That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet — or so Shakespeare would have us believe. Perhaps that’s true, but wouldn’t renaming certain roses ‘lilacs’ and some ‘daisies’ and others ‘mums’ begin to get a little confusing?
Ay, and there’s the rub in the decision to change one’s name after marriage, a decision reserved most often and almost solely for women. Since becoming engaged, I have struggled with this issue. I still haven’t come to any clear-cut decision. No matter what I decide, it will be either a bureaucratic or personal nuisance, or possibly both. Should I keep my name, I will constantly be asked to explain to those I encounter why I made such a decision, or having to explain that no, my last name is not the same as my co-conspirator’s, it is ___. If I change it, I’ll have all the bureaucratic hoops to navigate, contacting all sorts of people and businesses and agencies to let them know that I’m married, my status has changed, and so has my name. (Will I have to do this anyway? I actually have no idea.) By keeping my name, I could be accused of all sorts of things, such as not being committed enough to family, being too selfish, not letting go of the past, and a multitude of other ridiculous accusations that I cannot even fathom. It’s tempting to keep my name just to spite — to challenge — such senseless judgments and preconceptions (or more appropriately misconceptions) about the role women are expected to play as spouses and mothers.
Further, surnames are so loaded with patriarchal symbolism that it’s almost as if I cannot make a completely ‘feminist’ choice. My last name is that of my father, not that of my mother, etc., etc., back through the family genealogy. And then the confusion of naming children. Hyphenation seems an obvious compromise, but an incredibly imperfect one.
All feminist and social issues and annoyances aside, this has been my name for the past 30+ years. Changing it would inevitably confuse everyone who would have no reason to know that my relationship status is changing in the law’s eyes. It would even be confusing to myself, learning to call myself another name, someone else’s name.
On the other hand, the co-conspirator has a much more interesting last name than I, as well as one that carries much more clout around here. (Honestly, if that weren’t the case, I wonder if this would be as difficult a decision. I wonder if therein lies my answer?) Moreover, certainly there is something deliciously enticing about reinventing oneself under a new name, and this is probably one of the easiest ways to go about that. More importantly, it would be nice to share the same last name with the co-conspirator, as a symbol of being part of the same family, and of starting a new one. But in the process, it would be nice to honor both of the families from which we came instead of just one.
Is there a non-awkward way to do that?
These small things, a niftier, snazzier last name that carries a little weight + a reinventing of my public persona currently are of equal weight on the scale with all the rest of my stick it to the ‘man’ mentality. Ideally, the social issues wouldn’t play into it. I’d freely admit to overthinking, but this is my – our – identity, which is not something that can necessarily be taken lightly.
At least I have a few more months to decide.