All in a Name

I didn’t change my name when I got married.  It wasn’t a bold feminist statement, it wasn’t a commentary on gender identity in America, it wasn’t even a conscious choice.  I just didn’t do it. 

Like many of the life choices I make, after careful thought and consideration, the ultimate decision stemmed from laziness.  That’s why I breastfed (I didn’t want to have to wash bottles), that’s why I started using cloth diapers (I didn’t want to have to deal with buying diapers all the time).  Sure, these things may SEEM more labor-intensive, but to me they aren’t.  I know what I’ll put off:  washing bottles, buying formula & diapers and standing in line to change my name.

For a while, I though I would hyphenate.  Unfortunately, that would have required just as much time standing in line.  Then I thought that I’d probably change it when I had kids.  You know, so our family unit all had the same name.  Nope.  Then I thought that maybe it would be better to change it for when the kids were in school.  That makes for less drama at pick-up, right?  Not so far.

But, long story short, I never actually made the change.  And you know….it’s okay. 

I like my name.  It’s who I am.  It’s a Quebecois name to go with my dad’s family’s Quebecois heritage which ties me to all the Quebecois people in my native Vermont.  It sounds really nice with my first name.  Plus, I can write it with my eyes closed.

My mom changed her name, but many of her friends didn’t.  Many women I’ve known and looked up to have kept their names after marriage.  I just didn’t think it was a big deal.

I briefly considered changing because people constantly mispronounce my name and my husband’s last name is (I thought) fool-proof.  Jason told me not to bother because he’s spent his entire life correcting  people.  No matter how simple, people will ALWAYS find a way to screw your name up.

I hold absolutely no judgement against women who DO change their name.  Who am I to tell somebody what to do?  I don’t care what your name is….I’m not going to argue your FIRST name.  I just ask that nobody try to argue with me.  You wouldn’t believe the reaction I get from some people.  I’m not sure if they feel threatened or if they’re insecure of their own decision.  Maybe they think I’m some sort of feminazi terrorist hell-bent on destroying the world (I’m not quite sure how or why I would even do that).  

I’ve had people tell me that they did it for practical purposes, to avoid confusion.  They say that there have been MANY times (in the 1-2 years they’ve been married) that a different name would have caused trouble.  I’ve been married for 9 years and the biggest problem I’ve had was the old woman at Babies R Us being rude because she didn’t think we were married when we were starting Amelia’s baby registry.  The bank doesn’t even care when I bring in a check with a different name on it.  I’ve had people stress the importance of a couple “being a unit”.  At the end of the day, I’d much rather be “Jess & Jason” rather than “The Sumners” or “The Demers’ “.  We’ve been together for a hundred years, there’s no making us a tighter unit.   Some people have brought up the fact that I don’t have the same last name as my kids.  They’re my kids & I’m their mom, we all know that.  And, perhaps this is radical, Amelia doesn’t actually use my last name when addressing me.

Why am I going on and on (and on) about something I just said isn’t a big deal?  Apparently I’ve had some stuff knocking around in my head.  I started thinking about this yesterday when a friend posted an article about some bizarre study that says that a majority of people believe that a woman should be legally required to change her name after marriage.  I’m not going to post the link or even comment because, to be perfectly honest, I don’t believe that it’s accurate, reasonable or even real.  

Chris Martin famously commented, while defending the “weird” names of his children and others, “a name is just a noise, and if you like it, then f–k what everyone else says.”  It’s true.  A last name is a way to distinguish Jessica Demers from Jessica Tandy or Jessica Smith.  If Amelia wants to keep her name, fine.  If she wants to take her husband’s name, fine.  If she wants to take the surname “Bedelia” just for fun, um, okay. 

Like many arguments/issues/dramas we watch unfold every day, it’s all much ado about nothing….

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One thought on “All in a Name

  1. Note: My mom points out that she got married in 1970 when changing your name was just what a woman did. Many of her friends who kept their names were married much later.

    My main point was that I was surrounded by women who made one choice or another and it was never a big deal either way. Of course, some people might argue that we’re all crazy hippies anyway.

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