“No one asked you to change it”

by Alice

I read a wedding post today where it was noted that “the wedding is kinda like married life, it often comes with unresolved feelings.”

Now that wedding day is more than a month behind me. Jon and I have continued into married life, which, to those who ask how married life is treating me, I have to admit is much the same. Of course there is a legitimacy that comes with our legal union. As Jon quotes from a Seinfeld episode, Everything sounds better with ‘my wife’ in it. (And Kramer confirms with “My wife has an inner ear infection.”) We can now pick up each others’ dry cleaning, and I don’t feel so weird going to the vet, where I used to hope they wouldn’t refuse treatment because my last name was different from our dog’s. Now it’s the same.

But I also changed my name at work. And in addition to all the bureaucratic hoops that I have to navigate to make sure I still have access to email and people can still find my phone number on the directory, it seems I also have to confront social opinions on marriage and the choices that come with it. It’s something I admit I naively didn’t think I would encounter by following the social norm and taking Jon’s name.

A senior member of my department came by wondering why he couldn’t find me on the office chat. I explained that IT had just fixed it so there might be a lag before it showed up in searches. I concluded with, “Oh, this whole name-change thing is quite a process.”

“Well, no one asked you to change it,” he said with a pointed look. And walked away. (Yes, he studied gender studies at a school in NY and no, his wife did not change her name)

First of all, society kinda does ask me to change it. But I esteem those women who keep their name because they feel a connection to their father’s family, or because they have an established professional reputation, or simply because they were born with that name and they see no reason to take on this new family name for the sake of society’s preferences. Those are good reasons. And what’s more, women who keep their name put up with a lot of snarky comments and confused reactions. But none of those reasons really applied to me. I wanted Jon and I to have the same name because we’re in the same family now. This seemed the easiest way to do it.

But this comment, aside from popping a little How dare you! thought bubble in my head, makes me question how wifedom is changing my view on feminism. Maybe not necessarily my own view, because I’ve always taken the side of Women Have Choices! Yay! Let it continue! But more the side of those who advocate breaking all gender roles. I find that as I wife, while I do break some traditional gender roles, I actually like others. And what kind of feminist does that make me?

Unresolved feelings indeed.

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