Thursday, November 6, 2014

Taking Lovely Husband's name

It wasn't until three years after I got married that I changed my name.

I was teaching at the time and changing my name during semester seemed like a weird thing to do, something deeply personal that would be suddenly shared with students. Without changing my name, nobody knew we'd eloped to the park; it was a secret we could keep to ourselves and amongst our friends and family. 

Then three years later when we were moving to a new city, a new state, and new jobs, it felt like a time of transition. When I told Lovely Husband I was thinking of changing my surname to his, he was both amused and confused. "Why?"

For me there were a few reasons: firstly, I was coming to the end of my PhD and would soon become Dr Lilybett. The window was closing to try on Mrs for size. I'd been Miss and dabbled with Ms. Why not add Mrs to the list? Secondly, I knew I didn't want to have a different surname from any child we'd have. I've heard plenty of playground stories of mums (and dads) who've been Mr or Mrs Child's Surname, regardless of who they actually are. Thirdly, almost every other woman in my family had done it before me. That weighed on me more than I thought it would. Fourthly (fourthly?), I was ready for something different.

I tossed up whether to hyphenate (Lilybett MaidenName-LovelyHusband'sSurname), to double-barrel (Lilybett MaidenName LovelyHusband'sSurname) or to just go official with the mash of names we'd been known by (Lilybett MaidHusband'sSurname).

Then there's the other option - a family name like Lauren from I'm Better In Real Life and her husband Kamel who both took on the hyphen or writer Teagan Bennett and her husband, who both took on Daylight. Lovely Husband refused. Scoffed and refused. He was quite happy for me to stay Lilybett Maiden Name.

But I changed it anyway.

It took me a while to get used to it, for it to stop feeling like an itchy woolen jumper someone had loaned me. There was some internal shuffling that needed to be done: some grieving, some embracing. Now we have Dear Boy I like that we have one name to teach him and that we match. Do I feel submissive to my husband? Hardly. Do I feel like I let the team down and caused feminism to backslide into the 50s? Not really, there are bigger battles to fight on that front. Should everyone do it? Not at all, especially if you're going to be lumped with a name you hate... but it should be another option for change if you want it. I am generally resistant to change, but I felt brave and new when I did this in my own way, in my own time.

Are you a name changer or a retainer? Did it cause any controversy in the family or amongst your friends?

6 comments :

  1. I was actually so young when I got married (21) I didnt even think about it... I just changed. It took a while for me to get used to it and I was forever signing my old name and confusing people... but I never really thought about whether it was submissive or anything like that. These days I am glad I did because my hubby is the only son in a family of girls so I love that we are carrying his family name on where otherwise it would have stopped. My brother has a son, so he is doing his part for my maiden family name ;) xx

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  2. I never changed mine. I meant to but just didn't. Then I decided I didn't want to. Works for me :)

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    1. I'm wondering if my feelings about it would be different if we lived in one of those countries where the name situation is prescribed rather than optional.

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  3. I so agree with making the choice that works for you. I loathe the argument that it is anti-woman to change you name, so flawed when most of us are already carrying our father's name!
    We chose a new name and took it together, but that choice isn't for everyone.
    I love that there are a range of choices so that people can do what fits their family best.

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    1. It's an interesting process to go through, but most of the admin systems are set up for women to change their names. How did your husband go with his name change, Lila? What's the male equivalent of a 'maiden name'? (I hate that phrase).

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  4. I've done both. Kept my name and discarded it. I've had friends where the husband has taken the wife's surname. Many cultures don't do it at all and never have, so I don't see it as a feminist issue, it is more a cultural issue to me.

    All the fuss over George's new wife changing her name puzzled me. To me marriage is about a family. Some women change their name, others don't. It is a personal choice in my view.

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