A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to get married. I cannot believe the degree to which people think they are entitled to judge and offer completely unsolicited opinions. I’m not talking about my family and friends. That I expected; moreover, they care about me and are a part of my life. But even passing acquaintances and near-strangers feel the need to inject themselves into the situation.
What do you mean there’s no ring? He needs to get you a ring!
January, you mean this January? Are you crazy/stupid/knocked up or something?
What do you mean you’re having the ceremony at the same place as the reception?
Your boss is officiating? Really? That’s so weird.
You mean your brother is your fiance’s best man, right? You’re a girl! He can’t stand on your side!
What do you mean you’re wearing sneakers? You can’t wear sneakers to your own wedding!
All of it is pretty ridiculous, but it pales in comparison to the variety and vigor with which I get unsolicited opinions about whether I should change my name. Now, I have a strong opinion about what is right for me on this subject, but I honestly couldn’t care less what other women decide for themselves. This is 2010, and here in the US, women have a lot of choices. Gone are the days where you automatically became Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName, when my grandmother replacing her middle name with her maiden name was positively scandalous. But it seems no matter what women choose, someone has to put on their judgey face about it. You only need to look at some of the comments on this post on A Practical Wedding to see it, and that’s on an explicitly “safe” post on a blog full of… well, practical people.
I am planning to keep my last name, for a variety of reasons. Yes, it’s a feminist thing, but it’s more than that. My name is my identity, and while I am excited about moving forward in life with my soon-to-be husband and growing together, I have also been this person with this name for twenty-nine years. I’m not MyFirstName HisLastName; that’s actually his grandmother. I’m me.
I also work in politics, and for better or for worse, your name is your currency in this business. I am far enough along in my career that I have invested quite a bit into building up that currency. I don’t want to play the one-name-professionally, one-name-privately game, and my name is long enough that I don’t want to hyphenate it for practical reasons.
As odd as it sounds, part of my desire to keep my name is because I am proud of my ethnicity. Yes, I’m third generation and don’t speak the language, but it is something that is culturally significant to both my mother’s and father’s families. I appreciate my fiance’s family heritage, but I do like that someone can hear my name and immediately know where my family is from. That sounds silly to a lot of people, but coming from a city that has a rich ethnic history and living in this particular ethnic neighborhood, it is something that’s important to me.
Also, I just really like my name. Well, my first name was the most common name for many, many years and is a dime a dozen. But my last name is quite pretty. It looks nice, it sounds nice; it’s a really great name. Fiance agrees but has no interest in taking my name. He’s the last male in his family’s line, and we agreed that in the unlikely event that we have hypothetical children, they will take his name. And I am ok with that.
Now, this is what works for us. How it affects anyone else is beyond me, particularly those people outside of our family, but that hasn’t stopped people from commenting on it every chance they get. I’m a lesbian shitass for not following tradition and threatening my husband’s role as The Man by not taking his name. And what about The Children that we may or may not have anyway? The school will think they come from a Broken Home. Or GOOD FOR ME, said with a sigh of relief, like it would have been absolutely abhorrent to do anything different. Or else I’m a bad feminist for not saddling these same hypothetical children with an eighteen letter, hyphenated last name to acknowledge our blended relationship. And on, and on, and on, and on.
Surprisingly, my own family cares little about this. They love me, they love him, they’re just happy we’re making it official after “living in sin” for two years. It’s those same near-strangers who seem to be the most vocal about it. I clearly have no problem talking about this topic, at length. I think the reasons why women choose to keep their names, hyphenate their names, change their names, or make up new names alltogether are endlessly fascinating in their variety and which factors they find to be most important and how their potential spouses feel about their choices. But I just don’t get the Judgey McJudgerson attitude that others pass around without even considering that they’re talking to a real person with real feelings and needs.
So when these people give me the third degree, I smile, answer calmly, and silently remind myself that they’re not invited.