I recently read an article on the Huffington Post about changing one’s surname upon marriage. The article, by Anne Peterson, raises an interesting question about the tradition of taking on the man’s name when getting married. It has become more popular for a woman to hyphenate or, in some rarer cases, keep her own family name rather than follow tradition; although, tradition is still the norm by a substantial degree. I even read once of couples choosing entirely new last names, something that would be theirs instead of his or hers. I find nothing wrong with any of the afore mentioned options. Why? Simple really. It’s just a name.
I must admit, that when I married I felt a twinge of loss for my family name. The name of my dear and departed Grandpap, my Uncle, and my Dad (three of the people most responsible for raising the woman I am today; believe it or not, I am a feminist largely because they taught me that I could be anything I put my mind toward being). I still, in part, think of myself as my maiden name. But why? It’s not really as if my DNA and my name have anything to do with each other. Am I not still, by birth and the bonds of love and memory, my father’s daughter regardless of the last name I now I bear? Am I not, regardless of what name I sign on documents and receipts, the wife of my husband and the mother of our child? Am I not, regardless of surname, still my own person? Of course I am.
While I still cannot help but think of myself as my maiden name (at times), I think that this is in large part because I was raised to think of myself as such; I am no more or less my maiden now than I am my married name. Why? Because it’s just a name. It does not define who I am, it does not alter my DNA. If a biologist was to view a sample of my DNA, he/she would not see my maiden name or my married name imprinted there. And, honestly, what matter is it if I have one man’s surname over another’s? Either way, it is still a patrilineal marker, a means by which a man shows the world that this is his wife and his children…Is it not?
Therefore, I for one choose to believe that, regardless of the last name on my driver’s license, I am still me. I am still my own person. I still have my own goals, my own opinions, my own mind, and my own flaws. The only difference is that I am now bound, by both birth and marriage and by the bonds of love and memory, to three families; the one into which I was born, the one into which my husband was born, and the one that the two of us chose to create together.
After all, what is in a name anyway?…Exactly.