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  1. (You and I have had convos about this but, in the spirit of blog posts and comments for readers who don’t know us …)

    I struggled with the same decision as Christine, and in the end decided to keep my last name. Some of the things I will regret are the very same things she lists as swaying her decision: Being known as one family ‘unit’, sharing the same last name as your children. (I’m still annoyed that children automatically get the name of the father … really I’d love to split our names between our kids, but I have a feeling my dear fiance wouldn’t care for that!) But except for the kids factor, it was an easy choice, for me, to keep the name I’ve had. There’s a weird calculus, unique to every woman, to decide which path she will regret the least. Actually I suppose some women never think about it, and default to changing (American women) or not changing (Singapore/Chinese women). But more and more women are struggling with it.

    The thing that makes me mad is the fact that only *women* have to struggle with this (huge, life-changing!) decision. Men keeping their names is the default in (almost?) every culture. The one difference is gay and lesbian couples, who have no ‘tradition’ to fall back on and have to work it out together, as a couple. This is what I think the standard should be–making a decision as a couple, not one person resting on tradition and the other struggling. We have a long way to go before that happens, though!

    • thedutchinesecouple@gmail.com

      Thanks for sharing, Jenni! As always, you bring up lots of interesting points. One thing that really struck me in your comment was, “There’s a weird calculus, unique to every woman, to decide which path she will regret the least.” It sounds so “unmagical”, but it describes my feelings so well. “Which path will I regret the least”, versus, “Which path am I excited for”. It’s why I waited so long to make the final official change, because there was no perfect solution. In that vein, I do realize, like you mentioned right after that, that for other women the decision is easy. It was much easier for all of my sisters, who never contemplated anything other than taking their husband’s name. (Only one of them did what I did, and that was to take her maiden name as a second middle name. Her first and original middle name are much shorter than mine though, so she avoided all of the problems I had.)

      As for the tradition of women changing their name, when I was researching this I found it so interesting that it was really only the countries that were under British rule that have this tradition. In many European countries, the woman keeps her name legally. Or like our awesome Nordic friends, a child becomes “Johnsson” or “Berthasdaughter” etc. In many Hispanic cultures, the child takes both the mother’s and the father’s name, so that they are First Name-Middle Name-Father’s Name-Mother’s Name.

      Here in America, however, I’ve heard/read plenty of stories in which the fiance would be hurt and upset if his wife-to-be didn’t take his name. It’s tricky, because we know that objectively his hurt feelings are misplaced. Yet I can sympathize because his culture has told him that a wife takes her husband’s name to represent her love and devotion to him. So, subjectively, he feels that she doesn’t love him fully or something like that. Culture is tricky that way…I see it kind of like how bikinis are “okay” at the beach but “not okay” at a high class restaurant. Culture dictates. (What adds to the humor is that last names are a fairly recent invention in history, so it’s a tradition that some people place a lot into when actually, it hasn’t been around all that long.) I think it will just take time for the cultural norms to shift—though I imagine the shift will be faster in big cities where people are exposed to various ways of doing things, and slower in the small towns where everybody follows the same tradition.

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