When I became engaged over four years ago I was ecstatic! After a few days of excitement and absolute shock I began practicing the signature of my new last name-to-be. While my new name isn’t completely horrendous, it lacked the flow of my birth name. So, why not just keep my name? I would still be a married woman. After all, a name is just a name, right?
If my then fiancé was that hung up on me not “forsaking” my family name and “cleaving” to his, then he’d compromise to appease his bride. Isn’t marriage the canvas for the art of compromise? Well, I decided this would be our first test at marital compromise. Always a stickler for debate, I proposed that he take my name and I take his. The proposal was not an absolute exchange that called for either of us to abandon the name that had been with us forever, but simply exercised the convenience of the hyphen. That way I would inherit his name while keeping my own and he could share my family name as well.
Perfect right? He DID NOT think so. In fact, he pitched a fit. Immediately he opposed.
“I never heard of anyone doing that before! I’m a man. A woman is to take on a man’s last name!”
Says who? The fake proposal turned serious pretty quickly. I couldn’t recall reading any fine print in the Bible or the law that explicitly stated a woman was to unequivocally give up her family name. She is not obligated, but expected to obey tradition and willingly forsake her family name with no interjections and no questions asked.
Believe me when I say that I am not so selfish that I couldn’t submit to my husband-to-be and sacrifice a piece of me for “us.” I understood and respected the fact that marriage was built on the tenet that “two become one.” Zealously I looked forward to the oneness that marriage had to offer. I didn’t seek to rile anyone up or ruffle any feathers. I just wanted to know why, in 2008 with independent women mantra’s frequently being seen in literature, heard in music, and watched on television and every other facet of life, the union of “we” couldn’t be recognized with the bridging of family names on both sides of the marital structure?
Of course I was sad to mourn the death of my last name but I’m an 80’s baby accomplished at strutting the way us independent women strut while clutching the traditions that have been passed down from our Big Mama’s Mama. Nevertheless I forged on with one more question and based on my fiancés response it was an even more audacious and unnerving question: How did he feel about giving our future children a hyphenated last name linking both of our family names.
That question led to a series of befuddled facial expressions, perpetual head shaking, and muffled sentences all beginning or ending with, “crazy woman.”
My goodness, what was the big deal? We are entering into a union, yes? Yes. These will be our children, yes? Yes. So why was my half hearted proposal to detour from the custom creating such distress from the men in my life – my fiancé, his two friends, my father, my cousin? Albeit, my choice to embrace one name – his, I found it fascinating to see the pissed off reactions of all the men I asked.
For all of us women who have carried on the torch of sacrifice that has been passed down in our family for generations, is asking our husbands to make room for the hyphen too much to ask or should we just add the sacrifice of our name to the long list of things that we’ve given up all in the name of love?
Mrs. The Man (No hyphen. No interjections. No questions. Just plain ol’ Mrs. The Man)