January 24, 2011

Man Takes Wife's Last Name: Is This the Groom of the 21st Century?

Thank you so much for all of your feedback about my last entry on changing last names. From the comments, the emails, to the feedback from my Facebook friends, I feel so much more... confused! :) ha! But truthfully, I feel as if I've gained a lot of insight from people who have really thought about this issue. Especially from one man, a progressive guy who's helping change the way we look at men in the 21st century.

Mark and his fiancee, *"Jill", have been going back and forth about the big question: Once we're married, will we be dealing with a name change?
And yes! They will! But Mark's bride will not be the one filing all the paperwork with Social Security and the DMV. MARK is changing his last name to HERS!

Mark will marry his lovely fiancee this coming Saturday, and he's expecting to hear a few snickers when they have said their "I do's" and are introduced with his bride's last name. He knows he's going against American tradition, and he doesn't really care.
Now, before all of you traditionalists turn your noses up (I can already hear the scathing comments being written in your heads!), you should know that Mark and his fiancee have spent months talking about this, and they both are excited about being married and making this big decision together. And just in case you're wondering, no, his last name is not a horribly long or unfortunate sounding name.

Here's a synopsis of Mark's decision, in his own words:

"In July she started talking about what she's going to do about her name. Like in your blog - all the factors that women consider. Should she keep it, hyphenate, take my name . . . and what about the kids we're planning to have. All that stuff. Then she asked for my opinion, and I told her that I'd prefer me, her, and the kids to all have the same last name. So, about two months later, she brought the topic up again, and reminded me of what we'd both said.
"Then she said (and I'll never forget this), "If we all have the same last name, why can't it be mine?" She said it as a joke, but I told her that I'd think about it seriously. So I did. And then I found myself in the position of the typical female. Hyphenate? Too bulky. Keep my name? But then we'd have different family names. Take her name? Yowww. Big blow to male ego.
"Then I thought about it some more. She is well established in her career and I am not."

Is this a sign of things to come?

200 years ago, American brides would change their name in a nanosecond. Their Jane Hancock would become Jane Smith once the dowry was passed. Those were the days when wedding dresses weren't necessarily white but were the nicest, cleanest gown they had hanging. That's when June brides were so in vogue since June was the month that most people bathed.

Then in 1855, activist Lucy Stone changed the game. She is the first known American woman to keep her birth name. Since then, there's been an increase in the rate of women keeping their maiden names. In 2004, around 10% of American women opted against automatically taking their husband's surname. And couples are finding other ways of switching up the name game. While some people will opt to keep their maiden names or hyphenate, some couples will come up with an entirely new name for their new family.
The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, combined his last name with his wife's. He was Villar and she was Raigosa. They're since divorced, and he has kept their shared name.

Until only a few years ago, the woman's last name would change automatically once she was married. As far as the state was concerned she was Mrs. Joe Hansen. Some states are easier to make the change in others, but many states require high legal costs when it comes to going against America's traditional girl-takes-boy's-name system.

Our friend, Mark, is already jumping through those legal hoops in his state. He's been filing paperwork so that, come Saturday, he and his bride will be ready to start their lives together with their new family name. He's already received negative criticism, which he's expected, and he's dealing with it:

"As for male ego, yeah it's taken a hit. But don't you think that the world would be at least a bit better if a few of us took an ego hit now and again, while your side got more authority and more credit? ....
"It's not like I'm becoming Jill's property (which is the basis for the traditional rule that the women gives up her name) but it is an unequal situation in that the name that defines you, for most reasons, is your last name and mine is the one that is about to change. However, I think that equality can be overrated some times and, more importantly, a relationship in which the couple is "keeping score" is doomed from the start.
"Finally, I love Jill so much. I'm not much into wedding protocol or formality, but I'm really looking forward to Saturday afternoon when we face the audience and the minister introduces us for the first time as Mark and Jill *Brighton."

Kudos to Mark. He and his bride have already received monogrammed towels with their new last initial, which, he admits, was a little strange to see. But he says the biggest challenge - aside from the legal battles - is trying to figure out the right terminology to use. Since he is no maid, he doesn't really have a "maiden name." Our culture is so accustomed to women taking the man's name that there is no masculine counterpart to the term "maiden." Mark's choice? He's going with "bachelor name."
I like it.
What do you think? (I've posted a poll if you feel like voting)

Here is some feedback from other people who've dealt with name changes pre or post marriage:

"I decided to hypen my two last names to honor both my Hubby and the name I've made for myself in [my career]"

"I had already published with my maiden name so I tacked on my husband's last name after I got married."

"I kept all my names with my married name at the end with no hyphen."

"I've always felt that a name isn't just a name, it's your identity. It's who you are."

"I kept all of my names [first, middle, maiden, married]. At work and with anything public, I use my maiden nameme. It may have started out as a thing for my dad [there are no boys in our family] but now, it's for me and it's for my husband. Using my married name represents our life together. It represents privacy. It represents my special something. I'm just not a public person. Not everyone gets to know everything about me."

"I was at the peak of my career as [my maiden name] so if I were to go into an audition as [my married name] and a casting director wants to Google me, they wont find me. . . for now, I'm sticking with [my maiden name] just cause of Google."

*name change

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The times, they are a' changin!

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