Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Name Game

So, lately you (all 3 people who read my blog) may have noticed my brain seems little more than a big giant fart. Um yeah. I've got no idea why, but I can't seem to write to save my life. I'm hoping it'll go away soon. In the meantime here's my attempt at figuring something out.

We're getting married this summer, a day I'm definitely looking forward to. Of the details remaining for us to figure out (and the financial woes yet to be resolved), one's been on my mind since we got engaged over a year ago, and I still don't know the answer. It's such an intensely personal thing to me (as I imagine it is for everyone) but I'm having trouble deciding.

It's the name game. Do I keep mine? Do I take his? Do I hyphenate? What do we do when the pitter patter of little feet come around? (as opposed to the clomp clomp of dogs now)

Dave's not making the decision any easier. He's happy with whatever option I choose and doesn't care either way. It's entirely my decision to make. I suggested he change names but his response was that he likes having a four letter last name because it's easy to spell, even when inebriated. Since my last name is nine letters (same as cousin Dizzy), I can see the advantage in a short name. And really, since I wouldn't take too kindly to the idea that he would make me change my name, I probably shouldn't call the kettle black and try to make him.

I think the fact that I'm even contemplating taking his name in any form (hyphenated or otherwise) will be weird to lots of my peers. I'm a feminist. I believe I can do any job as well as any man, I believe in womens' reproductive rights, equal footing (including pay) at the workplace, an environment free of sexual harassment, and all of those basic things women have been historically denied. I feel a strong pull from the sisterhood to not change my name. Part of me wonders why would I drag myself into such a patriarchal thing? In the past women didn't have a choice - it was done because women were considered property and we became the property of our husband instead of our father. I have no desire to be someone's chattel and part of me is uncomfortable with the tradition, even though the reasons behind such a requirement are now gone.

Then again, my mum changed her name when she married my dad and I challenge anyone to tell her she's not a strong capable feminist who weakly took on her man's name. I certainly wouldn't want to cross her.

When you get right down to it I don't dislike my last name at all. In fact it kinda fits well with my first name, even though it's fairly long (9 letters). I'm very close with my family so it's not that I'd be looking forward to dumping an association with them in exchange for a new, improved one. My sister and I are the last surviving grandchildren with my grandfather's name, and a part of me doesn't want his legacy to end. So, that makes the decision hard as well.

Another advantage to keeping my name "as-is" is that I wouldn't have to worry about changing any professional info, or going through a legal name change and getting all my ID and credit cards switched to a new name, all of which sound like giant pains in my ever-expanding ass. The court reporters know my last name now, so changing it would probably just confuse things. My last name now is the same as this guy's:

With all that being said, part of me likes the idea that we're on the same team, and that, once we're married we would have this public united front of the same last name, to affirm the bond between us, and tell everyone that Dave and I are a team together. I like that it'd be a new beginning wherein from the moment we walk up the aisle together we have the same name. If I did change it, I'd definitely retain my own last name as second middle name. His name is shorter, easier like the subject of this picture (and no, it's not sand):

And what about hyphenating? The perfect compromise!? So many people say it's a big pain in the butt. One name always ends up being dropped, or people complain it's too long to bother. Then my last name would be this, which I need more fingers than 10 to spell out:


One thing I know for sure is that kids (should they eventually come along) will somewhere have my last name in their names.

Any advice? What'd you do or what do you plan to do? Why does/doesn't it work? What's a girl to do?

For now I'll admit I'm enjoying that when telemarketers call and ask for Mrs. Dave'slastname I can cheerily say "Sorry, there's no one here by that name!" and hang up.


Sara said...

Well... you already know my decision on the matter.. but I'm a firm believer in the whole pro-choice on that particular issue. A woman (and a man, for that matter) should have the right to choose what she's gonna do... if you let the "sisterhood" dictate what you have to do that's almost the pendulum swinging too far the other way.

Here are my reasons on the no name change (which sound very much like yours, likely due to the shared brain):

1. I have a particular affinity to my family, and enjoy my being identified with my family... specifically with the rarity of my last name.

2. I've had it for 27 years. I'm used to it. I want to continue to be me and to be named me.

3. I'm no feminist, but I definitely hate the tradition associated with it. Amy is going to kill me, and this is probably a topic for another day.. but I believe feminism is becoming largely irrelevant... although I guess if we all flocked to the old traditions and accepted them along with the reasons behind them, blindly, (like in the 1970s and 1980's how it was not rape if it was your wife...) well then I guess it could be argued we'd take a step back and therefore feminism is relevant...

4. He's not changing his name.

5. Aside from everything you've mentioned, I don't like the feeling of having to lose my identity to be part of a couple. I feel that Scott and I can be a strong united front (as we have been for going on 5 years now I guess) without the need for us to ever change who we are... be it personality, beliefs, or name... to me my name is part of who I am.

6. (This one only applies to you) You have the added reason that if you do take his name, your name becomes something you might have been made fun of for as a kid, and I know you know what I'm saying... not like you'd go to Heather Bagina or something ridiculous... (in which case I would beg you to avoid a name change) but not as good as the one you have now.
It'd be like a downgrade name wise, for the sheer fact that'd you'd rhyme with a childhood game.

What I have learned in favour of the whole name changing school of thought is that when you get married you don't actually undergo a legal name change... really its just an assumed name mostly (well unless you want, in which case you actually go ahead and change your birth certificate... which apparently 99% don't do). The same goes for hyphenating, really... Although there is some ID to change, which would still be a pain in the ass.

The bottom line is I know I'm going to be called Mrs. McCarthy... but I don't ever want to be Mrs. McCarthy. Frankly I don't want to be Mrs. anything. I'm firmly a Ms.

If we have kids, I expect their friends will call me Mrs. McCarthy (or Mrs. Wisking, if we make a decision that the kids get my last name) and Scott will get called Mr. Wisking. That'll probably happen sooner rather than later, but we're happy being "Scott and Sara" the couple, as well as "Scott McCarthy and Sara Wisking", the individuals behind the couple.

Because its not a particularly intensely politically motivated decision, neither of us will be the ones to angrily correct someone for calling us the wrong name...

Anyway good luck, and you better hurry up on the decision!!! It's coming up soon.

ElaineMI said...

No matter what you call yourself, somebody will screw it up. My maiden name is Nicklay (pronounced Nick-lie). It has been pronounced as Nickle-lie, Nickle-lay, Nick-lay. My married name is Lane. It has been pronounces Lame, Lare, Lang. How does one screw up LANE? There is always a way.

When I was faced with the being Elaine Lane, I laughed and told people that I should dress in black and white and they can remember that my name sounds like the name of a panda bear. Lane-Lane. I like it because it makes me feel unique. Until I heard of (and this is going to age me, gals) Jack LaLannes' wife's name. Elaine LaLanne. She's the same as me, only with a French twist.

All in all, go with whatever YOU feel comfortable with. But don't sweat the small stuff. This is small stuff because, as I stated, somebody will ALWAYS screw it up anyway.

Best wishes to you Heather (and Sara)

Jodi said...

I found this to be a really tough deceision too and changing your name definitely takes some getting used to. The one thing to keep in mind which made things a little easier for me was that you really only 'assume' the new name. I will forever be Jodi Gibbs because that is what is and will always be on my birth certificate.

While I am destined for a lifetime of 'Bond' jokes, I have to say, the pride I felt the first time I heard my name linked to Andrew was pretty awesome.

And as far as carrying on the name 'Gibbs' I think it would make a unique middle name for a son someday.

Nap Queen said...

I found you by way of Wordgirl, so I thought I'd give you my 2 cents. I could have written your post! My sister and I are the last two children from my dad's side of the family, as he was an only child. I kept my name, and I'm so glad that I did. Here's why:

1) We keep our finances separate, so I just kept all my existing accounts and didn't have to change anything.

2) I have had my name for 29 years. It is a part of who I am, and like I mentioned above, we're kind of a dying breed, so I wanted to hang on to it a little longer.

3) Frankly, I like my family better than his. I have a love/hate relationship with his mom, and she is mean to him. We have a joke that she would rather have me as her daughter than him as her son. Sad.

4) I'm stubborn, and I don't want to conform to what society says I should (or what I think it says I should) do.

5) Like Sara said, he's not changing his name.

Some of my friends didn't understand why I didn't change my name. It was just a gut feeling that I can't explain. We both have very boring, common names, so there was nothing to consider in that respect. Anyway, those are just some thoughts. It's been a little over a year since the wedding, and I don't regret a thing.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Hey! That guy with the horn. That's what we named my cat. :)

Anywhoo... I'm a firm believer in keeping your name if its what you want. If you're both comfortable with it, so much the better. You've got some time to think about it, don't stress on it to much. You've got a lot of other things on your mind with a wedding to plan!

Henly said...

In terms of kids, someone here at work had an idea that I liked. Granted, it's totally unconventional.

In the scenario where wifey keeps her name and kids are born, the daughters in the family take Mom's name, the sons take Dad's name. Of course, this kills the ability to introduce your family as the "Bagina's" or whatever, but I'm all for eliminating tradition. :)

Nancy said...

I took J's name as mine, and kept my maiden name as my middle name. I did use my maiden name professionally before we were married, but I didn't have a lot of career "name recognition" or publications, so I didn't feel like I'd confuse a lot of people by changing it. Also, I really wanted our future children to share the same name as both parents.

However, I firmly believe it's a personal decision -- not an easy one, of course, but I think each person has their reasons for keeping/changing their name and no one else has the right to question or judge you based on what you decide. I know you probably know that, but hopefully it doesn't hurt to hear it again!

Heather said...

Sara: I think our shared brain parts with your view of feminism. Just look at robo-Harper - definitely a threat to womens' rights and to equality.

ElaineMI: I still challenge anyone to screw up Ball, though my last name gets mangled regularly.

Jodi: I don't think I'd ever drop my last name but I agree Gibbs will make a great middle name.

Nap queen: you raise interesting points that apply to me too.

Mrs. Chicky: I think Dizzy is a great name for a cat!

Henly: A friend of mine (in Ottawa too, actually) is doing that - it's really a unique idea.

Nancy: It definitely didn't hurt to hear "no one else has the right to question or judge you based on what you decide." I don't think I could ever totally eliminate my last name, I'm down to deciding whether to add his.

Dawn said...

Congradulations on getting married! I have not gotten married yet. But I have found my birth family and thought of taking their last name, but I haven't. I am pretty attached to the name I grew up with. With my son I chose to hyphenate it and he is really proud that he has both his Mom and Dad's last names. I am not with his Dad anymore but I am glad I made that decision. And thanks for visiting!