Saturday, January 5, 2013

To Change or Not to Change-That is the Question

'Tis the question if you are a lass awaiting her nuptials, even in the present day U.S.  Shakespeare allusions aside, the choices regarding a married women's surname can evoke questions and controversy.   From romantic notions and family unity to ideals of gender equality, there are people who hold strong views on the matter. For me, the decision to keep my original surname was a personal choice, but one I wanted to reflect my ideals and politics as well.

I was probably in the sixth grade when I first thought of hyphenating my name. Back then, my aspirations involved becoming a successful actress living in New York. If I were to marry, I would hyphenate and build it as a brand name. In any event, that's how it worked in my brain.  Later on, in high school, I figured I'd go with the culture and take a man's last name, but the idea of at least hyphenating stuck in my brain. It wasn't till college when I decided to keep it for good.

I read writings by Jessica Valenti, founder of the online community Feministing and author of several books.  I learned that the reason women began changing their names upon marriage was to signify them being transferred from their father to their husbands as property.  Though I know the vast majority of  women don't change their names for that reason anymore, I could not get that idea out of my head.  Further, if a guy is able to maintain his own name, identity and career before and after marriage, why not a woman? I don't see how possessing XX chromosomes makes me unworthy of my birth surname after marriage or unable to pass it along to my children, just like their father.

Yes, we are a team.  We're an equal, united front, committed to building a strong family, as well as names and careers for ourselves. However, even players on the same soccer team all have different names from one another. They are united under one team but bring their individual names, strengths, and talents to the table and are known by their names as well as their team.  This is how we envision our union, as one where we recognize the overarching goal but are still recognized by traits that make us unique, including our names.

As for whether or not our children will suffer, I've had friends from both egalitarian families and Latin American families who've inherited multiple surnames. Some tend to prefer one or the other and, when they get married, some choose whatever combination sounds better or makes sense, given their heritage.  I'm sure that, by the time we're raising heirs the empire, they'll adapt and grow like any other children.  They may have to worry about me sticking them with totally awesome names like Santino and Lorenzo. Hey, I am marrying a fellow Italian, even if our surnames don't show it!

Of course, we could actually execute Lily and Marshall's plan from How I Met Your Mother and call ourselves Mr. and Mrs. Awesome :D  But that's another idea for another day.

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