Thursday, June 01, 2006

What's in a Name?

Originally posted at Motherhood Uncensored as part of the Blog Exchange.

The moment of truth came not at the altar, when I said “I do.” Nor did it come during our honeymoon, or when we crossed the threshold for the first time as husband and wife.

In fact, Jeff was miles away when it happened. The Moment was between me and the desktop support guy at my new job. It was my first day, and he was there to configure my computer and set up my email account. He asked, innocently enough, what my name was, so he could create my username and address.

I froze and fumbled for an answer. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. It was three weeks before my wedding, and I still hadn’t decided whether or not to take my husband’s surname. Now, suddenly, my feet were to the fire. It was time to make my choice.
I’d thought about it a lot. Way too much, probably—for years before I even met my future spouse. On one side, my feminist beliefs. Why should I change my name, sublimate my identity, just for some archaic, patriarchal tradition? Why should I have to go through the hassle of getting a new social security card, changing my passport, alerting every friend, relative and creditor I’d amassed in the previous 30 years? Plus, I already had an eight-year career as a writer and editor. I had a stack of clips with my maiden-name byline. Plus, it is a nice name—alliterative, easy to pronounce and spell.

But there were compelling arguments the other way too. If I chose not to change, I’d always have to correct people when they called me “Mrs. Jeff’sName.” I might feel like being married was no different from living together, as we’d already been doing for over a year. And what would happen when we had children? I wasn’t about to give them a five-syllable, hyphenated last name. They’d get his name, and then I’d be the odd woman out in my own family.

I pondered it day and night. I envied my friend Laurie, who married a man who happened to have the exact same last name she did. I thought about using my maiden name for work and his name for everything else. I wished I could fall back on my college-era plan, which was to marry someone with a one-syllable last name so I could use both mine and his (2 + 1 = manageable; 2 + 3 = not).

When I landed the job, fairly unexpectedly and so soon before the wedding, the balance started to shift, ever so slightly, in favor of making the switch. I was at a new company in a new industry, meeting a lot of new people. No one knew or cared about my byline. But in the end, the winning argument was the thought of my future children. I very much wanted to share a name with them. So in my first act of Mommy sacrifice, I gave up my maiden name. There in my cubicle, the die was cast, and I’ve been Mrs. Jeff’sName ever since. I don’t regret it, but I still miss my old name.

A few weeks after the wedding (conveniently after the email address was up and humming and all the other bureaucratic paper had been chased), he told me how much he liked my maiden name. And that if I’d wanted him to, he would’ve taken MY name instead. Now why didn’t I think of that?

No comments: