Monday, June 23, 2014
Why I Chose to Change my Name
Recently, a close friend underwent the Social Security obstacle-course-dance of having her name legally changed to include her husband's surname. While texting me from the waiting room, she remarked that the act of legally changing her last name made her feel not sad, not hesitant, but just funny in a way that the marriage itself--that tumultuous moment of vows, bells, and bows-- did not. Hearing her remark, I had to admit: yes, that's so true. For me, the legal name change was a moment of excitement, exhilaration, and some sadness.
Talking to my friend made me ask myself: Why did I chose to change my name?
In the past, a woman changing her name after marriage was a foregone conclusion. It was expected. The woman, in a sense, "belonged" to her husband; her identity was subsumed by his identity. According to this report by the Huffington Post, up to 80% of women between the ages of 40 and 60 elected to adopt their husband's last name. Recently, more women have elected to keep their own name, but the figure of name-changers still stands at roughly 65% of women between 20 and 30. While closer to half-and-half, the "name-changers" still dominate by about fifteen percent in my generation. Women who held their "maiden" name cited reasons ranging from college degrees and professional titles to nostalgia to preferring the flow of their original last name to defiance of antiquated customs to simply hating going to the Social Security and DMV offices.
So why did I choose to change mine? Believe it or not, I've had several people ask me this question, some with genuine curiosity, others with flinty-eyed scorn at my apparent cow-towing to custom. Since talking to my recently married friend, I decided to take a moment, sit down, and really ponder, once again, my reasoning for choosing the last name change. Believe it or not, it was a decision I weighed very heavily, and today, I want to share my reasons with you.
1. I love my husband.
Now let me start off by clarifying that I by no means am implying that women who choose NOT to change their names love their husbands any less than I love mine. Not at all. Here's what I am saying: I believe that an important foundation to a strong, lasting love is to love your partner more than you love yourself. I'm proud of my husband. He is an amazing, strong, brilliant, confident, and conscientious man. He and I truly see each other as partners in life. He doesn't lord himself over me or exercise some supremacy of manhood. No. Obey and summit were not in our vows. Respect, however, was. He respects me, and I respect him. I love his name because its a part of who he is. As his partner, I don't mind being called by his name, because I'm proud to know him and be part of his family. He is mine, and I am his--our names are a physical and legal representation of that bond.
2. I didn't have any professional titles or higher degrees, at that point.
This point is pretty straight-forward. Although I do plan to someday attain my doctorate degree, I don't have it yet. So, I didn't have to worry about my new name not matching the name under which I received that major milestone. Had I been a Dr. Black, I probably would have kept my original last name if for no other reason than to avoid hassle!
3. Hyphenation sounded odd.
I strongly considered this alternative. However, "Abigail Claire Black-Hobbs" was just too many single-syllable words strung together. To be honest, I just didn't like the flow.
4. It was a new chapter, a new beginning, a new me.
I didn't view dropping "Black" as a loss of identity or self. Instead, I saw it as an acknowledgement of the monumental life decision and vows I had made--a new door to open, a new path to take, a new facet of my identity.
All that being said, I strongly believe that every woman should make this decision for herself. My reasons are not another's reasons. They're my own. It's a big decision: you forever change your legal identity. I would be lying if I didn't admit that "Abi Black" being a name that now exists legally only on paper and in memory didn't make feel nostalgic and somewhat sad. Yet, at the same time, I love who I was, am, and will become. And there's no telling what the road ahead will bring.
What about you? Any thoughts on this issue?