In Defense Of Keeping Your Last Name

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 
Rawpixel / PEXELS

I’ve never had a great reason for why I kept my maiden name after getting married. It simply seemed like one extra step that wasn’t necessary to the combining of our two independent lives.

Contrary to popular belief, not changing it wasn’t a checkmark on my feminist agenda. I didn’t avoid doing it for any kind of statement to challenge patriarchal traditions. (Though I fully support the smashing of the patriarchy.) I simply couldn’t come up with a good reason to do it, so I didn’t.

My husband could have cared less what I did. We even briefly talked about what it would be like for him to take my last name or for both of us to just come up with an entirely new moniker. Our parents weren’t big fans of that idea, but I still think that it would’ve been kinda awesome to be the Bonds or the Griswolds. Our Christmas cards would’ve been epic.

With regards to tradition, I don’t think keeping my last name has made one iota of difference in my life. I feel as married and bonded to my husband as I possibly could. I woke up the day after our wedding feeling a subtle but tangible difference that I can’t explain and which had nothing to do with the weird fact that it was suddenly okay for us to sleep in the same bed at my parents’ house. Now, I still get annoyed when he can’t find stuff, and he gets annoyed when I want to talk about my whole life before 8 a.m. — and isn’t that what marriage is really all about?

I always felt like my identity was wrapped up in my name, so why should I change it? I had accomplished some stuff with my name. I’d survived high school, graduated college, and learned the value of not over-consuming peppermint schnapps. I’d earned my master’s degree in physical therapy and fallen in love and moved thousands of miles away from my parents. My name and I had been through some stuff. We’d even been to Mexico together, and we aren’t going to talk about any of that.

“Doesn’t that bother you that your kids don’t share your last name?” A friend asked me once.

Why would that bother me?

Is it because I might not feel as close to them? Well, they came out of me. They each literally used me for their main source of food for over a year. They say my name 3,000 times a day. I cannot peel my littlest one off of me half the time to take in a bite of nourishment for myself. I have to beg them to leave me alone to get just five minutes of privacy. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get any closer to them unless our limbs were sewn on to each other at this point.

Because it wouldn’t feel like we are part of the same family? Well, I don’t have the same last name as my sister, and I still talk to her almost every single day about every mundane part of our lives. She’s just as much my family as when we had the same last name.

Because airline workers will look at you like you are kidnapping your children? This one actually does go through my head sometimes. But I’ve never had even a blink of confusion while traveling on airplanes with my kids, or enrolling them in school, or making doctor’s appointments, or any other thing where people have asked us our last names. It just hasn’t mattered in any capacity thus far, and we’ve been married for nearly two decades.

The fact that half of Americans think that women should be legally required to take their husband’s last name is seriously shocking. Who cares what other people do? If it feels right, take his last name. If it feels right to never get married, don’t. If it feels right to live in Botswana while your partner lives in Florida, but you naked Skype every Friday afternoon, go for it. Live your life and conduct your relationships on your terms. That’s what the happiest people do.

So if you’re getting married and you haven’t decided about your own last name, just realize that it is the least of your worries. Don’t feel pressured into it and also know that you can change your mind later. Save your energy for the important stuff like whether or not your partner has had adequate instruction on putting their clothes in drawers and lowering the toilet seat.

But if their last name is Bond, then totally change it. Obviously.

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