It’s been many moons since The Big Guy and I vowed to fight over blankets and morning routines. Sometimes I look back and shake my head over the things that were deemed important and necessary to have a wedding in the early 90s.
Although there was some small movement away from traditions, (we didn’t have a traditional receiving line – GASP THE HORROR!) we were pretty conventional. Except, when it came to my name.
I was drawn back to a conversation I had with my future in-laws about 25 years ago, after reading this article. It seems crazy to me that a quarter of a century after I hyphenated my name, there is still a debate about women taking their husbands’ surnames.
It never occurred to me NOT to take TBG’s name. I just didn’t want to have to give up MY name. For some men, the issue of a woman refraining from linking last names is too big a picture. They need to look at the root of the matter; you are asking someone to change what they call themselves. I was Sarah B for the first 21 years of my life. I was actually called that in classrooms when there was more than one Sarah and we had to tack on the first letter of the last name to distinguish between me and Sarah K. It was a small school and it we knew it was going to be a long year whenever we realized we were in the same class – the only two Sarahs.
I don’t recall a specific moment when I decided I was going to keep my name. I do remember thinking for a while before getting engaged, that there were no males to carry on the family name. It was important to me to carry that on, and to preserve my identity. I had also done some research into the family I was joining and learned that there were not one, but two previous Sarahs. I’d be Sarah The Third with this last name. I didn’t really think about my future kids, but figured we’d sort that out down the line. I know when I told my father of my plan, he was quietly pleased.
But the aforementioned conversation with my soon to be in-laws took place about six months before the wedding. There was a discussion about the service and how we would be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Big Guy. My oh-so helpful future brother-in-law, who knew of my plan, said, “That’s if Sarah takes TBG’s name.” Two pairs of eyes were on me.
“You AREN’T taking our name?” asked my future MIL with a look of disbelief on her face. My FIL didn’t speak but had an equally perplexed expression.
“No, it’s not that,” I tried to explain, “I’m actually going to hyphenate my name.”
“Did you tell TBG this?!” demanded his mother. I stated that we had talked about it, and that he was in complete support. Conveniently, TBG was not in the room for this charming exchange.
This was more than shocking to my future parents-in-law. I don’t think they personally knew of any other woman who had done this, and it was outside their understanding. I’m sure for them it was an insult, but they could have chosen to see it as a young woman who had a more independent mindset, wanting to demonstrate her commitment to her husband, while still being autonomous. It had nothing to do with how much I cared for my fiancé. In fact, the idea that he was supportive of this, and wasn’t threatened by it, made him all the more attractive to me. Gotta love an open-minded man!
On the day of our wedding we were introduced as “Mr. Big Guy and Mrs. Maiden Name – Big Guy.” An easy way to let our family and friends know how I was addressing myself.
When it was time to have children, the agreement was that they would only have their father’s surname. If they decided they wanted to have a hyphenated name, we would pay to change it. TBG agreed.
Traditionally, women were considered the property of men – that’s why her father would hand her off to her husband on her wedding day; a transfer of ownership – and with that was a name change. Times have changed and the issues surround the surname have become somewhat complicated. When a woman divorces, the dilemma is there – do I change my name back to my maiden name? Do I want to have the same name as my children?
In this era of women fighting for, and being recognized equally in most modern relationships, it seems a little dated to argue over what she calls herself. And a little archaic to insist she have the same moniker as her spouse. Welcome to the 21st Century!