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

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About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on November 26, 2013, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi Andrea, I liked your article in the Canadian Jewish News. In Quebec, as you know, the law states that a woman must keep her family name…
    Ron

    Like

  2. Makes sense! Everyone is different and should be able to make their own choices. Good Article.

    Like

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