The wedding is over, the tan from your honeymoon has faded, and the Instagram pictures of you in your wedding gown move further down your feed. You're beginning to settle into newlywed life. Whether you made the decision to keep your maiden name or change it to your husband's last name, the choice is a very personal one, despite public debate on the topic. Of course, this entire discussion is fairly new — historically, a woman taking her husband's last name upon marriage wasn't even up for discussion.
As someone born in the '80s and married in her '30s, I felt a little opposed to tradition. While my now-husband and I were dating, throughout the months of being engaged, the thought never crossed my mind about my surname. My maiden name was one I have had for 32 years, and I never thought much about it. After we were married, I thought about my husband's last name; I liked his name better than mine because 1) phonetically it was easier to pronounce and 2) because of the nuances of having different names if we ended up having children together. Plus, I wanted to honour my husband so, simple enough, I would change my name.
I didn't really think about how the new name would affect me, but most importantly, how it would make me feel. The road to making a name change was one of the most frustrating, time-consuming, and irritating processes with an outcome that simply didn't match the workload. I never thought that a name would take such a prominent role in my life without much more meaning than something people refer to you as. Now, almost three years later, new name or not, I am who I always was — and that's exactly the point. Here's why I wish I hadn't taken his name.
Note: This is not an attack on anybody's decision to change your name. Whether you give your name up or not, I don't care, and I am not trying to convince you one way or the other. I am just sharing a personal decision and thoughts to open a discussion.
- Marrying someone does not mean I want to become him.
I married my husband because I love and respect him and because he would be a great life partner. Our balance as two completely separate individuals makes us an incredible team, so why is it that my last name had to be the same as his? Our vast differences make us stronger. And one of those differences, inconsequential as it may seem, is our names.
- My name is my identity.
My surname has been mine for the past 32 years and I've battled countless obstacles and celebrated so many life achievements with that name. I grew into a confident adult, lived in a foreign country, started a company; I built a life and a reputation I am proud of. My life is no less than my husband's — so why is the woman's name the one that is disposable? Not to say that those accomplishments and life goals are now meaningless because my name is different, but I feel that the name change was cleared the slate and my life "started over" as a new Mrs.
- My husband didn't even care if I changed my name or not.
One of the best parts about my husband is that he does not sweat the small stuff. He never pressured me to change my name and would have never been bothered if I never changed it. When I brought up the topic, he offered to take my surname, like reverse tradition. So changing my name to honour someone who did not care either way makes it all the less worthwhile.
- It's a paperwork nightmare.
If you enjoy filling out forms, waiting in never-ending lines, and spending countless hours going around to different government offices, then you are golden. But for the majority of people (even with those presumed "easy" name-change services), from driver's licenses to passports to titles, it is needless work. Oh, and the hassle of dealing with little things like transferring miles and points over, what a headache. Phone calls to credit card companies, insurance brokers, and even utility bills can get really daunting — the list feels never-ending! And I can't tell you how many forms of ID I brought around for months to prove my old self and then my new self.
- Learning a new signature.
Let's be honest, signatures can resemble a series of squiggles, but learning to scribble a new last name can feel really awkward. The hand moves slightly slower after your first name is signed and it almost feels like you completely forget how to write at all. Give it some time, a new squiggle will form. I'm still figuring how to keep all my new signatures the same.
- My surname will die with this generation.
My siblings and cousins are all female and if we played this according to only tradition, the surname would die with me and my sister. My parents immigrated to this country and their life struggles and everything they gave up to give me a great life lives in that surname, something I so easily gave up.
- The reference of "Mrs. New Name."
A lot of people revel in the sound of their "Mrs. New Name." For me, I simply was confused. I knew the name, but I couldn't get it through my head that they were referring to me. I think I even turned around a few times thinking people were referring to someone behind me. The adjustment period is probably similar to that of calling your husband "your husband" vs. fiancé or boyfriend — plus the term "Mrs" just aged me 10+ years.