Thursday, September 20, 2007

What is in a name? A lot Actually!

While I'm not engaged, many of my friends in the coming years will be walking down the aisle. When I get married (and I will, despite what StatsCan stats say) I want to take my husband-to-be's name. Some bitter feminists (who claim they aren't making an anti-marriage feminist argument) encourage me not to:

Changing it is stupid. Or stupid-ridiculous, if you're a hyphenator. Conventional marriage suggests we become 'one' after that ring slides onto the finger. But we are born alone and we die alone. Love has no surname, but identity does. Keep yours for yourself

[...]

"Sheepish is the right word for the way I feel," says a fortysomething newly separated father of two, who is in the process of reverting to his original surname after he and his soon-to-be ex-wife created a blended surname. She's changing back to her birth name, too. The children carry the his-and-hers brand. Allowing love to influence a change of original identity is naive, he says.


A "brand"? Ok we aren't talking about cattle.

My maiden name was a lifeboat from a sinking marriage. My "wasband" had insisted I take his surname. So I did, being young and wanting to please - and appease. Most of my identification, including passport, health card and driver's licence, was in my married name. But my professional name remained Hampson.

As the marriage unravelled and my career developed, I used my own identity not just professionally, but socially as well. But my wasband resented my stake for self. "I do not want to be Mr. Hampson," he would complain. He is not anti-feminist. He liked that I worked, and encouraged me to do so.

Let's just say he had narcissistic double standards, and those applied to many people, young and old, male and female. Still, the reason for the resentment was fear. He wanted complete union. So when I struck out more under my own brand, that threatened him. Perhaps it felt like a betrayal, even if it wasn't. His insistence that I change my name to his, and remain that way, was an issue of control.


I am all for separate identities. You shouldn't "need" to be together, you should both want to be together. There are many fairy tale notions around love and marriage still. A good book to read is Lies at the Altar: The Truth About Great Marriages. My partner and I starting reading it together and it's great.

While I am in support of separate identities in marriage, I think you can be separate people/personality but have a different name. Sure, your "maiden" name carries your history but if your kids (that is, if you actually have kids) get your hyphenated name. Then what happens when they get married?

An example.

John Jones and Jane Smith get married. They have children. Children get both names. Kids are Michael Jones-Smith and Jennifer Jones-Smith. Kids grown up and get married. Michael Jones-Smith wants to marry Mary MacDonald-O'Connor (whose "progressive" parents did the same). What will their last name be? And what about their children? Let's see Jennifer Jones-Smith who wants to marry Luke Carriere. Does she keep her name? Add Carriere to one of her surnames? And if they have kids are they going to be Billy and Bobby Jones-Smith-Carriere.

Come on.

A marriage is a union. The name should be united. Period.

6 Comments:

Blogger Ben said...

Good thing you're not in Quebec -- they don't allow wives to change their names without a court order...

Thu Sep 20, 11:00:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Spitfire said...

Absurdity!

Link to article about Quebec couple

Thu Sep 20, 11:17:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous JM said...

John Jones and Jane Smith get married. They have children. Children get both names. Kids are Michael Jones-Smith and Jennifer Jones-Smith. Kids grown up and get married. Michael Jones-Smith wants to marry Mary MacDonald-O'Connor (whose "progressive" parents did the same). What will their last name be? And what about their children? Let's see Jennifer Jones-Smith who wants to marry Luke Carriere. Does she keep her name? Add Carriere to one of her surnames? And if they have kids are they going to be Billy and Bobby Jones-Smith-Carriere.

There's a formula for this in Latin American countries and in Spain where people traditionally have two surnames. I am not certain of the exact formula as it has been years, but the father's family name is the second half of the name. Although they do not use hyphenated names as is more common in English-speaking countries, it proves that the whole idea of hyphenated names is not as ridiculous as it seems.

It's an individual choice.

Thu Sep 20, 11:39:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But we are born alone and we die alone."

A true statement, but in a good marriage, while you are busy dying alone, you'll notice a chair beside the bed. Occupied by your spouse...

BTW, my wife thinks the Quebec law is really stupid.

Grumpy Old Man

Thu Sep 20, 12:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ben said...

If I marry and my wife decides she wants to keep her name, I wouldn't really be offended. If she started to say that the kids shouldn't have mine alone, or that we should coin a new one, I'd start having doubts...

The whole not allowing a woman to take her husband's name and disallowing requests to do so legally -- I see that as tyranny on the march.

Thu Sep 20, 06:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jarrett said...

One of my friends who I expected to be into women's rights and the like told me in no uncertain terms that she had no doubts that she would change her name if she got married.

"What," she asked me rhetorically, "Am I so insecure in my own identity that I'd have to protect my father's name?"

The only exception she could come up with was if her business had progressed to a point where it'd be counterproductive from a recognition standpoint to change her name halfway through her career or whatever.

Thu Sep 20, 11:22:00 PM EDT  

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