Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What's In a Name?


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when a woman becomes engaged, many people will ask her if she plans to change her name. My short answer: no, thanks. If you want a longer answer, keep reading.

I could tell you all the usual reasons, and they'd all be true. I think it's an archaic tradition. I don't feel like I need the symbolic umbrella of a singular name to feel bonded to my partner (isn't marriage symbol enough?). I think it's unnecessary. I think it's unfair. I think it's a tradition rooted in sexism. I'm attached to my name (Hennessey is pretty bad ass). I have published writing and articles under my name. I have degrees in my name. I am the first result when you Google "Christine Hennessey," and I worked long and hard for that distinction. I don't want to become a different person - even if it's only in name - just because I decided to get married. 

This is not to say that other women who choose to change their names are giving up their identity or letting the patriarchy win. I have many friends who have changed their names, for their own list of perfectly valid and respectable reasons. I love that they can choose a new name, and I can choose my old name, and we can all be happy with living life on our own terms. 

There are, however, two people in this relationship. My dear fiancé also has some opinons on this topic, and - surprise! - they're not the same as mine. Nathan wants us both to change our name to a new hybrid - Hennward. Henneward is the pretend last name we've been using for years - it's a portmanteau, it's the last name we gave the dogs, and we even get mail addressed to the Hennewards. To Nathan, Henneward is a great compromise, a perfect symbol. We'd both change our names - equality! - and our old joke would be even better.

And while I like the idea of Henneward, I like it as just that - an idea. A joke is funny only if it remains a joke. When it comes down to my name, that thing by which I am recognized and acknowledged, I'm stubborn. I like my name. And I don't want a new one. 

Whether you're married, plan to get married, or are waiting for the laws to change so you can get married, I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Would you/did you change your name? Why or why not? I think this topic is so interesting, and that people from both sides often have excellent reasons for their choices. I'd love to hear yours.