I've debated a great deal over whether or not to change my last name when I get married.
You see, there are so many couples these days with different names like "Mr. Mike Thomas and Mrs. Jamie Fields" or "Mr. and Mrs. Fields-Thomas." And then there's the decision over what to do when you have kids. Do they get the dad's name only? Is it hyphenated? What about when they get married? At what point does a name lose its relevance? Does it ever?
It all seemed so complicated.
But then, I considered all of the women who have literally been lost to marriage and to their husbands. It's like they get a ring and suddenly live for one purpose and that is to please their husbands. They lose that spark that makes them special and I'm convinced that a great deal of the antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications prescribed today are for women who struggle with that loss of selfhood and the internal conflict that results. After all, shouldn't I define who I am? God calls us to be partners with our spouses, not for one to lord over the other. If I change my name, am I submitting myself, even in a small way, to patriarchal oppression and ownership of women?
As I discussed it with other married women, I, repeatedly, heard two things:
1. "You're already giving up everything else, why not keep your name?"
2. "It's tradition to change your name! It would dishonor your husband if you didn't!"
I strongly believe that our names are a huge part of who we are. Naming has a great deal to do with how see ourselves and, in many cases, who we are and who we want to be. (Don't believe me? Email me and I'll suggest some really interesting books on the subject.) Our names say so much about us, and yet, it's been a tradition for hundreds of years for women to be forced to change their names when they get married.
So, this begs the question, if I am to take my husband's name, does that mean I'm giving up a piece of my own identity.
Well, I won't keep you in suspense any longer.
After tossing all of this around for months, I've made the decision to change my name. After September 22nd, I'll be Mrs. Nicole Jeannette Phillips.
And here's why:
Ultimately, I decided that changing my name, much like getting married, is not going to change my identity as though to lose a part of it, but, rather, to add to it. I don't really care about tradition and yet I don't feel that changing my name makes me any less of the independent woman I am today. I was born and will always be Nicole White. That said, in making up my mind, J.L. has been very supportive and it has always been my decision to take or leave his last name. In fact, it was that gentleness and respect for me as a woman to have the agency to choose my name, my identity, that made me feel confident that I was ready to not only marry him, but to take on a his name.
That said, I don't know that there are very many "right" answers in life, and this is certainly no exception. For, what's right for me, isn't necessarily right for someone else.
So how about you?
Are you getting married? Are you changing your name?
Are you married now? What do you think?
Wanna get married someday? What would influence your decision one way or another?
P. S. If I ever become a professor, I'd love to teach an English course on "naming and the self" and have students compare texts like The Crucible, Romeo and Juliet, and others relative to identity through naming. Wouldn't that be cool?