My Father's Name

[originally written as a rant on my tumblr]

I swear to dog the next time I hear someone talk about a woman taking her husband's name as a contrast between "her husband's name" and "her father's name" I AM GOING TO BITE YOU. VERY VERY HARD. NOT IN THE SEXY WAY. 
Because this name that I have right now, the one that’s been on all my paperwork for twenty fucking seven years, THAT IS MY NAME.  Mine.  MY name.

My father shares it, yes.  As does much of his extended family.  This is true.  And it is also true that I share a last name with his family, rather than with my mother’s family.

But that
does not
make it

I have not been going around in the world for twenty-seven years answering to a borrowed name.

Every time I wrote it on a piece of paper for school,
every time I answered to it in roll call,
every time I responded to it at rugby practice,
every time I have entered it on DMV forms
and medical forms
and tax forms,
I have claimed it as MINE.

If (when, gods willing) Ozz and I get married someday, if I choose to change my last name*, it will be me choosing to exchange my name for his.  Not me giving up my father’s name in order to take on my husband’s name.

I guess what I’m saying is, don’t you fucking dare act like my name doesn’t really belong to me, just because it belonged to a man before me.  He doesn’t keep ownership of the name we share because I bear it, any more than he keeps ownership of my body or life because I bear his genetics.  When you act like it’s still *his* name, you’re also acting like I’m still *his* in some way.  And I may be slightly touchier than most about this because my father and I have some truly epic Issues, but you imply that I’m somehow *his* in any way beyond what allegiance I freely choose to give him as an independent adult in my own right, and I will fucking cut you.

We clear?

*Spoiler alert: I won't.  Or at least, it won't be a straight mine-gone-take-his-instead.  I don't even like his last name and it sounds terrible with my first name.   We'd been considering hyphenating, which would probably be my preferred choice.


Kasey Weird said...

I pretty much get your anger, but I do have one small nitpick: you're complaining about women who consider a marriage-related name change to be exchanging "[their] father's last name" for "[their] husband's last name". If people were insisting that *you* should have that relationship with your existing name, then that's totally fucked up, for sure. But if you're insisting that everyone should feel that the last name they inherited form their father is *theirs*, you're committing the same sin of insisting that your experience is the right experience.

That said, I also get your confusion about people dissociating form their names in that way. If it makes more sense, the decision to change my name (which was largely about dropping my "father's last name") wasn't because I didn't also think of it as *my* name - it was that I felt empowered by making the conscious action of changing my name as a symbolic way of distancing myself from someone that I feel no strong affiliation with.

But it's also caused me to have identity issues, because, you're right, answering to one name for decades and then changing it is a big deal. I've recently realized that my husband's last name has only really been a functional stop-gap for me - in order to really claim my own identity, I'm planning on taking a last name of my own choosing (one with it's own symbolic significance) instead.

Jadelyn said...

...if that's your interpretation of my post, you missed the point entirely. Like, by several miles.

I am in no way "complaining about women who consider changing their name from their father's name to their husband's name." In 90% of the post, I use specifically self-referential language - so I am most definitely talking about *my* experiences. At the beginning, the only place where I talk about anyone other than myself, I was talking about people-in-general talking about women-in-general changing names when getting married. "Someone" talking about "a woman". Where are you seeing "A woman talking about her own name" in that? I was talking about our collective cultural framing of the issue, the way we talk about it in the abstract. Not about how any individual woman feels about her own situation. I would never tell someone she shouldn't call it her father's name if that's how she feels about it, because that's her choice on an individual level. I'm criticizing a higher-level collective phenomenon here, not individual people's experiences.

I have no issue whatsoever with other people who are less attached to their family name from birth. If they don't identify with it, that's fine, that's not my problem and I could care less. Not my circus, not my monkey. I may not *get* it on a gut level, but I'm certainly not confused by it. I understand that women may have any number of reasons to change their name when they get married, from tradition (because some people just like that sort of thing), to the empowerment of making an affirmative choice, like you describe. And, I wish you well in taking on your own name - I'm a big fan of chosen names in general.

Just...next time, read what the post actually says before accusing me of insisting that my experience is the right and universal one?


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