This is not Bridal Bird.
This is her good friend who has her OWN NAME, offering up a guest post at The Bird’s request. She wants me to tell you all about how she is breaking my heart with this nonsense talk that she’ll soon give up her fabulous three-syllable, alliterative last name for her husband’s. (You know, like when you buy a car? And the title is transferred?) And I have reluctantly agreed. Usually, I prefer to hide my personal craziness under the pillow. Plus, I fear mean comments from the many masochists who come here for tips on catching a Bird of great quality. But, what the hell, I am a revolutionary and I know I must be brave in the battle to liberate my sisters.
So here’s my story. Yes, I am married. I’ve been married for five years. And it’s great. (It really is.) But I did NOT change my name, I never even CONSIDERED changing my name, and my husband knows better than to dream, for even one second, that I might change my name in the future. And here’s why: It’s my name.
Sometimes, when I’m trying to sound less crazy (not so much right now…), I tell people, “Oh, but I was 30 when I got married. You know, that’s a long time to have a name.” (Like I couldn’t possibly learn to spell a new one.) Or, I explain how I had a semi-respectable career in journalism at the time of marriage and a bulky portfolio of published work—it would have been professional suicide to change my (locally) known byline to something else! (These are all reasons, by the way, that The Bird is free to borrow.) I usually add, “You know, I completely understand why somebody would want to change their name. For one thing, it’s much easier when you have kids. For another, you don’t have to argue about linen monograms.” And that is true. I do understand. It is easier. But it’s also pretty weak.
(For the record, my daughters have hyphenated names. Five syllables! I know they’re too long. But my husband refuses to drop his half. At the doctor’s office, they just use my last name—and when he goes there, they call him Mr. F. and he gets a little steamy. But at my eldest’s pre-school, they just use his last name! Who told them to do that??!)
I do have a good name, if I have to say so myself. I think it has syllabic rhythm. And ethnic identity. And I share it with a very cool Southern, Catholic writer. So, that’s part of why I kept it. I think it’s like a little hint, “I am THIS kind of person.” The kind of person who will get your joke about catechism class and drink too much Guinness. If I had taken my husband’s name, it would have been like pretending to be somebody else with a whole other personal history and a whole other set of in-jokes and favorite foods.
But the bigger part is PRINCIPLE, people. This whole “giving up” your name smacks to me of ownership. It’s like when white men in straw hats stepped up to the auction block and paid $10 for a kitchen girl. You know, they gave slaves their owners’ last names. Why not just wear a frigging sign? “For sale: One woman. I will keep your house tidy.” Or” “I belong to him.” Sigh. Why can’t we be more like the Spaniards? Those are civilized people. And respectful of their mothers. Like them, I might have considered hyphenating — if my husband did. He didn’t. So I wouldn’t. And that’s that.
When I read the Sunday NY Times, I used to keep track of who changed their name and who didn’t. (This was not a healthy habit and I have stopped.) But there were a goodly number of smart women who kept their names. To wit: The Times reported on four (straight) couples this past weekend. Three do not appear to be destroying the hopes of their daughters. They are, collectively, a lawyer and novelist, a Reuters reporter, and a very noble-minded gal who coordinates nonprofit arts education programs in the Bronx. One is changing her name. She coordinates product placement for Schweppes products in films. Sell-out!!
I admit (and this is not very nice) that I still think that women who change their names are… how can I put this? Um. Likely to sell Avon products.
All right. Let’s get down to business.
Top three reasons that the Bird should keep her name:
1) I have two older sisters. When they got married, one changed her name (but not professionally) and the other did not. The latter is still happily married. The other suffered a 15-year miserable marriage to a lying, alcoholic attorney who, while sleeping with his secretary, eventually succeeded in driving her to the loony bin for a not-short hospitalization. Now she’s divorced, in therapy, and a lesbian. Do you want that, Bird? Huh? Huh?
2) When solicitors call, they will say, “Mrs. M?” And you will know, right then, that this couldn’t possibly be a friend because all of your friends know damn well that you don’t call yourself THAT. And you can say, honestly, as I do, “No. This is not Mrs. M. There IS no Mrs. M.” And then hang up.
3) Laura Bush changed her name. Theresa Heinz did not.