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What’s in a Name? The Name Change Debate

On our weekly trip to the trampoline park I bring my daughter to the front desk to sign in. “What is your name?” the cashier asks. I tell her, and watch as she types my name into the system. “Here you are, but, has your daughter jumped with us before?” she asks. I smile as I always do when asked this question before replying, “Yes, she has a different last name. Let me spell it for you.” This happens all of the time. Often I simply ask, “Do you want my last name or my daughter’s?” when signing up for activities, because there is always bound to be that weird confusion with the staff.   Despite what some may think, keeping my maiden name has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel about my husband or my child. It has nothing to do with trying to make some sort of feminist statement. It has everything to do with how I view myself, and those amazing people who raised me.

In the not too distant past I’ve seen articles regarding those believing women should always change their last names, and in fact, think there should be a law enforcing such matters. I couldn’t disagree more. Everyone is born with a name, and everyone should feel entitled to keep the name they’ve identified with for most of their lives. I love and respect my husband, and as strange as it may sound given my previous words, would feel honored to have his name. However at the moment I am very attached to my maiden name. This name and I have been through so much together, the name that’s identified me since the day I was born, and it’s not an easy thing to let go.

My first husband wanted me to change my name. Honestly, it felt weird thinking about being called something different, signing a name other than the one I’d signed since childhood. In some ways it felt like I was turning into another person, but in the end I felt like I should because that’s what married people do. Married women show their spouse devotion by changing their name, right? Six months later my husband decided he didn’t wish to be married at all, and vanished in all ways but one. I was stuck with his name, a name I wasn’t entirely comfortable with even when he was around. I looked at my driver’s license, credit cards, office email address, and felt that they belonged to a stranger. Every time someone called and asked for Mrs. ___ it just felt wrong. It was a joyous moment when my new social security card arrived in the mail baring my old name. Finally myself again I felt free to start over, and fueled with to the strength of my ever supportive family, that’s exactly what I did.

A few years later I met and married a wonderful person who loves me for every piece of who I am, flaws and all. Though he never brought up the old marital name change, there wasn’t much time to concentrate on the subject. A month after I married my father unexpectedly passed away leaving me heartbroken, shocked, and in so much pain. I’d lost my father who I was very close with, and in that moment I knew there was no way I was going to lose his name, not for anything. It was part of his legacy, something special he’d given me. I couldn’t, wouldn’t do it because I felt in doing so was in some way erasing another piece of him from my life. My husband never asked, and three years later still hasn’t pushed for me to change. He knows I love him, and he knows my decision has nothing to do with how I feel about the family we’ve built together.

While I understand why some believe it is right for a woman to change her name after marriage which has long been tradition, I think it is more important to do what makes one feel best, the most them. I was born with my name, it’s the name of a family who’s supported, loved and helped me become the woman I am today, the woman my husband fell in love with. Someday I may decide to take my married name. I think it’s natural wanting to share the name belonging to my husband and daughter. After all, they are my every day, wonderful life. I never said changing one’s name is wrong, it isn’t. I do believe it is a beautiful thing to share a name with one’s chosen partner in life and love; however, I don’t believe it should be expected, pressured, and especially not enforced. There are many reasons women wish to keep their married names. My choice to do so has nothing to do with how much I respect and love my husband, and our child. It has more to do with not yet wanting to let go of something that’s always been a part of me, and celebrating the amazing tribe I was born into.

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