Nine months ago, I married a great guy. A month later, I took his last name. Now, I'm taking my maiden name back. We're not getting divorced or separated. I don't love him any less than I did before. In fact, this decision really has nothing to do with my husband. Changing my name felt like something I should do at the time, so I did it. But ever since the minute I changed it, I've questioned my decision. Life felt strange with this new name that was not mine. Would it be crazy to change it back?
I actually like my maiden name. I feel attached to it. It represents my identity. My husband's name is more complicated to say and to spell than mine. And on top of that, it doesn't feel like MY name. Why would it? I had another name for 26 years of my life before marriage and I've made so many accomplishments with my maiden name! I have a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and 3 professional licenses related to my degrees that were all completed under my maiden name. Plus, I work in a school, where staff members are typically referred to by their last names. Being called this new name by my students and their parents felt so strange and unnatural. To take this new strangeness even further, as part of my job, I sign a lot of papers. I had finally perfected my old signature! Now I had to learn a new one? I don't even know how to make a cursive F!
The final disadvantage I reflected upon is huge for me. I strongly believe in equality for all people. Everyone should be treated equally. End of story. I believe in this to a fault, and as a result am very sensitive about any possible threat to women's equality. I find sexism in most situations and my reactions can be extreme. A perfect example of this occurred a few months ago. My husband mentioned casually that he had put away the dishes. This escalated into a huge fight. How dare he assume he deserved a pat on the back for completing such a small and inconsequential task? I complete household chores all the time and don't feel the need to announce their completion to my husband. He clearly thought he deserved praise because women are supposed to do the dishes, and felt he went above and beyond by completing a chore that would never be expected of a man. Obviously, my husband believed that women are inferior to men and should thus be responsible for washing and putting away the dishes. Of course, my husband defended himself. He never meant that dishes are a woman's responsibility. But that was the problem, I told him. Inequality is so ingrained in our culture that people don't even realize it when it's right in front of them!
Obviously, if I cared that much about a harmless comment made by my husband, I also care about the expectation that a woman should take her husband's name. Some people might say that this has nothing to do with equality or sexism or feminism. But is a man expected to take his wife's name when he gets married? No, of course not. Historically, the reason women changed their names is because they became their husbands' property after marriage. I'm well aware that this isn't the reason many women still take their husbands' names today. Which leads me to the pros of sharing a name with my husband.
Sharing the same name as my husband could symbolize us becoming a new family. It could make us feel like a team. Plus, if we have kids one day, wouldn't it be great if we all share the same name? We would all be a little family and no one would be confused about who the parents are and if the parents are married or not. Another advantage of taking my husband's name is that his name is much more unique than mine in this country. He is from Iran, and his name is not very common here. On the other hand, my last name is much more common. I can't even get a good email address because they're all taken by other Alex Hubbards and Alexandra Hubbards.
Sure, these are all decent reasons to consider keeping my husband's name. But after reflecting a little more, are these really true advantages that I couldn't also have with my maiden name? When my husband and I got married, we started our own family and joined into a partnership. We are a team. Why do I need to share his name for us to feel like we're partners? And if we do have kids some day, sure, it would be nice for us all to share the same name. But again, do we really all need to share a name to feel like a family? I'm pretty sure that after carrying a child for 9 months and then birthing that child, I will feel pretty connected to him or her regardless of what our names are. Changing my name isn't a requirement to feel an attachment to my kids. But, now that I mention it, why should a child take its father's name anyway? Isn't the mother the one who did all the work? But don't even get me started on that topic. And I don't even know if I want kids! Why would I change my name for hypothetical kids who may never be born? And speaking of uniqueness, I'm already unique! Why do I need a different name to prove it?
I obviously understand the reasons why some people change their names because I did it myself. But to be honest, I'm embarrassed and surprised that I ever felt like I had to change my name in the first place. Making that decision for myself doesn't align with any of my beliefs or goals in life. I'm also embarrassed that I live in a world where women are expected to take their husbands' names without question. During my engagement, people would ask me, "What will your new name be?" Why is that even a question we feel like women should be asked? Men are never asked that question.
Some people may interpret this essay as a criticism against women who take their husbands' names. I assure you it's not. I don't look down on women who do decide to change their names. It is a very personal and individual decision that is different for everyone. I do wish more women would question the tradition of taking their husbands' names rather than just accepting it as a fact of life. But we shouldn't feel pressured to decide a certain way. We should be able to make decisions that are right for us without any expectations being placed on us. If you want to change your name, change it! If you don't, don't! If you change your mind and want to take your old name back, do it! Who cares? No matter what, some people will disagree with you. Some people will read this and think that I am wrong to take back my maiden name. But guess what? I don't care.
In a perfect world, I wouldn't have changed my name and then changed it back. I worried a little about hurting my husband's feelings by taking back my maiden name. And the process for name changes that are not due to marriage is way more complicated than name changes that are due to marriage. And it costs money! But to me, it's worth it. Is my husband mad? No. My husband is a wonderful, supportive guy who wants me to be happy and make decisions for myself, as all husbands should.