He put a ring on it: Should you Change your Name?
So your guy finally popped the big question. The ring in order, and yuh done show it off to about half your clan already. All the necessary fuss that goes along with wedding plans is in full swing. But here’s another question some people don’t really put much thought into – will you take his name, dropping your own, or perhaps hyphenate both surnames?
Now many of you may not view this as any sort of hiccup, and – according to one of my girlfriends – taking your guy’s name isn’t a big deal.
“It’s not necessary,” she said. “It’s just a mere tradition, and now a dying norm.”
Another girlfriend added, “Girl, when yuh get married and take that name… yuh have to change ID card, passport, and get affidavit… Shoot… What he changing?”
Women today are more independent and self-sufficient. They are entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, even prime ministers, and, let’s be real, some are bringing home bigger pay cheques than their male counterparts. Women have been making remarkable strides in society, but somehow when it comes to marriage, some still fall into the tradition of taking a man’s name. I too have thought about this. If I get married, would it even matter if I take my guy’s name or not? My choice would ultimately be to keep my last name and just ‘add on’ my husband’s. But that is just a personal choice.
When my eldest sister got married and dropped our family’s last name, I felt… well… hurt. How could she? She showed no loyalty to the family name, dropping it like hot bread, like it didn’t mean a thing to her, I thought. My sister’s simple response to my behaviour at that time was that adding her husband’s long name to her last name was just too much. End of story.
But carrying your husband’s last name isn’t defining who you are. There is no reason why a woman should have to abandon her born-and-bred last name just to show allegiance or fidelity to her spouse, right? While some people may see it as solidifying the man’s position, as the head of the household, and carrying the patriarch’s title is still a norm, some women do carry their mother’s last name, and giving it up may seem difficult – especially if one was raised by a single mother. Some women have built their careers, and credentials with their birth name, and changing that may somehow show that they’ve gave up what they’ve worked so hard to build – their name.
A male friend scoffed at the idea, saying, “I mean I’m all down for the whole 21st century woman thing, but if you want to do what you want to do when it comes to our marriage, then I should be allowed to do what I want. It makes the situation kinda conflicting”.
Now men may see this as some sort of feminist act on our part, if we object to the change of our last name, along with us holding down daily jobs instead of staying at home (not that every man wants their lady to be a housewife). Chances are that it may bruise some very big, male egos. Some men may be completely offended by it – especially those who look at the traditional aspect of the woman taking the man’s last name, as seriously as the woman who believes that it’s the man’s role to present her with a shining engagement ring. Men see a woman taking their name as something ‘official’. When she takes his name, symbolically, this makes her his wife for good.
But let’s be honest, some women carry their husband’s surname just to ensure that they have their future security “ on lock”, just in case, God forbid – they get a divorce and want to get their portion of the estate. However, in T&T, the ‘common-law’ wife has similar rights to a married woman (if they’ve been living together for five years), whether she has his name or not, ring or not. So, to me, that doesn’t really count as a reason (even if the married person has a few extra benefits). Then there are others who think, but if I change my name and we get divorced, would I revert to my original surname?
Some women change their name, because they never liked their original name in the first place. Some are torn between wanting to identify with their husband, and keeping their family name.
By assuming a hyphenated name, some women may feel that a woman’s identity is easily reduced to nothing but her name, and that they are much more than a handful of letters and a few syllables. True, but that all depends on the individual and how they look at the issue and themselves.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ll hyphenate. Why? Because I came from a family whose name I’m proud of. One who raised me to be the woman who Mr. X would want enough to marry, just like he would be raised by his family to be the person who I would love and respect. I don’t think I should have to be the one to do a complete turnaround, and just drop my last name and start anew. Now, there have been instances where the husband actually takes on the wife’s name or both persons hyphenate their names, for whatever reason; but those happen to be far and few. Kudos to them.
Whatever the reason for taking on your husband or wife’s name, whether you forgo your entire surname or hyphenate it, ultimately a name is just that, a name. How you carry that name is what truly matters. What’s your take?