Friday, February 19, 2010

lame name shame

I am really, really excited about getting married. I am excited about having a husband and being a wife and sharing everything and being partners. I really am.

But I am not excited about being named Sara Miller. Not at all. I love, love, LOVE my last name, and I am very conflicted about changing it. I've been thinking about it for a long time and I thought I would've had it all sorted out by now, but I still don't know what to do.

In college, I did a lot of reading about feminism and came to strongly identify with its philosophy. (I am not talking about man-bashing or female supremacy here, but actual feminism, which is really about equality, overcoming barriers that oppress both genders. Just wanted to clear that up.) I became aware of all the "rules" that society gives to women (and men) and the ways that I obey them without question. I began to realize how many of our cultural traditions are rooted in a patriarchal system that was based on the idea that women are property of men. I decided, among other things, that if I got married, I would not change my name. Why should I have to? I am not becoming property of my husband anymore than he is becoming property of me. And no one would ever think to expect a husband to change his name! Why not? Why does it have to be me? Especially when I have the coolest name in the whole world. It was settled.

And to a large extent, this is still how I feel. Except.... I want to be a mom someday. I want to have a family, and this seems to create name issues that I'd rather not deal with. If we have kids, whose name do they get? In most cases, they get the dad's name (which is just as logical as the mom's name, unless you give them different names, which I think is weird.) Do I really want to have a different name than everyone in my future family? Do I want to be a part of the Miller family but not really be a Miller myself? I'm not sure I feel great about this idea.

There is always the hyphen, I'm told. I could be Sara Montague-Miller. But that's a bit of a mouthful and will annoy people to no end, I'm sure. There's also the option of keeping my name and hyphenating the names of the (hypothetical) kids. But on top of the mouthful issue, this creates a whole new set of problems for when they get married. If I had a daughter named so-in-so Montague-Miller who was getting married, she would be having the same conflict I'm having now but with the added problem of a third last name! It's just a mess.

Because of all these kid-related difficulties (not that kids are coming along anytime soon, mind you), I have been trying to convince myself to just suck it up and change my name. It makes things easier for everyone.

But it's participating in a system that I truly dislike. And yet, more recently it has occurred to me that keeping my name does not really get me out of the patriarchy system at all. My name is Montague because of my dad, after all. Even my mom's "maiden name" (I am not a fan of this term) is there because of her dad. So no matter how far back I could theoretically go to find a name to change to, it would still be a "family name" only because it was the name of a man. So if I'm going to have a man's name, maybe it would make more sense for it to be my husband's name and not my dad's.

Except that my (almost) husband's name is Miller and my dad's name is Montague, and it is quite clear which one is better.

My dear brother, who is far more conservative than I am, and also quite an eloquent writer, tried to ease my mind by telling me that I will always be a Montague because "that branding is internal, and eternal." This may be true, but I remain jealous of his male privilege of being "allowed" (expected) to keep the external branding, too.

I guess it seems like I'm still leaning toward "sucking it up," but it's really hard letting go of being Sara Ames Montague. Is that weird?

I would love to know your thoughts.


customdesigns4ubynan said...

How about this? Take your husband's name to avoid confusion with children. but keep Montague as your professional name, like a stage name. My aunt's professional name is her 1st husband's name. She kept it because of her children, and it begins with an "A" so when she is in a show and the artists are listd alphbetically she is one of the first. Meanwhile, she did change her name to her 2nd husband's when she re-married. Keep Montague, that's how your "public" knows you, and be Miller privately.

BleuRoo said...

That is a toughie, and I don't know if there is a true easy answer. Custom has a good point, maybe using both. But I suppose that really depends on how separated your personal and professional lives are, ya know? What are the chances that your guy would take your last name? Heh, just a thought :)

Ladybug said...

Weird? ... NO. I have the same internal debate any time I sit down to think, or when someone brings it up. While it is a bit further down the road for me, this is where I am: I am not going to change my name... I, too, love my last name, even though Ryan's is pretty cool too. I will most likely answer to any Mr. & Mrs. address, but I will do nothing more than hyphenate.

If we do have kids, which we are still unsure of at this time, they will get his name due to the traditionalist in me and to prevent confusion for them... And because I respect the fact that he is an only child and has very few other family members to carry on the family name. I have a brother who will carry on my name (hopefully, in theory).

Moral of the story, I am not changing my name... less out of feminist principle, and more from the fact that I want to represent MY family in my accomplishments, and my "husband's" support along the way (with a hyphen). However, I cannot say that this is not a sore subject for us.

Lava Jewelry said...

Your married name is totally up to you. The important thing is that you consider your options and make the decision that feels right for you. For some reason, it bothers me when women change their name without thinking about their options.

I chose to hyphenate when I got married, but I generally just use my maiden name because that hyphenated name is soooo long...

Congratulations, by the way! :)

Amg-Arts said...

Firstly I like the sound of Sara Montague-Miller. I think it has a very classy ring to it, it sounds famous or of someone you should know!

When I got married in '08 I kept my surname I loved it too much and if there is ever kids I'm going to double barrell the name i.e the hypen.

Your surname is who you were born and I feel if you change that your losing part of your identity and disowning your own family and hence I kept my name took me long enough to like who I am and the name stays! :)

Ashley said...

When my mom got married, she dropped her given first name, (as she's always gone by a nick-name for her middle name--complicated, I know), and kept her middle name as a formal first name, her "maiden" name as her middle, and my dad's name as her last. My "maiden" name is Ashley "Mom's maiden name" "dad's last name." My mom was able to pass on her maiden name to me by using it as a middle name.

When I got married, I followed in my mom's footsteps, and kept my "maiden" name as a middle name, but that meant I dropped my old middle name (which I still love). I plan on (hopefully) using it as a middle, or even first name for a child sometime down the road. (Another factor in my name decision, was, unabashedly, my initials, which are now ABC. And I think that's awesome).

My sister, however, kept her first and middle, and dropped her/our "maiden" last name. I think as long as YOU are ultimately comfortable with your decision, and future hubby is not vehemently opposed, that what you decide is right for you...IS right for you. Perhaps your future daughter(s) will be forced with making a choice of 3 different last names, but at that point, the choice will be hers. And isn't that what feminism is about?