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What's in a name?

November 6, 2015

I'm not a very opinionated person.  My common answers being, I don't mind, I don't know, whatever you think.  But there is one thing I have been very clear on for the last 5/6 years and possibly before that - that I had no intention of taking my future husband's surname.  


I don't know why I originally had this notion, I just knew inside me that it wasn't an option, that I wouldn't lose my name, and as far as I'm concerned, my identity.  


I got together with my now husband, over 6 years ago and relatively early on, when you have those kind of sussing out chats, marriage came up in conversation and I said that when I got married in the future, I wouldn't change my name.  Now at the time this was very hypothetical and the conversation was definately not about the two of us getting married, well in as many words, and I will be honest, I don't really know where that thought came from.  It was the first time I had ever said it but it felt so important, like a moral that I lived by.


I didn't really think about it again until one evening in London last year when he took out a ring and proposed.  I was in shock, it was a perfect proposal, I won't bore you with the details but very soon after, it all became a bit more real.  That thing I had said many years before, was actually going to have an impact now, this was going to become a bit more real.    


He had thought it was a joke, in fact, when we talked about that hypothetical conversation, he had said he'd never marry anyone that wouldn't take his name.  This was going to be an interesting real-life conversation...


It didn't come up for a long time, too long really, too many other things to plan and think about.  But when people started asking me about how I felt about becoming Mrs Abra, all I could do was reply and say, that wasn't my intention and why would they assume that I'd take his name?  Cue the awkward conversation with the boy.  


He was having none of it, I gave him my reasons, very good reasons as far as I was concerned:


  • Simply, why should I take his name?

  • I wasn't becoming his property (Did you know that the legal principle originated from the fact that  at marriage, a woman became her husband's possession. Her state of namelessness reflected this. In the words of one court in 1340, "when a woman took a husband, she lost every surname except 'wife of'")

  • I wasn't becoming part of his family anymore than he was becoming part of my family

  • We were becoming a family so why should it sound like I was joining his?

  • I'm 1 of 5 sisters

  • I liked my name

  • I have a career and have written a book, changing names now would not be a good move 

  • I simply didn't want to


He didn't really have any reasons why I should apart from, well I always thought whoever I got married to would take my surname.  Not a real reason as far as I was concerned.  We were at an impasse.


It took a Sunday night in a pub, a few pints down, 2 weeks before the wedding for us to come to an agreement.  I took a baby step in the right direction, I would take his name but double barrel, this way both of us were becoming a new family and keeping our identities and families history part of it but being our own entity.  But in the future, I would expect children to have my name, so the problem was still there, we would have a different name to him.  


After a lot of long awkward pauses and wondering how on earth we were going to resolve this in a more grown up way than rock, paper, scissors, he relented.  We would both change our names, we would both start a new surname that would be ours, our family's.


So my advice to other feminists out there who don't see why an 800 year old tradition needs to still stand, I'm with you #modernwoman, stand up for what you believe in and hopefully if your partner believes in you, they will think the same way. 


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