A Caroline Rose by any other name

May 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm (New marriage)

It’s a strange sensation having people you’ve known for a long time say ‘So, what’s your name?’. But it’s a conversation I’ve been having a lot lately. Every wedding, email, letter, invitation. ‘What name do I use?’ ‘Have you changed your name?’ ‘What’s your new surname?’

Um. I haven’t changed it. People’s reactions are interesting. Confusion seems to be the immediate response… a kind of ‘Well how is that going to work?’ expression crossing their faces.

Humans are predictable creatures. We like conversational crutches, shortcuts and easy small talk. At least I hope this is the case, otherwise it seems that people like being slightly intrusive, mildly judgemental and making grand assumptions. Surely not!

For anyone who is single, the easy topic is your lovelife (or lack thereof); for those who are dating, it’s when you are getting married; then when you are engaged, the whole world goes wedding crazy for a little while…then, then in that brief window before conversation turns inevitably to when you’re going to conceive a child (why thankyou, yes, we are having intercourse), people want to know if you’re going to change your name. Well. If you are a girl (which I am, thanks for noticing).

When I was single, my name wasn’t something that I was particularly preoccupied with. I liked it, it served me well, it featured on my drivers licence, on my degrees, and on my nameplate at work. That said, I never thought I would have any other one (let’s face it, I was single for a long time).

Then, I had a conversation with a friend about a married couple I knew who were having problems. I used their names in the conversation, which, coincidentally, alerted my friend to the fact that they had different surnames. ‘Oh no,’ she said, ‘That’s part of the problem. If she hasn’t changed her name, she hasn’t given herself over to the marriage. It’s symbolic of her commitment if she changes it, but she’s holding back, she’s not identifying herself as his wife!’  This theory took me by surprise…although it wasn’t just the theory, but the way my hackles rose in defense of my friend and her choice. I was sure that whatever was wrong with their marriage was not because of some simple paperwork.

Around the same time (so before she became the Twitterer-to-hate), Catherine Deveney wrote this article, and I was actually challenged to think about my reactions to the whole name change decision. I almost switched allegiances upon reading this, because I didn’t feel like the women who had changed their names (many of whom I know, respect and love) deserved such vehemence and scorn. But I appreciated Deveney’s point about thinking about what you’re doing with such a large part of your life and identity.

This probably is where I’m sitting at the minute…in the thinking phase. The leadup to the wedding was so crazily busy (nothing new there) and to be honest, the first few months of marriage have been the same. I have not been afforded that much thinking time.  So for the minute, nothing’s changing, apart from the entire lifechanging, soul affirming, scary, exciting thing that was actually getting married. Yeah, ok, apart from that little thing, I’m in a holding pattern.

Administration is not my strong point (ok, I’ll be honest, some of my letters are STILL going to my parents’ place as I haven’t finished changing my address…as if I’m going to be organised enough to change my name!) and it does seem like a lot of work to do for something I’m a bit ambivalent about. I’m not ambivalent about my betrothed’s name, it’s perfectly serviceable; or its origin (in fact I’m quite into the European mystique it conveys :)); or even his family, who seem quite patient with my substandard Czech.

So while I would not put my commitment to my name above my commitment to my husband, it’s not something to be divorced from lightly. It was an easy decision to say yes to ‘Will you marry me?’, but strangely enough, not such an easy one to say goodbye to the name and signature (and email address).

Rest assured though, if or when I do change it…I will let you know. My admin may be poor, but my communication skills are slightly better.

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