Relationships

What's in a Name?

While I may have lost my ass, breasts, flat stomach and far too many brain cells, I still lay claim to my name

The title "Mrs." was going to be hard enough to stomach as a young bride, but there was no way I could tag team it with someone else's name.

It was never an issue to deliberate—it just wasn't going to happen. I was an aspiring writer and a feminist, and my rather attractive husband assumed nothing less. Giving up your name seemed barbaric even to him, even way back when.

I've now been married for more than a quarter of a century, to the same attractive guy. And while I may have lost my ass, breasts, flat stomach and far too many brain cells, I still lay claim to my name.

My in-laws pretend not to notice. To this day, they don't recognize my different name, or email address, or acknowledge that my Facebook page is stripped of their nomenclature. In fact, they will probably ignore the byline above. They seldom address me by first name either, choosing instead to introduce me nervously as simply Brad's wife, and leave it to "Mr. and Mrs." on cards.

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I don't really mind. Or rather, I don't mind 25 years into this silly name game. It makes them uncomfortable to call me anything other than Mrs. His Last Name, and bothers me little, so I don't fight it. Anymore.

I grew up with two working parents, academics, back when few moms worked outside the home in my small, rural town. Both my parents were feminists, albeit not consciously, and raised four daughters in a Helen Reddy "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" environment.

So imagine my surprise when my own mom—strong, independent, opinionated—was absolutely mortified when I announced I wasn't going to change my name after marriage.

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"You're keeping your what? Don't be ridiculous, of course you're changing your name," she said and then, completely disgusted, attempted to belittle and bully me further.

"That's just great. Thanks a lot. Everyone will think your children are illegitimate."

Her defiance was so surprising, so unbelievably ludicrous and antiquated in my newly minted grown-up, married world, it made me laugh out loud—at her—which she did not appreciate then or now.

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Back then, in the '80s, when I thought I knew everything and my mom knew nothing, I told her no woman changes her name anymore, and in 10 years tops, the practice would become obsolete. Just wait and see.

"But what about the kids? You better think about the kids."

Huh? What kids? I wasn't having any kids and scoffed at her assumption.

As it turned out, my mother, like most mothers, wasn't wrong about everything. Women, for the most part, are still changing their last name to their husbands', and the old stigma of illegitimacy is practically obsolete. No one cares when you had your kids. Or with whom.

And I was wrong about the kid thing, too. I had four of them, and the two different last names between their mother and father was a bit of a tongue twister—mainly, for other moms and dads. Children never had a problem. They just called me "Mrs. Fiona's Mom" or "Mrs. Brendan's Mom" or "Mrs. Mom with the Nose Ring," until they were older, then it was simply "Mrs." or "Ms. Mayer."

My kids have their dad's last name. Yeah, I know. Baby steps.

Hopefully one day, when my own kids have kids, this future grandma will be pleased to learn that legally and socially, choosing a name won't be as scrutinized and criticized as choosing a partner, because 'til death do us part is a very long time to live with an identity that's not your own.

Tags: marriage
   
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