Someone close to me recently told me they were getting married. I was excited by the news and happy for the couple as it had been a long road for them to get to this point. Jokingly, I told her that she would soon be Mrs X… and we both giggled.
Later, on my own, as the excitement wore off, I thought about taking on the name of my partner. I thought about all the changes that would need to be made and the significance of it. After all, how much does our name construct who we are? Does the changing of a name alter you as a person? Does it really matter what name you go by?
I am in a de facto relationship with two children, who both bear their father’s surname. I have always wanted to have the same name as my children and getting married is something that is important to me. I believe it would make us a more complete family.
My partner, however, holds no feelings towards marriage and cannot see the point in it. To him, it is just an unnecessary piece of paper and bureaucracy interfering in our personal lives.
But is it just a piece of paper? Looking from the outside in, it seems like such an important step to take in our relationship. To me, it feels like a binding piece of paper. Something that holds us all together and says that we are a family.
Would it change our lives? Probably not. We have lived together for six years, have two children together and our finances and assets are so intermingled it would be hard to tell you what belonged to who. We both struggle to do the best by our children and we all consider ourselves as a family. So what would marriage actually achieve?
To me it is about a name. On the surface, it may seem ridiculous and unimportant. To many, it might not hold any significance. However, to me, the name is essential. As a mother, I struggle with the concept that my children have a different surname to me. A surname that is outside my family and has no other bearings to me other than my sons that bear it. It is the name my sons will carry on and yet, I am not part of that heritage (in name anyway).
In paradox to this, I am not sure if I would use that name professionally. I know many women who go by their married name but still keep their maiden names for professional use. I suppose it depends on the career you have but for many women, the have worked so hard to build a reputation in the business world, the name change could be cause for less recognition.
Is my career really up to this point? Probably not. Will it get to this point? As a writer, I hope so. I hope that one day I will have more published works and a name recognised in some literary circles. But so many people writing under noms de plume. Does the name they write under or the name the wider world recognises their works by actually make any difference to their identity within their personal life?
Does the name we take in the public arena actually affect our identity within our personal circles? Do we become our pseudonyms? Do we lead a double life? Or do we simply continue to be ourselves and the name has no impact on us?
I hold no importance to my maiden name. My father and I have a reasonably good relationship (although it has been strained in the past) but my sisters and mother all have different surnames. I was raised in a household where three different surnames existed in the same family. Within my personal circles, the name of my children certainly feels more significant. Yet if I grew up unconcerned about my mother having a different surname, there is certainly no reason that my children wouldn’t feel the same way.
In the public eye, I don’t feel it would matter what name I used. I can certainly understand how celebrities adopt names when they launch themselves into the public circus. It is almost as if they are throwing themselves into a role: The public version of themselves. I wonder how close it is to the real them.
Do they change when they adopt a stage name? Are they likely to become their public personas or do they continue to just be that girl or boy who grew up in the suburbs, dreaming of a better life?
If they do change, is it the name that changes them or is it the fame? Is it the lifestyle and the new social circles in which they mingle?
I would like to think that I wouldn’t change. That the name would simply be a word. That it wouldn’t alter me at all, but I’m not sure. All I know at the moment, is I would like to have the name of my children and that this must mean that a name carries some sense of identity, for me at least.
- Babies’ Surnames: To Hyphenate or Not? (nytimes.com)
- Why a woman should not take her husband’s surname (xeniagreekmuslimah.wordpress.com)
- To or Be or To-Be or Tobe (bellaisms.wordpress.com)
- Half Say Law Should Require Women To Take Husband’s Name (lezgetreal.com)
- How to *Not* Change Your Last Name (weddingbee.com)
- Should the Law Make Bride Take Groom’s Name? (abcnews.go.com)