It happens all the time. Someone will look at me, ask for my name, and I’ll panic.
What is my name here?
My doctor and my library know me as Ms. My-Last-Name. Our dog groomer and favorite restaurant know me as Mrs. His-Last-Name. My bank knows me as both. And at some point, my gym changed my name to match my husband’s, but I forget and give them the wrong name every time.
Who am I this time?
Three years ago, I married the most wonderful man in the world. Our courtship was blissful. Our wedding was a dream. And then, a few days later, he asked me when I was going to change my last name.
What? If I’d been on a TV show, you’d have heard the cliché sound of a record scratch. I was baffled. What about my personality ever made him think I was the kind of woman who would change her name? We’d never talked about it because, frankly, I never thought we’d have to. We’d already agreed that we didn’t want children, so why on Earth would I change my name?
“Because that’s your dad’s name,” was one of the reasons he gave.
“No, it’s MY name,” I responded, pointing out all the marriages, divorces, and different last names that make up his family tree.
And just like that, my last name became a sore spot in an otherwise easy marriage.
He lives in a culture where every wife he knows embraces her husband’s last name. Except his.
Being child-free, it doesn’t come up very often. But then I’ll call a plumber who arrives and greets my husband as Mr. My-Last-Name and I feel like I’ve rubbed salt in the wound.
So my husband I don’t talk about it. He’s the absolute best, and he loves me no matter what, but he’s sad about it. And why shouldn’t he be? He lives in a culture where every wife he knows embraces her husband’s last name. Except his.
Sure, he could take my name, or we could pick a new one together. But he’s built a great career with his name and doesn’t want to change it for the same reasons I don’t want to change mine. He wants me to take his name. And honestly, I like the idea of sharing a name with him. Some days, that’s enough. Those days, I decide that I want to change my name.
But other days, I love the way my name looks and sounds. Or I log onto Facebook and see my father-in-law ranting about immigrants or Hillary’s emails — and I don’t want to share anything, especially my name — with that. That’s not who I am.
So I make dinner reservations as Mrs. His-Last-Name. I present a credit card as Ms. My-Last-name. And somehow, I feel uncomfortable with both. Three years into marriage, I’m no closer to figuring out which name is mine.
Have you encountered this problem? How did you handle it? What about same sex couples?