Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Name Game

It has been ::ahem:: brought to my attention that perhaps I've gone off on a bit of a tangent in here in blogland.  I promise it's not all shoes and shiny things that occupy my mind (though they do have a place, mind you).

Anyhow, as I wade through this whole wedding planning process, I have approached the question of tradition (as in, "But everyone throws a bouquet/cuts a cake/wears a white dress, so you just have to."  "Why?"  "Because it's a wedding, you just do.") with thoughtfulness, attempting to weigh the value of the tradition against the personal importance of the custom.  Sometimes something is important because the tradition adds a certain feeling to the act.  For instance, I am wearing a white dress because it feels bridal.  I took the time to learn about the history of the custom and found that contrary to popular belief, white is not symbolic of purity and virginity (side note: brides in past centuries often wore blue wedding gowns as that was supposed to represent purity).  The custom of white gowns was popularized by Queen Victoria who wore white because she had some lace she wanted to use!  I decided my clothing choice had nothing to do with my moral virtue and mostly with the emotional construct created by my society that I chose to participate in.

All that said, being married is more than getting married.  There's all the day-to-day stuff that actually makes up a marriage.  Those days are influenced by all sorts of things.  You, your spouse, your society, your opinions.  Many decisions you make as you enter into a marriage are reflected throughout its duration.  In that light, my biggest decision is what to do about my name.

Here's the sitch:
  • Ari doesn't care one way or the other if I take his name, but doesn't want to take mine.
  • I already have two last names, Momslastname and Dadslastname.  And I have a middle name.
  • In my generation of cousins (my sister and I and my aunts' kids) there are no boys to carry on the Dadslastname.  I have no idea if Dad cares about this fact at all.
  • My mom kept her name, so there's no pressure from my parents from that standpoint, one way or the other.
  • I don't really love my last name, or Ari's, I'm kinda ambivalent at all.
  • That said, I'm picky about names when I can pick.
  • I don't want to hyphenate.  Or have five names (It's hard enough to fit on official forms as it is.  My driver's license can't fit even three.)
  • I really really want to have the same last name as the rest of my nuclear family.  To me, it's like a team, a unity thing.  I'm not worried about having a different name from my kids (though the fact that the kids get the dad's name when the mother gives birth is a whole other can of worms I plan to leave open for another time), I just like the idea of having a common identity with the person I chose and the people we will (eventually, hopefully, someday in the faraway future) make.
The easiest way out would be to take Ari's name.  People are assuming I will, and to do it would certainly simplify many things.  But the feminist in me absolutely hates that idea and turns into kicking, screaming, protesting child when I consider it.  It doesn't make me feel more wifely to give up my name (I realize that might be crucial, that I view it as giving up my name rather than taking his.  Though I do think that given the choice to select the name I assumed would assuage this discomfort.)  What's important to me is having the same name, not that the name be his.  And frankly, I resent the gender hierarchy in Western society that dictates that the male's name take import over the female.  We don't live in a time where women are their husband's property (thank goodness!), so why continue this archaic tradition?

What I would be most happy with (and to merely say happy is an understatement) is for both Ari and I to create or select a new name together and assume that name when we get married (I wouldn't care if he kept his last name as a middle name, but I likely wouldn't, see the second-to-last bullet point).  He has begrudgingly agreed that if I come up with something "totally awesome" he'd "consider it."  He really doesn't want to change his name.  I can't say I really blame him for feeling that way.  His name is part of his identity and he was raised with the societal patriarchy of names.  I know I should respect his feelings, but I don't know how to navigate this when he and I feel so differently.  I suppose this truly is our first foray into marriage.

So here are the options:
  1. Keep my name
  2. Take his
  3. Ari and I both take some new assumed name

Any way it works out, I really want to decide the matter.  It's really stressing me out (though it likely shouldn't).  But I also really want to know how to address the return labels for all this wedding crap (save the dates, invitations, etc.) we have to mail.

So please, what do you think I should do?  Alternatively, got any awesome suggestions for my new last name?


  1. First of all, about the addresses: can you just address them with your address? I.e., is a name necessary? If so, could you simply use your first names?

    K and I used our first names on the invites (if we used names at all, I don't even remember any more), and were announced to the reception as "the new couple, Kyle and Katie". No last name mentioned.

    Choosing what to do with last names is certainly a kettle of fish. I get flack for having taken Kyle's last name, and sometimes I regret it, but only because I chose to take a name that everyone mispronounces. Always. However, for me, taking his last name was the biggest way for me to show the world that this relationship is *the* focus of my life, over anything else. It wasn't about any sort of patriarchy or anything, but unity.

    Feminism: it's about choice. Being able to choose. So if it is your choice to take a different last name, then that is what you are doing, as a feminist. If the last name is made up or his, the point is that it's your choice.

    Making up a name: I have friends who made up their last name. They chose something that was meaningful for the two of them, and went with it. I've also heard of people who have combined names to make it work... but that's something that's been discussed on the WTS thread, so I won't say any more on it.

    Is the onus entirely on you to come up with a last name? Can Ari be involved?

  2. Ari can be involved, but since he doesn't really want to do it, his help is going to be minimal. I know people have talked about it on WTS, I just felt like it didn't solve my own worries about the thing, so I just wanted to vent a bit. But thanks for your take!