In Defense of My Name (and My Husband's)

Monday, August 16, 2010 - 09:11 AM

I had no idea there was this much angst over changing names after marriage. Perhaps I'm less concerned about it because the name change doesn't carry emotional weight. My grandmother got married in 1939 and kept her birth name and she was a pioneer. And yet, my grandparents were married for almost four decades, happy, loving, and very much a cohesive unit. So I grew up accepting the idea that changing my name was my choice, that it had nothing to do with my commitment to the marriage. I never thought that marriage was about submission or ownership. Thanks to pioneers like my grandmother and the feminists of the 20th century, I've never felt shackled by traditional views of marriage or reproduction or family.

So, now that I am married, I am keeping my own name professionally and hyphenating in private life. Why? The reasons are purely pragmatic. I'm 40 and have accomplished too much under my maiden name to change it now. But at home, we are both bringing children into this union and they both carry different names. To make it easy, I'll add on my husband's name so that I share a byline with both of the kids. Never a question at the border or the airport, at school or at the doctor's. 

I honor every woman who made it possible for me to choose, though. Without the suffragettes of the 19th century and the feminists of the 20th, I might still be legally obligated to take my husband's name, along with giving up my property rights and my bank account. In that case, I would probably feel very differently about the issue. But it is my choice, and I choose to use whatever name is easiest. And it doesn't change our happy home or the strength of my marriage.


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Comments [2]

Ron Smith from Denver

How Progressive of you. What are name did you give to your child?

Nov. 16 2010 08:36 AM
Gurukarm Khalsa from Massachusetts

I listened with interest to this piece this morning. I have a most unusual situation, however. Because I became a Sikh as a young adult, and changed my name altogether, as did my husband - and, we both changed our names legally - we came into our marriage with the same last name, Khalsa, which many Western-born/converted Sikhs take. So there never had to be that angst about the name-changing question due to marriage.

Aug. 16 2010 09:37 AM

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