Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What's in a name?

Will you play the name game?
When I got married, I did not legally change my last name. As 1 of 2 daughters of the only remaining male carrying the W family name (my Dad has sisters and daughters) my family name officially goes extinct with my generation. The very idea of this kind of breaks my heart because my name evokes feelings of my amazing Nan and Pop and all the amazing Ws before them whom I've seen in pictures and heard stories about. I've always felt that my name is my name and love and marriage doesn't really change that.

I never considered the idea of keeping my maiden name revolutionary. My aunt (my lifetime professional woman role model) also kept the W name and I work with many women who for purely professional reasons, elected to do the same. Without even getting into how antiquated it is to assume a woman will change her name upon marrying, there are plenty of modern reasons why she might choose not to. And though I love being referred to as Dr. and Mrs. H socially, I look with pride at my name on things like my business cards and passport as a symbol of the family I come from and will always be a part of... 

Which is why THIS article really got me thinking. In it, the author talks about giving her child her last name instead of her husband's which is something that frankly hadn't even occurred to me. Call me old fashioned (HA!) but I made peace with the notion that I would have a different last name than my children long before Dr. H was even in the picture... but why!? Well, because a woman keeping her last name in this day and age is (finally) not abnormal, but giving that name to kids over their father's certainly is. I get why the author talks about the decision being perceived by many as emasculating to her husband because socially most people just can't wrap their heads around such a progressive decision. I ask repeatedly if Dr. H will consider a hyphenate (partially because "hooray my name lives on" and partially because our names hyphenated sound super bad ass), but that always gets rejected (and I don't think I could have married a much more progressive, empowering man!) "I'm the man and my children shall bear my name" is simply how our culture thinks and I think it's going to be that way for a long time.

Unless, maybe it won't... Maybe as women come into careers and leadership roles, as same-sex marriage completely muddles the surname conversation and we move further away from our male-dominated culture, slowly but surely more babies will leave the hospital with birth certificates bearing their mama's name. Maybe someday choosing a last name will be as much of a conversation as choosing a first. Maybe...

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