Last summer when I got married, I decided not just to change my life, but also to change my name. “New era, new identity!” I said.
The problem is, I can’t seem to get comfortable with this person whose name is on all my credit cards.
I’ve never been one to shy away from the F word. I’ve proudly called myself a feminist for as long as I can remember, and I’ve carefully whittled the life I have to reflect the basic feminist tenet that I, as a woman, am equal to men. And I’ve succeeded at that in my immediate life: I earn more than my husband (who doesn’t care), we take turns making dinner and doing the laundry, and when the snow falls, we’re both outside shoveling, as equal in our labor as we are in our crankiness.
So when the time came to decide whether I would change my name to my husband’s, I didn’t worry about what it would mean to give up my name. Concerns about subverting my identity to his — those were concerns for other women. I knew who I was: strong and independent, no matter what name I signed.
Under our weighty wedding to-do list, I forgot all about my decision until after the big day had passed. I had just begun gathering forms and ordering the required copies of my marriage certificate when the subject came up over drinks with some close female friends.
“Oh, you are changing your name!” they murmured. “I just never even thought about it when I got married. It didn’t even come up.” As I looked around the table, I realized that it was true. Eight married ladies leaned toward me — not a single name changed among them.
Over the next few days, I considered my choice. If I lived my life like a strong woman, a name shouldn’t matter — nor should the feelings of awkwardness I’d experienced when I’d reluctantly admitted to my name change to my friends.
I ran down the potential reasons I could be changing my name, trying to find the rotten egg in the bunch, and came up empty-handed. Yes, my mother did prefer that I changed my name, but no, I was not doing this for her. For someone who had strongly suspected that marriage was not even in the cards, getting married and having a fairly large wedding were sure enough punches in my heteronormativity card.
The reason I’d originally decided to change my name, which felt uncomplicated at the time, was a cultural one.