When I got married, I didn’t change my name. It wasn’t any sort of grand gesture, no middle finger thrown in the face of the patriarchy. It was simple laziness.
Do you realize how much of a hassle it is to change your name? It’s so much worse than an address change. If you forget to change your address with a company or two, they’ll eventually get it right–not that it matters, since the post office will forward it to you as long as your name remains the same.
Although in Louisiana, changing your name at the DMV does not change it for your voter registration–as I learned the hard way when my jury duty summons went to my old address with my old name. Fortunately, my brother-in-law lives in our old house.
And besides, changing your name most places is as simple as saying or writing this is my name now. So for three and a half years, I answered to two names. Which was fine. Sometimes it’s easier to have the same name as your spouse, and sometimes it doesn’t matter one bit.
The reason I changed my name had absolutely nothing to do with anyone besides me and my husband.I’m glad I didn’t change it, because after the shit hit the fan, I had the option of an outward change to reflect an inward change, and that’s something I always recommend for anyone. It’s easy enough to say you’re starting over, that today is the first day of the rest of your life, but when you’re reminded every day, every time you sign your name, every time you check the mail, every time you pay a bill or use your debit card, it’s more meaningful. It’s greater reinforcement.
So I decided to change my name.
I did get a few odd looks from officials when I presented my three-year-old marriage license, but no one took any issue with it. I’m far from the first person to be a tad behind in keeping my paperwork up to date.
The first stop was the Social Security office, because I needed that to change my driver’s license, which I needed to change just about everything else.
And on the way home, we pulled over and had a fight. And for a moment, I regretted changing my name. Why did I even bother? And that thought hurt me. I thought of tearing up my paperwork and tossing it to the wind. I don’t know if I said any of this aloud; probably not, because I’d already learned well the lesson that nothing can be unsaid.
That fight was the one and only time I regretted my decision. And then, eventually, things were okay enough for me to continue on the name-changing odyssey, that pro-patriarchal adventure.
I joke about that because I’ve been given a hard time for changing my name, but at the core of the situation, my name change was feminism. It was a choice I made by myself, for myself, without permission or coercion. It was an option available to me which, by its existence, improved my quality of life.
I’m not a slave to my husband, not a possession. I changed my name to remind myself that I am part of a team, and more a part of this team that I ever was of the team I was born into without a choice.
So many valid reasons exist for any person changing their name. Their differences don’t invalidate them; rather, the opposite. If there is only one valid and mandatory reason for a name change, the concept of choice is completely removed from the equation. It is only when any and all reasons are valid and acceptable that equality is found.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter the reason that I changed my name. It only matters that it was my freely-made decision.