The Name Debate

How do you feel about changing your name after getting married? Did you change your name? Did you hyphenate? Did you keep your maiden name? If you are a man (ahem, Dad, brother – my only male readers) how do you feel about your surname?

I had never really thought about it until Travis and I got serious. My initial thought was I would hyphenate. This sparked a serious debate between Travis and I. It turns out he was passionate about me taking his name. He actually said during one of our discussions, “If you don’t change your name then what is the point of getting married.”

Huh. That got me thinking. Why did he feel so passionately one way while I felt conflicted?

It turns out that the root of the conflict for me is a kind of grieving, a sadness over leaving my last name behind. I love my last name.

It’s the name of my ancestors. The ancestors who left Ireland on a coffin ship, crossed the Atlantic, and ended up in Boston. They were Catholics who faced persecution, who worked as engineers, oyster shuckers, coal miners. They worked hard, had dozens of kids, farmed, became educated, worked so their children would be educated.  Their sacrifice and perseverance have given me the opportunities I have now. I’m eternally grateful.

To this day I have family members who still refer to us as a clan. We celebrate and mourn like only the Irish can. Whiskey, beer, bag pipes, laughter, a sense of humor that only we get. A perpetual inside joke that we famine beaters have made something out of ourselves despite our fondness of drink, our tendency towards melancholy, the ability to hold a grudge for eons (hello, British), and our fiery tempers.

I don’t care that most of the time people can’t pronounce my last name. For the record, it’s not Duman, Duran, Duncan, Durman.

So despite my strong, nostalgic feelings about my surname I had to be open to the way Travis feels. He thinks it is a real honor to him if I take his name, that it unites us more completely as a couple, a cohesive front for the family we are becoming.

I can respect that. Which is what ultimately swayed my decision to change my name after we are married. It’s not like his last name is Wiener, Farfanugen, Butts or something. I can get on board with his last name. I might even grow to like it (no offense babe, I like the way it looks on you).

The other day one of my newly married co-workers said how strange it is that his wife now has his name. He said he is still getting used to it. While we were chatting I mentioned my initial resistance to changing my name. He said, “Well, it’s kind of emasculating to a guy if your wife doesn’t change her name.”

I finally got it.

In a world where women are increasingly getting closer to complete equality it is still important to protect that male ego. Sure we may make more money, change our own oil, use power tools and drink beer with the best of them, but at the heart of it, men still want to be respected as men. As providers, protectors, as the head of the household.

And I respect that. Men need to be allowed to be men.  Women have a unique ability to provide them with that comfort. Even if we are saving the world and paying the bills at the same time.

I am a frequent reader of  The Frisky. In fact, I adore that site. I adore the content. I adore the writers. I adore the way it let’s me escape at the end of the day and take in the world’s happenings, in a unique Gen X-Y kind of way. I’m all for reading through a nice pair of pop-culture, fashion, gossip, feminist rose tinted glasses.

If you’re looking for a different perspective on the name debate check out this post in the Dear Wendy advice column from The FriskyMy Girlfriend Refuses to Take My Name If We Marry

I can’t say I agree with the response from the advice columnist. Seems kind of one-sided, but it does represent how many modern women feel.

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2 thoughts on “The Name Debate

  1. Kelly says:

    Boy do I get your conflict Jenny. My maiden name is Camarlinghi. I did not want to give it up despite no one, I mean no one outside of our very Italian Catholic family being able to pronounce it. I miss it sometimes, but for much the same reason you’ve come to your decision I changed my last name to Frank. It does create that familial bond between a husband and wife that I believe after almost 7 years of marriage is worth it. It matters to my husband that we share the same name, he even considered changing his since he was marring more into my family then I was to his, but for that same fearful reason of some how emasculating him I took his name. While I consider myself a strong independent woman I felt it more important to have a strong marriage. So here’s to Durnan and Camarlighi names that will continue thanks to our brothers.

  2. thedurttybride says:

    Camarlinghi! That is an awesome last name Kelly! So glad you understand where my grieving is coming from and thank you for sharing your perspective from what it’s like on the “other side.”

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