Writer and women’s rights activist Ruth Hale, a chum of Dorothy Parker’s back in the day, spent her life railing against the patriarchy. When she was preparing to marry fellow journalist Heywood Broun, Hale flipped out upon learning that the traditional Episcopal ceremony would involve the word “obey” in the vows. She threatened to cancel the wedding. Chief among her stances was that her name was Ruth Hale and she would most certainly never answer to “Mrs. Broun.”
Up to this point, we could call this a philosophical, historical victory for yesterday’s guest poster.
But wait. When Hale died in 1934, the Los Angeles Examiner headline on her obituary stated “Ex-wife of Heywood Broun Passes.”
Score 1 gramillion for the patriarchy.
Perhaps it’s the decades of defeat, but frankly I can’t muster much beyond a shrug and a “meh” when my chum raises the Hale argument. She’ll be all earnest and precious with her “I am not a piece of property” and “your birth name is your identity” and I’m just sitting there thinking, “Oooh, I wonder if they’ve got cherry Jell-O in the cafeteria today…”
I kid. She’s actually the only one I’ve ever known who’s felt so passionately about the matter and made me consider how I’d approach the decision. Most of my fellow journalists just kept their original names out of laziness. Why mess with the DMV when you can chalk it up to “professional identity”? But I feel compelled to share some of my reasons for taking my fiancé’s name on the big day:
1. He’s never insisted I do it. Had he, I of course would not have.
2. My name has just two shakes of a lamb’s tail of difference from a prominent character on 1990s television masterwork “Saved by the Bell.” It’s long since ceased to be enchanting to have shopgirls squinch their noses at my credit card and then squeal “OhmyGodjustlike_______!”
3. My future last name has one cinematic parallel that I am aware of and that’s the title of a Robert Altman movie. And that’s totally cool.
4. Number of times, after today, I will have to explain my decision if I change my name to his: 0. Number of times I will have to explain my decision if I don’t: approximately 235.
5. No loss of ethnic identity. They were oppressing folks with my last name back in the Second Wave, they were oppressing his during the First Wave. So technically, I actually ratchet up the whole ethnovibe thing because his people have been getting shafted for way longer than mine.
6. Speaking of ethnic identity, jokes about his people focus on drinking and purloined Lucky Charms. Jokes about mine focus on stupidity.
7. I just plain want to. Call me a prim traditionalist. I’ve identified the one man on the planet with whom I want to spend the rest of my life. I’m down with sharing a name with him.
Now hurry up with my beer; they’re after me Lucky Charms.