I grew up in a small southern town so it’s probably not hard to imagine little, adolescent me dreamily scribbling the last name of some boy next to my first name inside the cover of a 3-ring binder. At one point I was convinced I was going to become Mrs. Nikki Samuel. Fast forward almost 10 years later when I had an actual ring on my finger (not by Mr. Samuel, of course) and I was struggling with that whole concept. I’ve come a long way since those adolescent days and had researched the origins of marriage and didn’t like what I’d found (business dealings where daughters were “property”, religious institutions with strict rules that included discrimination, etc.) and, quite frankly, I wasn’t having any of that. But I digress.
From the moment we got engaged, I knew I didn’t want to change my name completely. My final decision came down to hyphenating it or keeping it just the same. In the end I chose not to change at all, for a number of reasons, although part of me still thinks hyphenating would have been a fine idea because, in that way, I would have been adding to my identity, not changing it entirely.
I’ve had my name for over 20 years. It’s what I learned to write on paper when I was five years old (is that how old you are when you learn to write?) and it’s what I quickly scribble on receipts and paperwork these days. I don’t know how else to explain it except that it’s just me. Changing it simply because I’m starting a new chapter in life made no sense to me. It’s also incredibly patriarchal. I’m no one’s property. I know you’re probably thinking, “But Nikki, you have your father’s last name; isn’t that just as patriarchal?” Ok, fair enough. But I think that shows just how ingrained in society this is. It has to stop somewhere, right? Plus, I have a great relationship with my father so I’m proud to carry on his last name. Luckily, this isn’t a new trend. There are plenty of women who are keeping their last names for a multitude of reasons – one of which is probably all of the paperwork and hoops women have to jump through just to change your last name. To me it isn’t worth it.
This in no way means I love my husband any less. I don’t believe in the “two becomes one” philosophy of marriage. We are two individuals who have chosen to devote our lives to each other but we’re not the same person. We can’t be, we’re perfect opposites after all! Our wedding ceremony was even written to reflect this). I love my husband more and more every day. He seriously makes my world complete. Having the same name or not is no reflection of that. I loved him before we were married and our name were different, I can love him the same (and more) now that we’re married and our names are still different. “What about your kids? Which name will they have?” If we even have kids, their last name will be hyphenated. And if someday they meet another person with a hyphenated name that they want to marry and have kids, well, then, they can figure out what to do. They’ll be adults at that point and will be able to make the decision for themselves.
What it all comes down to is we must each make our own decisions about the life we live. Do I fault or judge women who do change their names? Absolutely not. My only hope is that they never lose themselves in the process.