I Probably Won't Take My Husband's Name Someday (And If He Loves Me, He Won't Care)
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I Probably Won't Take My Husband's Name Someday (And If He Loves Me, He Won't Care)

My name, my choice.

I Probably Won't Take My Husband's Name Someday (And If He Loves Me, He Won't Care)

“I'd really like to hear the reasoning behind women who won't take their husband's last name,” one woman tweeted in August 2017. The tweet went viral, and since then, it has received plenty of zingers in response, most notably from Chrissy Teigen, whose husband, John Legend, was born John Stephens. “My husband didn’t even take his last name?” Teigen wrote.

Another response asked the obvious question: “What’s wrong with my name?” To which the original poster responded, “Absolutely nothing. But what's wrong with his that you don't want to take it when you get married, yano?”

Perhaps this hypocrisy within heterosexual marriages seems logical because it’s the result of centuries of tradition. We’ve been conditioned to assume that a man’s name is by default more important than a woman’s if all other factors—say, number of syllables or pronounceability—are identical. A man’s name has weight in the unfurling of history. It carries generations. A woman’s name is temporary. It’s a placeholder until something else comes along.

But names are shortcuts to identity, regardless of gender.

For example, I’m rather attached to the name I have now, seeing as how it’s the two-word encapsulation of who I’ve always been. It’s been nearly 19 years since my name first described me, and it’ll have been even longer by the time I get married.

I’ve gotten comfortable with this name’s rhythm. It’s printed on a diploma, not to mention some certificates and awards, every government or school-issued I.D. I’ve ever owned, every essay or project I’ve ever handed in, and my birth certificate.

Everything I’ve ever produced, everything I’ve ever been proud of, was done under this name.

If any man ever demanded I give that up for his convenience, I would give him up and see how he liked that.

Of course, with all that said, I have the utmost respect for women who take their husbands’ names. It’s a perfectly valid choice, and patriarchal origins aside, it makes sense. Consolidating family lines for the sake of simplifying family trees is a reasonable practice. And since it needs to be done somehow, and this is how we’ve always done it anyway, it’s not so ridiculous to keep doing it this way—on a society-wide basis, anyway.

Besides, I can understand the joy of sharing something so intimate with your new husband and his family. And I haven’t ruled it out as a choice for myself.

I have no objections to couples sharing surnames.

But I strongly object to women being forced to give up such a fundamental a piece of themselves for their husbands as a symbol of devotion.

When have men been expected to make similar sacrifices, much less in such a nonchalant way? Human history has a long tradition of favoring the man and silencing the woman. His comfort has always been more important than her selfhood.

The societal flutter about the last names of married couples is a microcosm of this phenomenon.

If you, as a woman, don’t take your husband’s name, people like the above Twitter user imply you’re failing in your duties as a wife before the wedding dress is cold. You’re frigid. Unloving. Selfish. And above all, as we know from historical accounts, what man wants a disobedient wife?

That’s not to say that taking a man’s name makes you obedient. Empowerment comes in many forms; this can be one of them. But only if it is one hundred percent your choice, not something he or society guilts you into.

If he loves you, he won’t tell you that loving him means giving up yourself, even in the smallest of ways.

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