Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's In A Name?

Despite not sending any Christmas cards out this year, we received a fair amount of holiday greetings. They spread out over the tops of three shelving units in the living room, forming a merry hodgepodge that inspired a major feng shui attack on Saturday. The cards are all packed away now (why I don't just recycle them, I don't know, but I always pretend I'll use them for "craft projects" at some undetermined date) but the memory of these cheery little greetings live on.

This holiday season that's just passed us by marked Andy's and my fourth Christmas together and our third living together. Ever since that fateful day when I moved in, how the joint mail we receive is addressed has been a source of amusement. More often than not, our holiday cards come addressed to me - my full name - with Andy's first name tacked on after that.  Occasionally it goes the other way though, with my name tacked on in an "afterthought" sort of way. Rare is the sender who lists both our full names (all spelled correctly) and uses our correct address. 

It's a common misconception, but Andy and I are not married. Or engaged. The vast majority of mail we receive recognizes and reflects this fact in its own awkward way.  

So it was a little surprising this holiday season to receive a card addressed to what my married name would be if I weren't planning to hang onto my maiden name anyway. No mention of Andy was made anywhere on the card - just my first name and Andy's last name . . . combined. Andy and I exchanged bemused looks as we examined the envelope.

The percentage of women taking their husband's last names is higher than ever. (The big exception to this rule are women who are firmly established in their careers before marriage.) I have no issues with taking your husband's last name; especially in this land of _____sons if taking your husband's last name lands you with a more unique and interesting name.

But I have no desire to change my name. It's unique, it sounds nice, and it earns me the distinction of being the only person on Facebook with such a name. Sure it gets mispronounced all the time (sometimes I feel like that Ting Tings song - "That's Not My Name"- was written about me), but as a freelance writer, my name is my brand and contains an idea of who I might be.

I looked at my name printed on the envelope with Andy's last name and I felt like I was looking at a ghost of myself. Just let me grabbed my pearls, heels, and the vacuum and call me Mrs. Andy.  Who needs feminism when you've got a man?

One thing that's always irritated me is when a married women's name is reduced to just a "Mrs." in front of her hsuband's full name. I mean, what are we? Chopped liver? Silent partners? Yet, I've been going through the guest books from work lately and happened upon a woman who wrote out her full name then put in parentheses "Mrs. John." I know for a fact her husband has been deceased for years.  

What's in a name? Ideally the person we are most proud of being.

8 comments:

  1. one day, completely out of the blue, my boss asked me if i was going to take my fiance's last name. without much hesitation, i answered, "probably, because it's not a feminist issue for me." (it isn't, considering my last name is my FATHER's last name... it's paternalistic and actually has very little meaning in my identity. and my "married" name sounds cool.) i was more just appalled that he asked. men don't have this kind of identity crisis. not fair.

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  2. I always find it interesting look through vintage crochet magazines, how many women wrote in and signed their name, "Mrs. Husband's Name". Sign of the times for sure!

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  3. Giving up my maiden name was definitely bittersweet, I loved my last name and it was full of Italian Heritage and taking my husband's, everyone now assumes I'm Irish, which I'm totally 100% not! BUT, it's nice to be the Sullivan family so I can't complain.

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  4. When we were getting married I about had a nervous breakdown at the suggestion of me giving up my maiden name. My husband (then to-be) begged and begged and frankly his last name was much prettier than mine.

    I am a bit of a feminist, plus I am established in my day job.

    However, my day job is in social media and the company I work for and my blog don't exactly relate...

    So this is the result:

    Legally: First Middle Maiden Married

    Work: First Maiden

    Blog and personal writing: First Married

    Complicated? Yes.

    But it pleases everyone and helps me keep my two professional lives clear....

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  5. I have a similar situation to you, we've lived together a couple of years and get things addressed in a myriad of ways. I haven't ever gotten just my name with the man's last name though haha. We did get a "the ___ household" and "mr and mrs _____" once (with my last name hahaha). I feel similarly about keeping my name, too, even if we do ever get married. I like it, and I'm sort of attached to it! His name is fine, but I think I'd miss mine. In my family, one sister kept her name, one took her husbands, and the third created a new last name with her husband. so we do things all kinds of ways :)

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  6. My hubby has gotten mail with my hyphenated last name as his last name! Now that was strange to see.

    I was married once before and took his last name. This time I decided I wanted to keep some of the identification of my maiden name. So I decided to hyphenate it since it wasn't too long.

    But it is a hassle to spell out (mostly because my maiden name is a little unique) and I have to say the first last name, HYPHEN, the second last name. Also a lot of computer systems can't handle the hyphen so I might get one or the other or both blended together.

    And having places look up my name, whether it's filed under the last name before or after the hyphen! That was one problem I never thought of!

    But I'm still glad I did it this way.

    Sorry for the lonnnngggg comment!

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  7. This is a subject I get really fired up about. Despite writing in our names correctly in Jay's grandma's address book, we get our Christmas cards to "Mr. & Mrs. Jay DeCoux." We are the Arrowsmith DeCouxs, for one, and for another I really, really hate leaving out the woman's first name. It's so patriarchal and feels very demeaning to me. If it happened equally often that we got mail to Mrs and Mr Rose Arrowsmith then I think it would all be funny instead. My brother-in-law's wife didnt' take his name, and even after recently getting her doctorate, they got their card to Mr. & Mrs. Kevin DeCoux.
    I LOVE that Jay also took my name; Arrowsmith wasn't hard to sell, but I still appreciate it. I think a name change when you get married makes sense symbolically, since you do change--but both of you change, and the name should reflect that.
    It was a big decision to just use DeCoux for our son's last name, with Arrowsmith as his second middle name, but it seemed like maybe someday he'd marry someone with two last names, and how do you combine that? Nonetheless, I don't tell people that--I just say we're the "Arrowsmith DeCoux family" because we are.
    Hmm. As this is the longest comment I've ever left, maybe I'd better blog about it myself. Thanks for the provocation.

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  8. My daughter just got married in Sept..she is no shares our name Ah! but that's ok..I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can!

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