Walking the feminist walk can be a treacherous thing, and it gets especially weird and difficult once you get engaged.
Which, by the way, I am.
No matter who or what you may have been prior to announcing your engagement to a man, once you have the ring all of a sudden it’s like, people are calling you by his name and asking when you’ll have babies. BABIES. I love babies, but if the resentment I feel when I have to walk my dog in the morning is any indication, it is SO not time for babies yet.
The name issue in particular has got me and my fiancé totally flustered. We have months and months and months to decide what we’re doing, so our discussions about it usually get waved away with a “Oh, we’ll figure it out later.” But eventually, we will have to figure it out.
I will continue to use my maiden name in my writing career, that’s a given. Spivey is an excellent and unique last name; I’ve only met one person with the same name who wasn’t related to me, though in fact she may have been distantly related since we had relatives from the same relative area.
But what about in our day to day lives? What about future kids? Because my last name is so excellent and unique, I’m really rather attached to it. I’m also very attached to family lines. My brother is the only male Spivey in my generation, and he’s fairly determined never to leave my mother’s house, let alone have kids. I’ve always imagined it’s left to me to make new baby Spiveys to carry on the name.
Unfortunately, fiancé Matt is also the only male in his generation, and since he’s appropriately fond of his own family name, he’d rather imagined himself continuing the family line as well. He also has fairly conservative grandparents that he actually likes. (I, regretfully, couldn’t care less about the opinions of the grandparent of mine who would cause a stink if he took my name instead of the other way round.)
My only wish is for Matt and me to have the same name. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much to me whose it is. Yet, there is still a big blaring bullhorn shouting in my ear that while it’s totally fine if women want to take their husbands’ names, some of the 90% of American women who still do might not realize that they have other options, and that as a brave feminist I could use one of those options and be an example to others.
Deep down, I think, there must be some happy feminist alternative, where Matt and I can be equal partners in the marriage, satisfy/not offend our families, and still have the sense of family for ourselves and our future children that comes from all having the same name. I’m not the only one with this problem–one of my favorite bloggers, Grace, has also tried to tackle this issue.
I thought our solution might be in the Hispanic method of apellidos. People from Hispanic families have two surnames, their mother’s maiden name and their father’s family name. When a woman marries, she keeps her father’s name and adds her husband’s name, and the family is addressed by the combined names of the couple, the same one the children get. Alas, this doesn’t actually help us, because unless Matt and I both added our mothers’ maiden names to our current names, Matt’s name wouldn’t change. It would still be only me taking his name, plus I’m sure people would accuse us of cultural appropriation (which, yes it is, but…okay yeah, even if it’s because I think it’s a really awesome way to keep both family names involved, it’s still not okay, I know).
So my new plan: just pick a brand new name.
Seriously. I may actually be giving this serious consideration. I’m a writer. I have NOTEBOOKS of names in my head. There’s no rule saying we have to keep our family names. No legal one, anyway, although I know some courts have made it difficult for men to take their wives’ names. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a totally random name. For example, all the scant internet genealogy I’ve done has told me that Spivey is a derivation of a Welsh name–so what if Matt and I just picked another Welsh name?
Obviously we don’t want to get too crazy. I wouldn’t choose anything unpronounceable We’re not gonna rebrand ourselves Skywalkers or Ponds or anything. Just something new, that’s ours.
Am I crazy, people? Crazy to think that not just me, but also my husband should maybe start our new married life with a new name? Crazy to think that Matt and Cait Benbough sound like the coolest people ever? Or Warlow? It’s derived from the word for warlock. Just saying.