(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)
I remember the last time I wrote a guy’s name because I wanted to see how it looked on paper, in my handwriting. I was 17 and working as a hostess at The Olive Garden. The guy was the brother of one of the female servers; he also happened to know one of my roommates so he had been over to my apartment several times. He came into the restaurant a lot and I thought he was adorable. One day I doodled his name on the inside back cover of a notebook I was using for a college class. I took the notebook to work with me several days later (I would study at the hostess stand when we weren’t busy), and at one point one of the male servers walked by and started flipping through the pages. Then, of course, he landed on that fateful page. He paused, and I could see the realization set in that he knew the name of this guy that was written inside my notebook.
My saving grace was that I hadn’t written my name in combination with my crush’s name. Thinking fast, I told him that the guy had written his name in there himself; that he had done it while hanging out at my apartment one night. It was dumb, but it must have worked because I never heard anything about the incident again.
That particular incident isn’t the “ah-ha!” moment when I decided I don’t want to change my last name if I get married; it was more of a gradual process. When I was younger, I always assumed I would change my last name. It was expected. It was what everyone does. But at some point I changed my mind.
A big factor in this decision would be the large amount of marriages that end in divorce. A woman has to change her name on countless documents and with multiple companies, she finally gets accustomed to using a different name — and then what happens? The marriage ends, and you either have to change your name once again (Back to your maiden name? To that of your new husband?) or continue to use the name of a man you no longer want to be identified with.
I’m not a famous published writer — or a famous anything, for that matter. There aren’t a lot of people who know my full name, outside of people I’m personally acquainted with. But I don’t care about that. My name is my identity. This is the name I’ve had for 26 years (and counting). It’s who I am.
There are other options: some women choose to hyphenate their names. There are even men out there who decide to change their last name to match their wife’s. But I’d ever expect something like that from a partner. Why should he change his name? It’s part of who he is. I simply expect the same courtesy and respect in return. If a guy equated my unwillingness to change my name with a lack of commitment on my part, it’s probably not a person I’d want to be with.
Some people never liked their last name to begin with, or they aren’t close to their family and would rather associate themselves with a new name. I do not, in any way, look down on a woman who decides to change her name — if I did, I’d be mad at a lot of people. I think it’s a personal decision. I just wish that more women thought of it as an option. I think it would be awesome to see a big uprising of women who get married and say, “I love you, honey, but I’m keeping my name.”