I’m genuinely curious – why is it still normal for a woman to take her husband’s last name? It’s not just a hurdle in terms of paperwork, but a major shift in identity. How can you go decades considering yourself by one name, one family history, only to swap it with another? What’s the point?
Up until a few years ago, I never thought this would actually be an issue. Every woman in my parents’ generation, on either side, kept the same last name from birth to death, and nobody questioned it. Sitting around the dinner table, if we got a telemarketing call asking for “Mrs. [Dad’s last name]” or “Mr. [Mom’s last name],” my sisters and I would laugh, say “nobody lives here by that name,” and hang up. But that was it. That’s the only time anyone ever questioned my mom keeping her last name, at least in front of me.
So imagine my surprise when, after a few fairly long-term relationships with nice, modern-day guys, it became an issue every time someone wanted to become more serious.
When I first mentioned I’d keep my last name, and at the very most, consider merging last names, one boyfriend joked that we wouldn’t get married – he’d find another woman to take his last name, but still, somehow in his mind, see me? It, uh, didn’t work out.
My last boyfriend took serious personal offense to me wanting to keep my last name or merge, instead of just adopting his. He saw it as an insult, deciding that me not wanting his last name was a rejection of him, his family, and his heritage. Even after I explained that it was about me staying in touch with my identity, my heritage, rather than simply not liking his, he insisted. We argued about it in short bursts spanning several years.
Growing up, he hadn’t seen a family with multiple last names unless the family underwent divorces and remarriages. The kids and parents all shared the same last name, and there was no “confusion” over who belonged to whom. To him, me refusing to change my last name was a signal that I wasn’t that interested in building a life together, long-term. Meanwhile, him refusing to change his last name was simply the way things are done.
thought that was bullshit disagreed, but I suppose ultimately it didn’t matter.
Still, it’s something so many fellow Troll X-ers are experiencing. So what’s the point of changing a last name? The arguments I’ve heard are:
Don’t you want to share your new family’s history?
“Share” would be the operative word here. If it were truly sharing family histories, both parties would combine last names. However, it’s only expected for the woman to shed her premarital identity and tack on his. Men aren’t asked to lose or even alter their last names. Don’t they want to share their new family’s history? The response: “I am, just not by changing my last name.”
Ding ding ding. So why can’t I do the same?
It’s confusing for the kids if we’re not a family unit with one last name.
Nope. I grew up with parents who didn’t share a last name, and it never seemed confusing or dysfunctional. I knew my mom was part of the family without needing her to change her name to signal that she’s my mom. How is this even an argument? I don’t think any child would sit there rejecting their own parent over a name, just like no adult should reject their loved ones over a name.
I was given my dad’s last name, as were all of my siblings, but I don’t think it made any difference in how we perceived our family. If anything, I wish I had both last names, because I feel so connected to my mom’s side of the family and their history, too.
It’s emasculating to the man.
Ah. Now we get to the meat of it. This is the whole “my mom did it for my dad, and I expect to get the same treatment” argument. I don’t really understand how me not changing my identity is somehow detracting from his identity and masculinity.
I don’t see the connection between masculinity and a shared last name. I’m assuming any man asking a woman to change her last name for him has gone 18-30+ years without anyone changing their last names. Were they less manly then? Is the moment a spouse adopts your last name the modern day walkabout? I just don’t buy it.
What if the last name is awesome?
Ok. This one I’ll give to you. If the last name just totally tickles your fancy, there’s no reason not to adopt it if you want it. But that’s the point – it should always come down to what each of you wants for yourselves. Not what your partner thinks he or she needs from you.
As for undeniably awesome last names, Stonelake, Knight, and Miao come to mind. I mean, come on. Making people say “meow” when introducing you sounds like a joke that will never get old. “Hi Mrs. Meow! How’s Mr. Meow?” But even with a killer last name like Miao, I’m personally still not convinced I’d give up my last name for it.
If a man is demanding I change my last name for him, and is unwilling to change his for me, that’s a problem. Honestly, I genuinely think it comes down to some sense of entitlement or property ownership, like a toddler labeling his favorite toy. If you stick your last name on someone, sure, they kind of belong to you in a sense. But isn’t marriage enough of a tether?
Instead, I think there are only three options that really allow for fairness and equality:
- Everyone gets to keep their own last names
- Everyone gets nifty shared hyphenated last names
- Everyone make up, keep, or change whatever last name they want, not because it’s expected of them, but because they genuinely want to identify that way
If one of those options doesn’t work for you and your partner, one of you might just be an asshole.