This Women’s Lib Thing has Gone Too Far!

Ten years ago I became a new person. Really. I changed my identity. I became a totally new person. The woman changing my name on my driver’s licence thought I was crazy and strange and I made her do it.

I recently read Molly Caro May’s piece on her daughter’s last name and it reminded me of my decision to change my last name. It all started when I went and got married 13 years ago today.

wedding photo_NEW

 

Laura and I had a few conversations about what to do about her name when we got married. She wasn’t sure about taking my last name and giving up hers. She didn’t want to give up her identity and assume a new one by taking my name. At the same time she wanted the world (or at least the occasional person) to know that we were married. There was of course the question of last names for kids if we each kept our pre-marriage last names.

I told her that I was proud of my family and where we had come from. My great-grandparents were illiterate – at least at the time they got married. Their marriage certificate has an ‘x’ for their signatures and indicates that it is the “mark of…” On the other side of the family my grandfather grew up in a poor boys home and went on to be a municipal politician with a building named after him in Toronto. My grandmother survived the blitz in London during WWII. I had a great-aunt who was a dressmaker for the then princess Elizabeth and another who was one of the first women to do door-to-door sales. All of my grandparents and my mum immigrated to Canada from the UK and made a life here. I am proud of all those who came before me and what we have collectively accomplished.

I told her she should also be proud of her family. At the same time that my ancestors were marking an X in lieu of their signature on their marriage certificates, Laura’s great-grandmother, grandmother and great-aunt were getting an education at Vassar College in the US. All of her grandparents also went to university. Her family in North America originated with a 16 year old son of a Welsh coal miner who immigrated to the US on his own. Also much to be proud of in my new family.

I told Laura that I didn’t want her to feel obligated to give up her name and take mine if she didn’t want to. Laura did some research and discovered that she could add my name to hers without hyphenating it and use either last name or both. She decided to do that. I opted not to change mine by adding her name. It was for a kind of foolish and vain reason. Adding her name to mine would have given me the name of a comedian who had recently passed away and I didn’t want to have the same name.

After a few years I decided that my reasons were weak and that we were a family. I decided that if she was going to add my name to hers then I could add her name to mine. This was my anniversary present on our third anniversary to her. She was a little confused to find my driver’s licence in her card though…

The thing with men changing their names is that it is still unusual and unexpected. For the most part everyone was great. The bank had no issues, the credit card company was fine with it too. The woman at the Ministry of Transportation office, however, was a totally different story. I went to change my name on my driver’s licence and presented my marriage certificate as I had in other places and she was confused about what I wanted to do. She didn’t understand why I would be changing my name. I insisted that I wanted to change it and that I did not require a legal change of name in order to do it. I indicated my wife had done the same thing three years previous.

She decided she would need to speak to her supervisor so she walked over with my marriage certificate and after five or ten minutes she came back and with a great exhalation of breath said she could do it, but would require my marriage certificate in order to do it. I pointed out that she was holding just such a document. So she set about making the change she said

“I don’t know, sometimes I think this women’s lib thing has gone too far.”

I refrained from pointing out that she was in fact a woman.

Ten years later I remain a double-barrel name, as does Laura and now our three girls. None of us have a hyphen and we like it that way.

Have you changed your name or your kid’s name or considered changing it? What inspired you to make the change or prevented you from doing it?

Did anyone judge you for your decision?

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About DadGoesRound
I am a Canadian father of three girls and blog about Fatherhood, Kids and Current Affairs at www.dadgoesround.com

5 Responses to This Women’s Lib Thing has Gone Too Far!

  1. Jennifer McCollum says:

    Thanks for a great post! 14 years ago when we got married, my husband changed his last name to mine. For us, the reason was complicated and simple. Neither of us had great fathers and therefore were not overly attached to our last names. And I found myself questioning the tradition of the female being required to change he name. We agreed we would use my last name. He also got resistance. In his case it was from the social security office. Something that women do every day…but when he came in, they were baffled by his request. To this day, I still have people ask me if I married a cousin or just happened to meet someone with the same last name. Neither of us have ever regreted our choice.

    • DadGoesRound says:

      We had friends who got married a couple of years after us in a similar scenario. He had no relationship with his father, but carried his last name. He was also not a fan of his last name in that it was one that he was always having to spell for other people. He took his wife’s last name and ran into some challenges changing his name.

      In our case, most people now assume that I always had a double last name and that my wife took my double name. The interesting thing for me that I realized when writing this blog is that while my original resistance to adding my wife’s last name was about not wanting to lose my uniqueness by taking a famous name, I actually now have a totally unique name. Before adding my wife’s last name I could do a search for myself online and find several other people around the world with the same name. Now a google search results in results that are only me (of course that eliminates any plausible deniability for me). Now whenever someone uses just my bachelor name it feels incomplete and I much prefer my married name.

  2. Andrea HR says:

    Great post Chris.

    As you know, I added Mike’s name to my own. I felt that I was a part of his family now as well, and wanted to share their name, but didn’t want to lose my own name/identity/association with my previous work and degrees/etc. Mike didn’t want to change his name, and that was fine by me as he had no expectation for me to change mine. Surprisingly, my usually very traditional father was the one most surprised by the addition to my name. Probably all that women’s lib stuff I spout all the time.

    Like Laura, I liked the idea of using both interchangeably, but I also find it strange now when folks call me by one or the other. The worst part of the double name is the inclination of others to add a hyphen. No hyphen!!

    • DadGoesRound says:

      We also have the hyphen/no hyphen problem. Some people insist on adding the hyphen and some organizations cannot add a double name last name into the system without a hyphen. Sometimes we allow the hyphen and sometimes we smash it together into one name with two capitals. I also have the problem of people assuming the first one is a middle name. Names are a funny thing and it seems to confuse people when you don’t do it the same way as everyone else.

  3. Lisa W. says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I am fascinated by names: the meaning of names and the choices behind names. When Brian and I were married, I decided to take his last name because of immigration purposes. I wanted it to be clear that we belonged together as a family unit. (This brings up another sore point, that many people don’t use the word “family” with regard to a couple. For example, “When are you going to start a family?” Well, we’re not going to raise children but we still ARE a family!)

    My last name was also a smooth transition for me personally because I felt it was easy to go from “Jackson” to “Wilson”. Very similar. I only include my maiden name on my Facebook page so people from my past can still find me. — Lisa J-W.

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