lucy Stone was raising hell about this back in 1855, so 158 years later the library should not just assume that Same Name=Married and Different Name=Library Bandit, trying to steal strangers’ holds.

Also, Lucy Stone was a 19th-century badass. I may have to do another blog post on her

Also, Lucy Stone was a 19th-century badass. I may have to do another blog post on her

Luckily for me it’s usually little annoyances like that, and not an inability to hold property or register to vote like Lucy Stone had to deal with. The proportion of weird looks has also probably fallen considerably since her time, which is nice. Someday it might be 0, which will be nicer.


3 responses to “Not Changing My Name, Not Apologizing”

  1. Cynthia Bova says:

    I totally support this!! I’m currently in conflict about this subject because I feel like “Bova” is such a part of my identity (especially at Rice where many people didn’t even know I had a first name). So it seems really weird to change it. And Dahlgren is longer and takes more time to spell out to people. WHY couldn’t I marry someone named Smith?

    However, Matt feels pretty strongly that he wants us both to be Dahlgren’s, especially for when we have kids, so I think I probably will change it legally and keep “Cynthia Bova Dahlgren” on facebook. But I completely agree that it’s a kind of weird tradition and an annoying hassle for women!

    p.s. I love the tattoo idea…maybe we should get matching maiden-name tattoos at my bachelorette party!!! haha!

    • pladd says:

      If having the same name is what’s important, maybe he should change his name to Bova! Or you could both change your name to something! I read about people doing that on the wikipedia page about married names–like sometimes it’s some combined version of their two last names like a celebrity couple name haha.

  2. Deya says:

    I totally agree. It’s a weird tradition. My mother tells me that if she’d known she could hyphenate when she moved to the states she would have kept her last name. Women in Mexico just tack the man’s name to theirs but don’t have to give up theirs. I think it’d be hard to match my first name to something equally epic so I’m seriously considering keeping my last name in the future or hyphenating. Congrats on not conforming!

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