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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Five Things to Love About Being Single

A great deal of the cultural dialogue about being single or unmarried is focused on the negative aspects of being single or on how to find someone to marry. There are negatives to being single. However, I am also told that there are negatives to being married. Yet, we are not bombarded with articles and opinions about how married people should work hard on getting divorced. Okay, that is extreme, but you do see my point, right?

There are people who are single because they do not want to be married, but most of us, including those who are divorced or widowed, are single because our personal and professional choices have not aligned to produce a (or another) marriage-worthy relationship. I told someone recently who was attempting to fix me up that I’d prefer they leave it alone. Why, you say? Shouldn’t I take all the help I can get? No. In my short life I have learned two things about myself and life as it relates to dating: (1) blind dates and fix-ups are usually only good for the purpose of collecting entertaining war stories and (2) God will do what God will do and he’ll tell me about it when I need to know.

So what do we do while we are waiting for our choices to align or God to do his part? We enjoy the good things about being single.

Here are my five favorite things about being single . . .

Freedom

I’m single because I was born that way. Mae West

This is the big one. I have asked married friends and family and the consensus is that the thing they miss most about being single is freedom. As one friend put it, I miss “being able to make any decision without consulting or compromising.  On anything from paint colors, to car buying, to vacationing.” As a single person, I am free from the obligation to consult the schedules, opinions, feelings, needs, and desires of another. I am also free from the responsibilities that come with family and marriage, which are many. I don’t have to worry about the financial stability, safety, or the personal and professional future of another person. I can buy what I want, eat at whatever fancy restaurant I please, travel to places that interest me, and live a lifestyle that supports my interests.

Single people can do whatever they want.

Living as independent single people – not reliant on family or a partner – is the only time in our lives when we will have almost total control over our lives and be really free.

Self-Awareness

I don’t like to be labeled as lonely just because I am alone. Delta Burke

One of my favorite things about being single has been getting to know who I am; getting to know ourselves is a great opportunity. I know that sounds corny and everyone says it, but think about it carefully. While it is true that we can create ourselves into what we want to be – we can become a doctor or parent or school teacher or circus animal trainer – but that is not the same as getting to know who we really are deep down inside. Being a single adult provides the opportunity to explore who we are, what we like, what we value, what we require to be happy, and, sometimes more importantly, what we do not want in life and in relationships. This kind of self-exploration is difficult when you are in a relationship or married. In relationships much time is focused on figuring out the relationship and getting to know or meeting the needs of your partner. Knowing who we really are ensures that we don’t lose ourselves in a relationship and it makes dating and finding a partner much easier – you know in advance what you want and need and the areas in which you are willing to compromise.

It is also a lot easier to “just be yourself” if you know that person.

Simplicity

I like being single, I’m always there when I need me.” ― Art Leo

Being single can be easy – if you let it. Relationships, no matter how good, are complicated. Anytime two people are in close quarters there will be conflict and compromises. Single people almost always, in almost every decision have the option to take the path of least resistance; in relationships that option doesn’t come as often. A single person’s decisions involve only themselves and who they choose to involve; in a relationship all decisions are potential for conflict and complication.

I only have to consider my family at holidays and special occasions. At my house, there are no arguments about the thermostat, how fast the dishes get washed, whether to get cable or pay someone to mow the lawn, or how the house is decorated. I love my 1600 square foot house – it is just what I need – it is small and simple. I only have to buy for one person. That’s one car, TV, computer, cellphone, plane ticket . . . you get the idea. Singleness also provides flexibility; I can accommodate change (like moving, accepting a new job offer, or taking a last minute trip) much more easily than someone who is in a relationship. While there are plenty of things that can complicate life in general, being single is less complicated than being in a relationship.

Selfishness

The only reason to get married is if you want children. – Alice (my Grandmommy)

I do not like being around selfish people. It is one of the hardest things for me to do. I am talking about those folks who can only talk about themselves, are stingy with money, or think we are all here to serve them. So, I am not suggesting that single people act like jerks. No.

Here, I am talking about the ability to focus on areas of your life that would get less attention if you were in a relationship or married. Being single allows you to focus (selfishly) on your career, rather than balance your career time with the career and personal needs of someone else. If you are ambitious then being single will treat you well. You can work long hours, do all the professional development you can stand, and spend your evenings reading all those books on leadership. (Note: this kind of selfishness improves your ability to be a solid and contributing partner in a future relationship or marriage, if that is your aim.)

As a single person you can selfishly pursue your own hobbies, interests and relationships with friends and family without the necessity to balance your time between your partner’s hobbies, friends, and family. I can take an entire Saturday morning to write without the need to worry about someone else’s schedule, I can have friends or family over whenever I please, or I can play the guitar while watching Netflix (this requires the volume on the TV to be at about 45) all evening. Singleness permits you to be selfish in good ways.

Service

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. (1 Corinthians 7:8, NIV)

The Apostle Paul also told the men that he’d prefer them to be unmarried as well. Why? Because they would be free spend their time in prayer and service to God. Being single gives you more time to be of service to others, whether it is your church, a community service organization, or your favorite non-profit. Singleness allows you to be unselfish with your free time and resources. Once you have determined what you value and what you want to support, you can commit to volunteerism and philanthropy without the need to consult with someone else. Time and money are powerful tools in helping others, but money is often a huge point of contention for many couples. As a single person you are in control of how your money and time is put to use. Service is a great way to help others, feel good about you, and make friends.

Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list. There are many good things about singleness wrapped up in these five areas. In fact, I chose not to list all the good things individually because there are far too many. This is why I think the discussion of being single needs a new perspective. Being single is not worse than being married, in many cases it is better, but, at the very least, it is just different.

I hope one day to bump into the marriage-worthy fellow that God has for me, but until that time I am going to enjoy my life. Being single is a good thing.