Are you changing your name?

I’m starting to dread this question as our wedding day approaches because the answer is no.

When I answer no to this question, some people actually look offended as if my choice to keep my name insults them (kind of like the President Obama face to the left).

The decision to keep our last names the same, I say our because  a man should also consider it, was not an easy decision to come to. We talked over the topic many times, sent each other articles, proposed compromises, wrote out different versions of our names, but nothing was the right fit for both of us.

Some might say, by not “taking” my partner’s last name, I’m not symbolizing our unity or the new family that we are becoming. I can understand that point, but the changing of name is only one gesture you can make. I don’t need a new name to know Jimmy is my family; he’s been my family for a long time, just like my best friends are family. A last name doesn’t mean someone will treat you a certain way.

I won’t speak for my partner, but I have several reasons for wanting to keep my last name (for now). We have decided to revisit the issue when we have children. We might feel differently then. It’s always an open decision which makes me a little nervous as a Judger.

Here are my reasons for keeping Roberts:

* I have a lot of identity wrapped up in my name. My mother and father both still carry it, and I may be the only sibling to keep the name.

*I’ve published under my last name, so in some ways, it is my writer name.

* I’m not crazy about the hyphen, but I might get over it. Roberts-Ryals just seems like a lot to write.

* Last name changes are patriarchal to the core. I’m not saying you’re wrong if you changed your last name, believe me, I know how difficult the decision was. I still think about doing it myself, but I can’t escape  the fact that the structure is completely male-dominated.

*In my book, the definition of feminism is questioning gender norms, that’s it. Any gender norms for men or women. This is one of those instances where I have to question why males get to keep their last names, and I can’t come up with a decent answer.

This is a difficult post to write because inevitably someone may feel judged by it. I don’t look down on anyone’s decision about their last name. As I said, I don’t really like any of the options right now. The hard part is I really like Jimmy’s last name–Ryals. I could say, I’m getting all Ryaled up! Which would be really cool. I also know deep down it would make him extremely happy for me to take his name, but it would make me feel extremely compromised.

You have to make sacrifices for the ones you love, I know that. I’m just not sure if this is one I’m willing to make. Maybe someday we’ll come to a compromise or take on the hyphen. Right now, we’re just thankful that both our last names start with R. Our monograms are at least the same, so for right now, that’ll have to do.

On October 16, he won’t be any less my husband, family, or friend when they announce Jimmy & Megan, instead of Mr. and Mrs. James Ryals.

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10 thoughts on “Are you changing your name?

  1. Megan–

    You know I feel your pain. I think Phillip and I will be debating back and forth about this decision right up until the wedding day– hell, probably in whispers on the damn altar! It’s such a tough one. Everybody has an opinion, and people get pretty passionate. I know with my own family, my reticence to take Phillip’s last name is NOT popular. My older brother has threatened– 3/4-jokingly– to not come to the wedding and/or not accept our children if they’ve got the hyphenated Tobin-Howson surname. Granted, he’s mainly a bit of an ass about this stuff because he knows it annoys me. Also, he’s just a bit of an ass. Brothers. But I’ll admit, he can annoy me because I care about the decision. Why do I care? Partly because, like you said, I’ve published under Howson. Partly because I hate adhereing to traditions “just because” especially when the “because” is grounded in an (in my opinion) unhealthy and unfair social system. Namely, patriarchy. But really, I could still publish under any name I want to, and my feminist ideals have been known to weaken in the face of undeniable convenience. So the big reason, what really stops me, is that even though I like Phillip’s last name, and unfair traditions aside, I’d be happy to make such a symbolic step toward joining his extended family, I can’t because of OUR family– meaning Phillip’s and I’s hypothetical offispring, which we will hopefully have (at a much later date). Every time I’m tempted to go the conventional route, I find I just can’t because then (in my head, anyway) the system is perpetuated and years from now, should I have a daughter, she’ll be faced with the same abominably frustrating decision and have the same mostly crappy options. So. Uh. Whatcha gonna do?

    I like your all’s idea of sticking with your own names for now, and tabling the decision (if any further is to be made) for a later date. Wise, as always.

    Side note: Phillip, god-love-him, is actually not terribly opposed to taking my last name. But that’s the same problem reversed. Then too, his brothers– lovable, but brutish neanderthals in many ways– would be giving him forty years of shit-storm if he did.

    Side note: The possibility of anything finding its way to me addressed Mrs. Phillip Tobin makes me slightly nauseous. I should at least get a first name!

    • Emily, you are so wonderful. I ditto and ditto everything you said. Thank you for being in my situation and acknowledging its difficulty. I love Tobin-Howson and think you will brew your own beer one day (or at least encourage your kids too). Thank you, again.

  2. i think you should always do whatever works for you & yours – even if its not the norm! i always hated my maiden name & was THRILLED to take my husbands! but, had i had a last name that i liked, i probably would have been torn too. i will say that since having our son and officially being a “family” i do love that we all share the same name. 🙂 still, to each their own – i applaud you for not being afraid to be different!

  3. Megan,
    It is a tough decision, but keeping your own name is the only way to break a patriarchal pattern. When Judith and I were having Nathan, our compromise was that the last name would be Newlin if the child was a boy and Roberts if the child was a girl. Having been a Roberts all your life, I will be happy still to have a Roberts as a close relative.
    Love,
    Uncle Jim

  4. Megan,
    I changed mine, without question at the time, and then–a couple of years later, I DID question my choice.
    Now, I sign both.
    My maiden name means a lot to me.
    It is my Daddy’s name, I look like him, people know him.
    Meanwhile, Andy’s last name is one that was “adopted” b/c it sound more “American”
    when his Finnish Ancestors moved here…the real one was much cooler! 🙂
    Everyone has to make his/her own decision.

    • Thanks for the comment, Susan. I’m definitely open to changing mine some day. The last name isn’t a closed book. Jimmy and I love to debate, so I think this will be a fun one for a few years. 😉

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