Monday, April 9, 2018

What’s in a Name?

Yes, I’ve neglected this site for a while, but between starting a new job two months before my wedding, then the wedding, then the post-wedding, then the holidays, then planning a three-week multi-city European belated honeymoon, then starting to job hunt again (long story), and trying to simply enjoy early marital bliss, you could say I’ve been preoccupied.

When Remus first asked me early into our dating life if I would take his last name “if we ever got married,” my initial reaction was, “fuck no.” While not a militant feminist, I’m feminist enough to take issue with the whole history behind why women traditionally take their husband’s name after marriage, and even more egregious than that, it just seemed like a huge hassle. Going to the Social Security Office (which is where, exactly?), going to the DMV for a new driver’s license and car registration (who doesn’t love a superfluous trip to the DMV?), ordering a new passport (and getting a new passport photo), updating my name on every single account I have (I’m 30+ years old; I have a lot of accounts), potentially creating a new email address (my whole life is tied to my email address)…it sounded like a lot of annoying work for a pointless payoff, and I am inherently a rather lazy person.

After declaring my disinterest in ever being branded “Mrs. Remus LastName,” I decided to ask him if he had strong feelings on the matter. He decided that he didn’t, really, “but I think it would be nice if my wife and I had the same name.” Fair point, but “nice” wouldn’t have to go stand in line at the DMV, I would. I half-heartedly suggested he could take my last name if he really wanted us to have the same one, to which he just laughed, because men.

With the name seed now planted, and for the first time being in a relationship that could potentially lead to marriage, I began to think about it more seriously. My unmarried last name was my father’s name, and while I didn’t like the implication of first being branded as his to eventually be branded as my husband’s (especially when I would come with no dowry of 20 acres of land and a pair of horses guaranteed to breed), I liked the thought of keeping my father’s name when I had the perfect opportunity to shed it even less. I had neither seen nor spoken to my father in nearly 20 years due to him being kind of a garbage human being, so why exactly was I being stubborn about keep the name of a man I had to which I had zero emotional ties rather than potentially taking on the name of a man I loved and was choosing to build a life with. Would a visit to a few government offices and the updating of a few (a lot of) accounts really be such an ordeal?

A few years after this conversation, when Remus and I did eventually get engaged, I ultimately decided that I would take his name, but woe be unto anyone who referred to me as “Mrs. Remus LastName.” After our wedding I was still in peak “get shit done” mode, so I banged out the various office visits, paperwork filings, and account updates (seriously, how does one get so many different accounts?) necessary to legally change my name as quickly as I could, though half a year later I’m still coming across things with my old name on them that need attention (sorry for the delay, hair salon I go to maybe twice a year) and continue to not immediately register that I’m the one being addressed when I hear my new name spoken aloud, which has led to a few close calls for missing that our table at a restaurant is ready.

With my new name established, I asked my mother, who still has my father’s (her ex-husband for decades) last name if she would now change back to her unmarried name. When they initially divorced he had it written into their child custody agreement that she couldn’t change my name, so she kept it, too, not wanting me to grow up with a different name as my primary parent (and, I suspect, to passive-aggressively piss off my father’s second wife).

“Fuck no,” she told me. “Do you know what a hassle that would be?”

I have a pretty good idea, mom.

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