As a former 23-year-old divorcée, I always come back to the same issue: would I ever change my name for a man again? I live in the Midwest, y’all. This shit ain’t optional. You get married and you change your name… especially when you’ve repeatedly said the words “If he’s not a better shot than I am, he’s not really a man.” I’m a traditional gal… who’s been FUCKED OVER.
The day I finalized my divorce, I went directly from the judge’s office to trek over a tri-county area changing my name on every single piece of documentation I had from my social security card, to my driver’s license, to my student ID’s and my passport. It was emotionally and physically exhausting. It was also totally worth it to reclaim a piece of myself after becoming someone I not only didn’t recognize, but didn’t want to recognize. One year before I finalized, I had to decide whether or not to put my married name on my diploma and graduation announcements. I chose my maiden name. How’s that for a sign your marriage is shot to shit? Today, the only documentation with my married name on it is my teaching certificate and that won’t be the case once I take the test to be certified in school library and have it reprinted. I’m just too cheap to do it before then.
It’s ironic that the very thing that has made me so he’d-better-open-my-door-and-pick-up-the-check traditional is also the thing that’s made me want to keep my daddy’s name until the day I die. A man who refused to work, lied, cheated, stole, manipulated, and abused has made me want to be with someone hard-working, honest, loyal, moral, forthright, and caring. It’s also made me want to forever retain that sense of self I got back on February 17, 2011.
My Gramma is this hilarious and adorable contradiction of a feminist from her day. She thinks it’s ridiculous for a man to do the dishes while his wife lazes on the couch, but that the reverse is acceptable. Contrarily, her thoughts on name-changing are as follows:
“Why does a woman have to change her name? Why can’t he change his own danged name if it’s so important?”
I don’t want a man to take my name. That’s weird. Why do I have to take his, though? I know that some people say it seems like you don’t have faith in the marriage if you don’t take his name and you know what? They’re half right. I don’t have faith in ‘Til Death Do Us Part. People grow and change and become unhappy. Maybe we will get divorced one day. However, that’s not why I wouldn’t want to take his name. Getting a divorce is such a pain in the ass that changing a name is just one stone in a crumbling tower, particularly when you’re older and have assets and children. Keeping your maiden name is not going to save you trouble. That’s bad reasoning.
The thing is, now that I have my name back, I’m not just a person I appreciate being. I’m creating a professional reputation for myself. It’s tentative and small at the moment, but once I get a librarian position, I’ll be known in libraries by my maiden name. If I meet a nice, somewhat traditional man and change my name, then the amazing fundraiser I put on in the summer of 2014 won’t have my name attached to it anymore. That’s a lot of accreditation to toss out with the birdseed. Do I want to do that?
I’m not going to lie. I’m jaded about marriage, at this point. Recently, I casually declared that there was no love before 1970. There was only Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe I’ll find the guy who gets my sense of humor, makes me feel secure, and does so with a diamond the size of a cow’s eye – because my last wedding ring was surprise fake – and that’ll clear up some of those doubts. In regards to my career, though? I’m not sure any amount of faith and love will tempt me toward that concession. Maybe I can hyphenate so the new name is still recognizable. Weirdly, when this issue comes up, I think of Xander and Anya’s duet in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Musical, which I’m proud to say I can still sing word for word, because I was an awesome teenager:
♫ “The name I made, I’ll trade for his. The only trouble is…” ♫
…um… no. I don’t think I will.