Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mrs. Who?

Voting in the primary today went more easily than expected. Having changed my name since the last time I cast a ballot, I was concerned that I'd have to jump through a few hoops and that I'd be barred from the booth today. I took precautions -- bringing both sets of ID and the marriage license, but luckily none of it was necessary. Lo! I had filed the paperwork like a good citizen back in August and there was my current legal name on the registered voter list, right polling station and all!

This name change process has been one pain in the ass, but most days I'm happy to have done it. Oddly, when my husband proposed, one of the things I said after saying "yes" was "and I'll take your name!" Huh??? Oh yes, and the goats, and the sheep, my dad will be giving those to you later!

There were a lot of thoughts running through my head, and I felt awkward about having nothing to give him in exchange for the bling he'd just placed on my finger. After this initial outburst, it took me nearly two years to actually decide what to do about the name situation.

Feminist, patriarchical social structure...yada yada. I know plenty of women who have kept their names, and plenty of feminists who have taken their husbands' names. When addressing wedding invitations, I was adamant that we not address married coulpes as "Mr. and Mrs. Husband's First and Last Name." I was worried that by taking his name, I'd get swallowed up by a new identity and loose myself. Those concerns remain, and I'm continually adjusting and re-evaluating where I stand and where I've come from and where my sense of identity is going in the context of our marriage.

However, in the year between when we got married and when I stepped through the doors of the Social Security Administration offices (conveniently located just a block from our building), I decided that my identity wasn't just about this name. Furthermore, part of my identity now is being married, and changing my name was a way to signal that.

It doesn't bother me now when we receive cards addressed to us that way (nor does it bother me that our dry cleaner calls my husband Mr. My Birth Name). Have I just bought into the system? Maybe. But I've also gained a terrific set of in-laws who share this name, and I've come to love this name's country of origin.

And I'll admit, I'm lazy too. I want to be recognized immediately as a unit with my husband and any children we might have. I don't want to constantly be correcting people about my last name (though I may be making up for that because this new name requires letter-by-letter spelling at each introduction). With a viable female presidential candidate in the running, with girls' strong academic achievements, and with my own sense of self and feminism, the name battle is one I'm choosing not to wage.


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