My name is Buster Blonde (well, not really, but for the purposes of this post, let’s say that it is). Most people who know me, know that fact, and most of them call me by that name”¦or some derivation of it: Busty, Blizzle, Licensed & Blonded, etc.
I said a lot of things when I was younger. Like, that I wanted to be a country and western singer and tour with the Oakridge Boys, or that I’d never get tired of the movie “So I Married An Ax Murderer”, I said I’d wear my lucky red Chuck Taylors for every significant life event (I still have them but rarely pull them out of the closet), and I told my parents I’d being going to college far, far”¦far away. I changed my mind about a lot of these things. I didn’t change my mind about the name thing.
I respect tradition (some tradition, at least) and I respect the choice of other couples to change their names, I think there’s room for all different ways of doing things, and I think people make the choice to change or not change their names for a diverse array of valuable reasons, but for me, suddenly assuming another identity at the age of 29 didn’t make sense. And what has always made even less sense is that other people seem to care about what I do with my own name. I once got into a tiff with a high school boyfriend, who I, at 17, had absolutely no intention of marrying, about the name issue. The topic of my initials came up and he made the comment that my initials were cool and it’d be too bad that I’d have to lose them some day. “Why? I won’t lose them,” I think I was genuinely confused. “Well, what about when you get married?” he asked. “What about it? I’m not changing my name.” He was instantly annoyed, and this baffled me. The issue could not have had less to do with him, especially since we weren’t even in a serious relationship. I wondered then how someone else’s last name could offend a person not involved at all.
But as I grew up, I began to wonder what affect this choice would have on people who are involved? Like a partner, for example. Occasionally the name topic would come up, especially as friends began to reach coupling age. “The person who’s right for me,” I repeated frequently, “won’t be bothered by my keeping my name.”
My mate and I have known each other since college. We didn’t have our eyes on lifelong partnership when we first met, but I know the name change conversation came up through the course of our friendship and dating. Never once did he find my plan to keep my name weird or wrong. He got it. You might think it was easy for him to have that opinion when we weren’t seriously dating, but what about once we were? What about when we got engaged? Even the most non-Neanderthal man can, unfortunately, be prone to a little chest pounding. I wondered a little bit about whether it would bother him once it was a reality. We never really talked about the name issue after our engagement, because it had always been there. He knew my position and had already expressed his understanding. Wedding cards and gifts began to arrive, including a check from a great-aunt written out to my first name and my mate’s last name. I chuckled a little bit. It didn’t offend me, especially coming from someone from another generation, but since the theoretical had become reality, I asked my mate, “Does it bother you that I’m keeping my name?” I’m not sure I wanted an answer”¦. “No,” he said, easily. “I don’t want you to. Your name is part of who you are. I love Buster Blonde. You don’t want to change it, and I don’t want you to.” My heart swelled and all was right with the world. I’m thankful my mate understands, as I hope others who know us do, that I don’t love him or his family any less than do women who’ve married and taken their spouses’ names.
After our wedding, my mate and I continued to get cards addressed to us both in his name. I continued to chuckle. “It’s fine,” I thought, “people will come around, these are honest mistakes.” And most people did come around. I also made it a personal resolve to be very respectful of other people’s names. I’d ask friends how they wanted to be addressed before making assumptions.
Everything was working itself out, until about six or so months after we married. Friends and relatives are one thing, if they don’t know whether you’ve changed your name they’re left to guess, and many people will default to the more traditional option. But businesses? That’s a whole other story. This is 2010, I expect the companies that do business with me to respect my privacy and my choices.
It started with the bank. How would I cash these checks that had been made out to me in my husband’s last name? “Well, we should have your married name on file, so that you can conduct business under that name when needed.” OK. This made sense. I guess. It’s an accommodation of necessity. And so what that they now occasionally send mail to the legal fiction that is my first name plus my husband’s last name, that will happen, right?
But what about businesses I’ve never even spoken to about my name? What about companies that lifted my information from a wedding registry and began sending special offers to me in my spouse’s name. OK. I guess that’s fine. It’s spam. I sometimes get mail addressed to Bumster Blonde. Mistakes get made.
But where does the line get drawn? For me, I’ll tell you where. I have had the same auto insurance policy in my name for about a decade. A year or so ago, I added my husband, using his actual, legal name and my actual, legal name to the insurance policy so we could save money. Simple, right?
Apparently not. I recently called the insurance company to make a change to my account and they couldn’t find me in the system. “I’m sorry, spell your name again please”¦.no, you’re not here. What’s your husband’s name?” What’s my husband’s name?! It’s my danged policy, this isn’t 1920, I’m not obligated to do business under my husband’s name. Whatever, I provided his name. “Ohhhhh, here you are!” And there I was, under my husband’s name. My policy, my husband’s name.
The insurance company, having discovered that we were married, via our having added a homeowner’s policy (a home we, by the way, purchased using our actual, legal names), took it upon themselves to change my name for me. Thanks.
It’s not that big of a big deal. That’s what you might be thinking. But to me, it is. It’s not that I’m offended by my mate’s surname. I love him and where he came from, I love his family, of which I’m proudly a part, and I was obviously traditional enough to get hitched, but it’s wrong that other people, complete strangers, regularly whittle away at my choice to do what I want with my name.
Some of you who’ve taken your mates’ names might be thinking, “I sometimes get mail by my old name, so what, it’s the same thing.” But I don’t think it is the same thing. It’s different to be accidentally addressed by your former name, than it is to be addressed by a name you never had that someone else assigned to you.
My point isn’t to try to convince people to keep their names of origin or to imply that it’s better to keep your name than to change it, you should have the choice to do what you want with your name and others should respect what you choose. My point is, I do my best to not foist my ways onto others and I expect the same courtesy in return, especially in a business setting. And please, by all means, if I’m calling you by the wrong name, tell me! I’ll make it right.
By the way, it was my dear husband who called the insurance company to make sure they had my correct name on file. I reeeeally like that guy.
*This rant has been brought to you by Allstate Insurance Co. in cooperation with Chase Bank.*