The Name Game

“I have given you my soul… leave me my name.”

It’s a big question – one that has followed women ever since the Sexual Revolution. I first heard it in grade 6 – my science teacher, Mrs. K, introduced herself to us as Mrs. because it was too much work and way too much of a hassle to fill out the paperwork before the ceremony. This question is – of course – “Will you take your husbands name once you’re married?”.

In my circle of friends this question was never brought up – maybe because (for my friends) we’re all 22 and marriage is the furthest thing from our minds. Maybe because we’re too busy asking pertinant questions, like which dress should I wear for which formal, or where did my other shoe go, or the ever popular necklace/no necklace problem we all run in to. But maybe because all of our mothers, mine, Mackenzies, Angelicas, Christies, Nicoles and countless others – are Mrs. Every boyfriend I’ve ever had – his mother is a Mrs. Grandmothers too. It seems as if Mrs.’ are everywhere, an inescapable future if a girl chooses to get married.

Not to say that is a bad thing – my mother says her married name often and with pride. Corporate’s mother responds lovingly to my ‘hello Mrs. ___’ as have every mother I’ve addressed who took her husbands name. But when I was discussing this with Corporate and with anyone who has asked me – I am of the opinion that I should never have to take my husband’s name so much as to choose to take his name – and if called Mrs. by an unsuspecting person, be able to correct them with the salutation of “Ms.” followed by my last name. Not maiden name, not fathers name. My name.

For as long as I’ve been out in public alone – not under the shadow of my brother or with my family – teachers, friends, colleagues and others have always called me “Ms.” – jokingly and seriously. With the exception of French – the term “mademoiselle” for a young lady and ‘”madame” for a married woman – I have been and plan on forever being, Ms. And apparently that is a problem – at least, it has been for past boyfriends and lovers and their families.

I remember one time with Brunswick – I was discussing with him the potential of getting a new hockey jersey with a player’s name on the back. He said  “You know what would be really hot? If you got (his last name) on the back”. To which I replied “No, why the hell would I do that?”. “Why not?” He asked, insulted that I would dare to reject his name. “Well”, I replied, “a) You don’t play for the team, b) I’m not your wife and don’t plan on being your wife and c) It’s not my name. If I were to get my name on the back of MY jersey it would be MY name and no one elses”. Clearly this started a fight, but really – when were we not fighting?

But most recently it has been with Corporate. When I mentioned the previous story and how I’d never take on someone elses name – at most I would hyphen but still sign legal documents Ms. – he too didn’t understand this. Now my stance on the Ms. subject has not changed since we were dating back in high school. When I reminded him of this, he responded “Well, I thought you would have changed your mind.”

Isn’t that some men in a nutshell?

I get that in Corporates’ family it is ‘tradition’ for the wife to take the husbands name. My mother did it – my grandmother did it- and I’m pretty sure my great-grandmother did it too. However, this is 2007: and I’ve never been good at following, or at least, I’ve managed to follow until I can lead. As much as I adore Corporates’ family – I am not willing to forego my family of origin if Corporate’ doesn’t have to as well. Gone are the days when the wife was a piece of property to be exchanged between one man and another. Isn’t it now “husband and wife” instead of “man and wife”, implying maybe a hint of equality? So why the name game? Why is it when I chose to keep my own name after being able to chose if and whom I marry do I come out as the bad guy?

In a relationship I understand that I will eventually have to compromise. A lot. Kids, ‘home’, education, hell even religion – meaning I’d accept yours but never convert from mine. But my name stays. For me – my name is my identity. It is the one thing in this world that defines me and my accomplishments – my struggles, my past, my achievements, my potential. Why would I willingly give up my greatest sense of independence in exchange for the title of ‘someone’s’?

I retorted back to Corporate, to Brusnwick, to each man I’ve dated: “Take my name” – and boy oh boy were they insulted beyond belief. Laughter, pity-looks and dismissals galore. “Degrading, isn’t it?”, I replied, “that you’d take my name.” So why am I supposed to be overjoyed at the potential of gaining a mans name when the shoe is on the other foot is it the most degrading concept ever heard by the ears of men?

There is one woman I know who is a Ms. It’s Chris’ mom. I called her Mrs. by mistake the first time I met her – she kindly but firmly corrected me as Ms. and I have never made that mistake again. She is easily one of this country’s most powerful women – intelligent, successful, not to mention really hot for a mother twice over. She has a better body than I do! But what makes her so incredible is that she is everything: a wife and mother, a success in her career and her life, and she did it all as Ms and not Mrs. She is the epitamy of what I believe is the update to the saying – “Behind every great man is a great woman”. Chris’ mom is “Beside every great man is a great woman” – not his Mrs. but his Ms.

And I can definately live with something like that.

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~ by Carrie on April 3, 2007.

10 Responses to “The Name Game”

  1. That’s definitley a decision that every woman has to make for herself. Good for you for knowing what you want. For me, I will definitley change my name. My last name is unusual and most people pronounce it wrong anyway. It would be nice to not have to correct the receptionist at the doctor’s office or the seating hostess at a restuarant as to the correct pronounciation of my name.

  2. Very well written. I think an interesrting comprimise if for both the husband and wife to take different names! One of my friends did this last year, they looked back in their family trees and they took the last name of the groom’s great grandfather. I really like it because for the traditionalists it still looks back to where you’ve come from, and both parties make an equal comprimise. And, as always, you can still be a Ms.

  3. I was going to say men don’t get it because its not a change they themselves have to make…I love that you threw that back at him!

  4. Nice thought process!

    I got married and never changed my name. My sister got married and never changed hers. 7+ years together and two children with hyphenated last names.

    My (not) boyfriend said that if a woman he wanted to marry wouldn’t change her last name he wouldn’t marry her, plain and simple. Hence the reason for the (not). He thinks it is disrespectful….of course he also was brought up in a religon that views women as objects and posessions instead of equals, not that he hasn’t had plenty of time to learn better….

    I don’t want to change myself for anyone. I’m just as proud of MY last name the speaks of my heritage as my future husband is of his.

  5. I think you bring up some good points. To each his (er, her) own I guess. I think I’d change my name, but that’s just me. I can totally see where someone else is coming from who chooses not to.

  6. @ pinklaceandpearls – Right on sister! It really is all about choice; the ability of having one instead of the decision made for you instead of by you. And hey – there is nothing wrong with taking your husbands name so long as it’s your choice.

    I’m also kinda curious as to the uniqueness of your last name… but that’s just me.

    @ Kyla Bea – One of my co-workers did that with her husband, except they came up with a unique name. It’s kind of their little secret – they won’t disclose the meaning behind what they chose, at least, not to members outside their new family. I think it’s a fabulous idea – a lovely compromise while keepoing the ties to families together.

    @ Ruby – Thanks girl! I liked my retort too.. it really forced, well Vegas, to view the concept from the other side. Philippe… well he was just crazy, and there really is no compromising with a crazy.

    @ Mel – Right on sister! It’s too bad that (not) boyfriend thinks that way, as in he’d give up the love of his life if she said no to taking his name after marriage. Most men I’ve run in to, after a discussion is had, don’t necessarily like but begin to see why it’s a touchy subject with some women. Ah well, c’est la vie, no?

    @ brookem – Right on sister! No judgements from me with women who decide to take their husbands name – I just appreciate having the choice.

  7. Oh my god. I tell people all the time that I would never change my last name and they look at me like I’m from Mars. Why should I be forced to change my name when I’m really happy with my name and what it means to me? I love my BF very much and just because I won’t be taking his last name if/when we get married, doesn’t mean I love him any less. He knows that and I can’t say he’s exactly thrilled about it, but he accepts it!

  8. @ brrr – Exactly!! It isn’t about loving him less, it’s about loving yourself enough to make the decision for YOU and you alone!

  9. Listen, everything you say is great. I respect it 100%. You have every right to feel the way you feel, and demand it from whatever partner you decide to be with. The problem comes when you decide to be with someone who isn’t 100% comfy with your program of keeping your name. Unfortunately, in this situation, the onus is on you to either make a change, or bug out. YOU are asking for something radically outside of social norms – and that something is perfectly OK. But it’s still something that you should NOT expect the typical guy you run into to expect. Comments like this one: “@ brrr – Exactly!! It isn’t about loving him less, it’s about loving yourself enough to make the decision for YOU and you alone!” miss the point. Get real: if you find a guy who’s comfy with you keeping your name, great. May you live in peace forever, and be happy. If not, don’t force him to think he’s some sort of psycho for wanting what he knows as a perfectly normal and rational way for a family to wear the same “jersey”. Yes, you can demand that he instead take your name, but get real, sister. With most guys, that’s not realistic to expect – all you do by throwing that at a guy for whom female name change is normal, is prove to him that you view yourself as more important than your relationship.

  10. […] even harder time compromising myself and my beliefs for the sake of my relationship; case in point, The Name Game. For the longest time I couldn’t leave my apartment, and kept looking over my shoulder at the […]

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