Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What's in a name?

I'm sure there's nothing my boyfriend loves more than long car rides with me. He's a self described "listener," while I'm a self described "barely takes a breath between sentences" person. During car rides to visit either of our parents, he's trapped sitting next to me for hours while I bring up various discussions in which he is expected to participate. Sometimes we agree on these topics (how dumb Bart Peterson is for his attempts to ban pit bulls from Indy) and sometimes we disagree (immigration laws.) This past weekend, I innocently discovered something else we did not agree on.

"If we get married, how would you feel if I didn't take your last name?"

(SIDENOTE: Now, before you girls start squealing about how the boyfriend and I are going to get married and how you knew it, and I'm too cynical blah blah blah, this topic comes up every so often with he and I. We've been dating for over three years. It would be weird if it didn't. However, there is no set "We are definitely getting married at this time," or "We will be married by..." It just comes up every so often. I usually say "If we get married" and he usually says "When." I have commitment issues. We all knew this. There is no talk of imminent proposals or impending nuptials. I'll let you know if there ever are.)

Returning to the subject at hand, my question was brought about innocently enough, and in fact, had been broached in the past - though with different results. My only friend who is married and did NOT take her husband's last name got married in 2004 - the year that the boyfriend and I started dating. He went with me to her wedding, and they are now one of our favorite couples to spend time with. I've known Vanessa since high school. She is one of the most independent, intelligent, and progressively minded women I have ever met. Of course she didn't take Gregg's last name. I was suprised she even got married. Their wedding ceremony was awesome. They took tradition and altered it to fit their relationship perfectly. (Gregg is the perfect guy for her, by the way. He obviously loves her more than anything, and he's confident enough to respect her intelligence and her drive and let her be her own person. To me, they are the perfect married couple - but it's because I have this unique perspective. I've known Vanessa since she was 10 years old (give or take). I've seen her grow up. I see how Gregg ADDS to who she is and makes her a better person by not changing her at all. I don't get to see that with all of my married friends. I'd like to think that all marriages are like that...right?) However, my (new) boyfriend (at the time) had never met her, and didn't quite know WHAT to expect. When he found out that she hadn't taken her husband's last name, he asked me, "If we got married, would you take my last name?" You could hear the hesitancy in his voice...as though he was thinking, "What kind of friends does this girl have?"

I said, "Sure. I've never really thought about it." And that was that.

Fast forward to this year when my little brother sent out invitations to his wedding. The one for me was addressed to "Emily and Guest." Whoops. I give my mom credit for really trying to understand and support my decision to live with the boyfriend pre-marriage (something that was obviously much more taboo during her generation) but sometimes she makes little mistakes like that. When I asked my brother what happened, he told me that all married couples had their invitations addressed as "Mr. and Mrs. X" and single people were addressed as "and Guest."

I thought about that for a long time. My first thought was, "What would they have done if they had to invite Vanessa and Gregg?" Then I thought about how the invitation to Vanessa and Gregg would obviously have had to have both names, and how cool it was that Vanessa would actually get to be her own person on the invitation instead of just a "Mrs."

Now, I'm not silly enough to think that my personality will change if I get married, or that people will think of me as "Boyfriend's wife" instead of "Emily." I think I've got enough personality to be known as my own person, and I'm pretty sure most everyone would agree with that. I'm not afraid of losing my identity should I get married. I'm just thinking, "I've been Emily S. for 29 years now. I've got my signature all down pat, my funky last name is part of who I am. It indicates part of my heritage, I get to make fun of people who can't pronounce it, and get annoyed the 75th time I have to spell it for my doctor over the phone. Why should I change? To show my love and devotion to my husband? Aren't I doing that by saying "I do?"

Which led me to my question to the boyfriend. I honestly don't know what I would prefer if I got married - since I don't have a strong preference, I would probably do what he preferred.

However, once this question was asked, I saw my normally laid back relaxed boyfriend, who lets me be my own person and do my own thing with a sigh of resignation and ready assistance if I get in over my head, dig in his heels and become a stubborn ass for the first time ever. Apparently not taking his last name is not an option.

But why?

I'm not trying to buck tradition or anything. I'll admit - once upon a time when I thought marriage was imminent, I was all set to take his last name and live in wedded bliss for the rest of my life. But I like to think that I've done some growing up between 23 and 29. I like to think that I don't blindly follow rules without questioning them and seeing how they fit in my life, even though they might fit in someone else's life completely differently.

He didn't really have a good reason for me regarding his strong reaction. Which is the point of this blog. Why is the mere thought of a woman not taking her husband's last name so offensive to men?* Are you worried about what other guys think? Ladies, did you think about not taking his last name, or did the thought never cross your mind?

Just curious. Again, since he has such strong feelings, I'll probably just go with what he prefers...I just want to know where these strong feelings come from.

*"It's tradition" or "Because it confuses people" is not an acceptable response, by the way Rob Padgett.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Did I say that? Well, it's a good reason! Definately not the only reason. If nothing else, it will confuse the heck out of your kids (yea yea, I know...your never going to have any).

I think you probably need to hear this from a women's prospective. Maybe Annie will sit down sometime and post her thoughts. I definately wouldn't say she lost any of her personality when she took on my last name.