Why I am Changing My Name

I spent several years writing about the odd and sometimes rude questions I was asked about being single. For instance, I often heard – why aren’t you married? Now, I am a little less than 100 days from getting married and I continue to be intrigued by the personal questions directed to me. People are funny.

IMG_4207When people learn that I am engaged they immediately ask about the wedding date and location. Interestingly, this started within 2 hours of our actual engagement, to which, of course, I had no answer. The next question is often some version of  “so, will you change your name?” This seems innocent enough, but it is almost always asked in a tone that suggests they think that they know the answer and have already decided how they feel about it.

I am a wildly independent and self-sufficient person. So much so that I have been described as “independent to a fault.” I, of course, don’t think that is possible (or something anyone would say to a man, but I digress). I have also had the same name for 40 years. All this leads people to assume that I would not change my name. They are also pretty sure that they know the answer because for years, literally years, I have said that I would never change my name. Yes, I said never. In the words of a former law professor, I long asserted that I would not want to be with a man who needs to “tag his property.”

Needless to say, I now get a lot of raised eyebrows and big eyes when I answer people with yes, I am going to change my name. People are genuinely shocked. Then they awkwardly ask why or I, feeling the need to justify, explain without prompting.

The truth is that I am just as surprised as anyone. At a time when the number of women in the U.S. who choose not to change their name when they marry is up 20%, I decide to change my name. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

The idea of keeping my name felt very different when I had to answer the question for real. When I considered being part of a family beyond my family of origin, I thought about what I want my family to look/feel/be like. After carefully thinking about the consequences of changing my name, I realized that for me part of being a family is sharing a name. I grew up in a small town and we were one of the few families with my name. It was just ours and made it clear to everyone that we belong to each other.

I also realized that for me changing my name is more about developing the culture within my little family and less about the politics of patriarchy and male oppression.

When I think about what family is to me – it is a deep and clear connection to one another. Having the same name is a strong symbol of that connection. That belonging. Turns out, I am willing and happy to adopt a tradition that many, including my former self, disagree with to make this happen.

Of course, for many the debate about women taking their husband’s name is a feminist issue. It may seem that changing my last name isn’t very feminist of me. Especially after all those years of insisting I’d never do it. But, I think that the fact that I can choose makes it very much a feminist decision. And I’m a grown @$% woman and I do what I want.

 

Note: My fiancé is supportive of me keeping my name. He was clear that he would not consider changing his name, but he understood if I felt strongly about keeping mine. Neither of us is progressive enough for our family to take my last name.

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2 thoughts on “Why I am Changing My Name

  1. Whitney — What you do on this issue is your decision. I would be supportive whatever you decided, and I think most others would be too. It is YOUR name and YOUR decision. You will be the same smart, principled person whatever your last name is.

  2. You will always be Whitney, the same bright and accomplished !! individual !! I have observed making a difference in every stage of your career and life. Way to go WJAC(B). Joe D

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