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Monday, February 06, 2006

Taking the Name

I remember the first woman I ever met who didn’t take her husband’s name upon marriage. I knew it happened, but I had never seen it before. Turns out she refused to take his name because he was an abusive piece of (expletive deleted) who I would have been happy to beat up for her. She said the only reason she married him was because she was afraid that if she left him he would kill her. For this I would have been more than happy to lie in wait for him with a shotgun so I could shoot him the instant he tried to harm her. This was a really good reason for her to keep her own name.

However, further life experience has shown me a few things.

With very rare exception, American women who refuse to take their husband’s name do so for the following reasons: 1- She expects to divorce him anyway. 2- She is more concerned with her unmarried identity than with generations of tradition. 3- She is a rabid, man-hating feminazi who actually got married for some incomprehensible reason. 4- She doesn’t like her husband’s last name for one reason or another. 5- She wears the pants in that household, and he will never be allowed to forget it.

Let’s address these reason one at a time, shall we?

1- If she expects to divorce him anyway then why on Earth would she marry the guy? This is a relative recent trend in America, no more than 25 years old, where people just seem to get married for the heck of it as a way to pass a few years before moving on to a new unmarried life, or into a life married to someone they would have preferred anyway. Maybe it’s just the way my mind works, but I will never be able to understand the idea of entering into a purposely temporary marriage.

2- Traditions have been challenged in America for a long time. Most remain dominant, some fade away. This is good when good traditions are kept, and even better when really bad traditions, like slavery and segregation, are removed entirely. But it’s also bad when good traditions, like prayer in public schools, are removed. To me the tradition of a woman taking her husband’s name when she gets married is one of love and respect. That means it should be kept.

3- What man would have such a woman anyway? What man would such a woman have in the first place?

4- There are some seriously funky last names out there and some unpronounceable ones as well. So while I understand the temptation for a woman to not take the name we are driven right back to the issue of love and respect.

5- Okay. If a man is such a submissive or weak character that he cannot be the leader of his household I can understand that there might be a certain lack of respect on the woman’s part that would motivate her to not take his name. (No I am not advocating male dominance, just the purpose of traditional roles in a family. I will blog about that some other time.)

There is one final reason that women don’t take their husband’s name that I have saved for just this moment. HE TAKES HER NAME!

I have only met one man who did such a thing, and it was purely because of his hatred for his birth name. He was born Michael Myers. That’s right, like the actor who played Austin Powers and the murderous psychopath from the Halloween movies. He had been made fun of so much for his name that he decided he would rather take his wife’s last name than have her take his.

This brings us to the final, male reason why some women don’t take their husband’s last name; he won’t let her.

In this situation is it usually the man who suffers from an utter lack of respect for his wife, and also a distinct lack of love for her. It is a symptom of an unhealthy relationship where he probably dominates his wife with an iron fist.

These guys suck.

Needless to say, I was very happy that my wife took my name when were married. We share a wonderful marriage that I greatly appreciate. She is a fantastic woman whom I deeply love. It makes me happy for us to be called “Mr. and Mrs. Levesque”.

10 Comments:

  • Daniel, I'm from a church full of longterm marriages with the sweetest, smartest and strongest men and women in the world where they've taken a variety of approaches to this, including taking both names or each retaining their own.

    Find something real to worry about.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 8:08 AM  

  • You obviously missed the part about this not being universal, and I did not speak about combined names.

    Also, this is merely an observational post, not anything that wories me. It is what I have seen.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 9:58 AM  

  • The only time I've heard of a man taking a woman's last name was when he had a big falling out w/ his family and to show his anger he chose to take his wifes last name. As a side note, that marriage did end up becoming extremely dysfunctional. Not saying they all do, but this one did.

    Dan T -
    I didn't get the impression that Daniel was "worried" about this topic. I think it was just a topic he found interesting....you know, like maybe an observation.
    Clearly you were "worried" enough to make a comment. It seems kinda rude to tell someone what they should and shouldn't be worried about, don't you think?

    By Blogger Corie, at 10:09 AM  

  • Well, I got married about five years ago, I love my husband and I could never see my life without him, I am very proud of the man I married. I decided not to take his name,not because I didn't love him, or don't like his name. I love my last name and I am so proud of it because my Dad gave it to me, thats the only reason. I don't know if it makes sense or not but it was just what seemed right to me.

    By Blogger palomakahlo81, at 11:13 AM  

  • Female academics and researchers in the private sector who have published before they get married rarely take their husbands' names for very good reason: it makes compiling and finding their research a pain in the ass.

    By Anonymous rightwingprof, at 12:57 PM  

  • Maybe some women don't want to change their name because they believe it's an outdated and sexist tradition that implies the men are more important than their new wife? And why should they go through all the hassles of having to change your name on everything from medical stuff to credit cards to anything else? I suppose it's a part of the 'obey' bit of the traditional marriage vows. The bit that gets removed by a lot of couples these days.

    On a side note, I am considering making a very long double-barrelled name when I get 'good as married' in the Summer. Maybe...

    By Blogger DanProject76, at 2:56 PM  

  • While I myself would put this in the category of observation, it obviously did "worry" Daniel enough to not only "observe" the issue but to identify causes for it and arguments against the practice thereof.

    But anyway, Daniel, you say that the woman taking the husband's last name shows love and respect for him; likewise, would not the man taking his new wife's last name show love and respect as well? I personally would have no problem with my wife and I having the same hyphenated last name.

    And to quote (or paraphrase more accurately) Shakespeaere, what's in a name anyway? Furthermore, what's in a genealogy? Yes, I have Irish and Welsh blood in me. Other than being kind of cool, this does not impact me in the least. So why are so many people not only so worked up about names but also their cultural ancestry, other than from a historical/appreciative point-of-view?

    By the by, this was not meant as a response but more of a side topic.

    By the by and by, I've posted an excerpt from my most recent short story project Daniel, if you're interested.

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 3:39 PM  

  • Great post, very interesting! I agree with your observations.

    By Blogger Nightcrawler, at 6:30 AM  

  • There has been a lot of interesting input on this post. I appreciate it all, especially the exceptions to the rules I have observed.

    Being a traditionalist I cling to a lot of stuff that works, and has worked well (I do discard the bad stuff) and place a high value on time-honored traditions and institutions.

    Also, nobody bothered to mention that in many Latino cultures a combined surname IS the tradition, but with only the first of the combined names (the father's) being passed on to the children.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 7:12 AM  

  • This issue has been a thorn in my side for years. As a human, I can understand the arguments of feminists who say this is an antequated and male-centric tradition. As a man, I get totally frustrated that at its center, this argument is about the idea that marriage should be 50/50 all the time, and if it isn't, it's tanatamount to other social ills like racism and slavery. Look, changing her name is a choice a woman can make like any other to show respect and devotion to her marriage. Men make other one-sided sacrifices to show respect and devotion as well. Is it within her rights to keep her name if she wants? Definitely. Should she feel she HAS to change her name? No. But, if she refuses to change her name and is with a guy who cares a lot about the issue, he will lose trust and faith in her. And creating a positive spiral of trust and faith ought to be what marriage is all about.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:24 AM  

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