And Now A Word From the Mrs.


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.


11 Responses to “And Now A Word From the Mrs.”

  1. I-66 Says:

    You could pass for irish.

    And really? I hadn’t even thought about the Saved By The Bell parallel. Then again, you don’t look anything like Lisa Turtle anyway. 😉

  2. Mary Ellen Says:

    La-la-la! I can’t hear you!

  3. startingtoday Says:

    I agree with you.

    One of my main reasons, which I didn’t see mentioned above, but which applied in my case, is that as a teacher at the time, I was very aware of parents with different last names than their children, and it was sometimes very hard to keep track of! When I got married, I figured it would be easier to have his last name, should we ever have children.

    Obviously, it’s a personal choice, but even so, you’re not doing any harm by taking his last name.

    Of course in my situation, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my last name, being no longer with my ex-husband. Do I bother going through the effort and mountains of paperwork to change it back? Do I keep it to identify with my daughter? Or do I just wait? I’d like to think I’m young enough and have enough to offer someone, and might get married again some day. And this time, my reasoning for changing my name would be your #7.

  4. K Says:

    WhatwhatWHAT? He’s not Scottish? Eh, they’re all alike anyway. 😉 You could pass for red Irish, for sure.

  5. I-66 Says:

    K is wise.

    Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m going to Irish up your last name and call you by it from here on out. The best part? You won’t know what it is until I use it.

  6. allie Says:

    Reason #8 – you just want to be like us cool kids with a random capital letter in our last names!

  7. Bridal Bird Says:

    I’ve been dating around for years waiting to find someone with the random capital letter to marry!

  8. Abi Says:

    If it is the movie I’m thinking of, I’d probably take that name too and start going by Abigail. And not just because I Googled it and didn’t find anyone with that name.

  9. kate.d. Says:

    it does make me sad that it continues to fall to women to give up something in the name of family cohesiveness, or keeping the peace, or what have you. and you’re right – you would get asked about it 235 times a day. so in the end, when women give all these “reasons” why they’re changing their names, they’re just ultimately just elaborating on the “it’s just easier” theme. but easier for whom, you know? certainly not the woman who has to order a damn name-changing kit to keep track of all the paperwork she has to fill out and boxes she has to check off! easier for society to swallow….well yeah.

  10. Norf Says:

    It’s totally up to the woman to do what she wants.

    My wife had a ridiculously long Polish name when we got married. She was happy to get rid of it.

    She’s a Kindergarten teacher, and when you are trying to teach kids how to spell, it’s hard to explain to them why “szew” in your own name is pronounced “shev”. I have a nice English name, which is easy to spell. It’s also a cardinal direction, which is good for teaching kids all kinds of stuff, from hemispheres to compasses.

    I suggested she keep her name when we got married, to keep her cultural identity, but she wasn’t interested. She wanted to be Mrs. Norf. I guess she still has a “w” that’s pronounced like a “v” in her first name, and a middle name that’s ripe with Polishness. We plan to give our children names that translate into Polish names, as well.

    Besides, I moved across the country for her to find work, so I guess we’re even 😉

  11. Evil Andrew Says:

    I don’t know. Kelly Kopowski was pretty hot.

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