.The Feminist Wife

On love and identity

I’ve been blessed to be raised by strong women. Because of them, I always thought the assumption a woman has to change her name after marriage was outdated and uncommon, but I was wrong.

After getting engaged, I was called “the future Mrs. Young.” I didn’t expect this from the women in my life, although only a few of them kept their name. It’s difficult responding—respecting their choice to change their name while explaining why I don’t want to. They say they wanted to have a family name, simplify the marriage license process, to be a part of their husband. They say changing your name is about joining together in commitment. So why don’t men change their names?

Eighty to 90 percent of American women take their husband’s name upon marriage. Only seven states allow a man to change his name after marriage without a lengthy legal process and hefty fees, which aren’t required of women. Here we think we’re so liberated, but in Iran, Belgium, France, Malaysia, Korea and other countries, it’s the law for women to keep their birth name after marriage.

My partner and I have talked about hyphenating our names or making a new family name altogether. I’ve asked if he would take my last name, but he likes his name and doesn’t want to. I like my name, too! It’s not a fantastic name, but it’s a part of me. I can’t win. If I change my name, I am forgoing a significant part of myself. If I keep my name, I will still be called my husband’s name forever after, and having kids will only add more complications.

In my 27 years, I have already lived an independent life. I’ve been to college, even some grad school; I’ve travelled the world on my own; I’ve held amazing jobs with respect and responsibility. This does not undermine my desire to unite my life with my partner’s. I want nothing more than to start a family with this amazing person I am in love with and who is my best friend. I want to get married and have a family name. Do I have to forsake my own identity in order to have these things? I want to believe that I don’t have to.

Reena Burton lives in Sebastopol.Open Mic is a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].


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