Monthly Archives: November 2013

What’s In A Name?

Andrea Freedman

When my parents told me how happy they were that although they had no sons, their daughters were still carrying on our family name, it reminded me of one more reason I was glad I decided to keep my own last name when I got married.

I had always had difficulty grasping the idea that women automatically had to change their names if they got married. From an early age, I remember questioning why it was a foregone conclusion that, for a woman, changing one’s last name upon marriage was mandatory.

The assumption that a married woman must surrender her last name and to some degree her identity really did not feel right to me. I was adamant about keeping my own last name if I did get married and that I most likely would not marry someone who was not open-minded enough to understand that.

I have seen too many women with perfectly good last names change them to their husband’s name and sometimes to one we would have made jokes about when they were first dating. Changing one’s surname is one thing but when they start calling themselves “Mrs. John Smith”, thereby also forfeiting their first names, that is when I think things have gone too far.

When parents name their children, they usually sound out the first and last names together before making a final decision to see if they actually go together, if they flow. When those names are changed, they commonly do not sound right.

The more modern trend of hyphenating one’s surname and tacking on a husband’s name is another option. Although “Excuse me Mrs. Smith-Jones” may look good on paper, to me it does not feel natural and quite frankly, it often sounds too long when a name is hyphenated.

There are occasions when women have maiden names they do not particularly care for and are only too happy to have an opportunity to change them to something else. In some cases, almost any name, as far as they are concerned, could be potentially better than what they already have.

Also, if, on the other hand, a woman wanted to make a completely fresh start in life and consciously make it difficult for people from her past to find her, changing her last name might actually come in handy.

I understand why couples, especially if they have children together, might feel that they may want everyone in their family to have the same last name but perhaps there should also be an option of men changing their names to their wives’ last names instead.

Before I was about to get married, people who knew me well asked me eagerly “So, are you going to change your name?” “No,” I replied; there were some things that were too important to me to change.

My husband was not thrilled at first – especially on a few occasions when we checked into a hotel and he was accidentally addressed using my last name – but he came to accept my decision.

I take my marriage vows equally as seriously as I would have if I had changed my last name and that is what really matters. I am not criticizing anyone’s choice, whether they decide to keep their own last names or assume the last names of their husbands. I just think it is important that we all be true to ourselves, feel comfortable with our choices and that we not forget that to some women, a last name represents a part of who they are.

A woman’s decision whether or not to change her surname when she gets married is a personal choice. All I know is that from the day I came into this world until the day I leave it my name and what it means to me will always stay the same.♦

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2013

Morbid Curiosity Might Be Just Plain Morbid

Andrea Freedman

Boredom can sometimes lead us to do strange things. For me, it began a phase of a disturbing habit. It all started innocently enough when I was working at my last office job and trying to find ways to pass the time; after a while it got out of control.

On one of the many days when I was bored at work, after I had read and re-read all of the day’s news and celebrity gossip, just out of curiosity, I clicked on the death notices. I found some of them so touching I became choked up.

After that, all of a sudden I found myself checking the obituaries on a daily basis. Sometimes I would even go so far as cross-referencing death notices from different online newspapers.

If a name looked familiar to me I would read on. If the word “suddenly” caught my eye in the announcement, even if I did not know the person, I found it especially intriguing and would continue reading out of a mere morbid curiosity, assuming that the person must have committed suicide or had been met with an unfortunate accident or accidental overdose.

Some of the announcements actually compelled me to read the online condolences for the person. It was like passing by a bad car accident and not being able to look away.

It struck me as a bit cold that because of social media, nowadays leaving an online condolence rather than sending a donation to a requested charity or making a personal visit to the mourners has somehow become an acceptable alternative.

I felt slightly self-conscious about my habit; if I sensed that someone was about to walk by when I was sitting at my desk at work, I quickly minimized the obituaries so that none of my co-workers would know of my secret obsession.

Quite often I was sorry that I checked the obituaries on a particular day, if I happened to see a name that looked familiar; nonetheless, it did not stop me from going back to do it again the next day.

When I finally confessed my obsession to my husband and one of my friends, they were horrified to learn that I was spending so much of my precious time doing something so negative and depressing and urged me to stop.

I further knew I had a problem when I called my own parents to inform them of a death notice I had read about one of our old neighbours from when I was growing up.

“Did you know that so-and-so died?  I read it in the obituaries in the paper. I figured you already knew about it but I thought I should tell you just in case.”

“No actually. I don’t make a habit of checking the obituaries; I find it too depressing.”  At first I was a bit surprised at their response but then I realized that everyone was right and that my free time could indeed be spent in so many more positive, productive ways.

Although I know that there are many people who check the death notices in the newspaper daily and think nothing of it many of them are much older than I am and, unfortunately, are often not surprised when they do see one of their contemporaries on the list.

The sad reality is that a shocking end of a human life can strike at any time, and I have come to the decision that for me, it is bad karma to keep this habit of being on the pulse of it going. Perhaps if I don’t keep checking for familiar names, it will put off the regret of having to actually read about someone I know.

If there is something I need to be made aware of, I am confident that someone will call and tell me about it, without my having to read about it in the paper, thus avoiding all the other announcements for people who, although I am sorry for because of the loss of their lives, I have never met. Life throws us and our own families enough curves without having to delve into the tragedies of others.

Now that I no longer find my days so boring that I have to resort to doing things like reading death notices in order to make them pass by I can hardly believe I ever did it in the first place. If others choose to make checking the obituaries part of their daily routines that is their business but for me, as far as that habit goes, the nail is in the coffin.♠

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2013

A Pet Peeve

Have you ever suffered the loss of a pet and been disappointed in the insensitivity of others?

Click the link below to read my article A Pet Peeve as published in the June 7, 2013 issue of the East Yorker.

A Pet Peeve – as published in June 7, 2013 East Yorker

My Cooking REALLY Takes the Cake

In case you didn’t get a chance to read my article My Cooking REALLY Takes the Cake, published in the September 27, 2013 East Yorker, you can now read it by clicking on the link below:

My Cooking REALLY Takes the Cake