Tuesday, October 25, 2011

titles and names and emotions, oh my!

So I've been thinking a lot about what getting married means for my name. Or more, for the implications about the decisions I've made regarding my name.

There are a lot of big opinions out there on this. Everyone has their own say, and then there's the social science of feminism and the consequences of changing our names as women.

I have always known that I want to take my future husband's name - even before getting engaged. My entire adult life I have insisted on being "Miss" rather than "Ms"; and in that line, I am going to be Mrs. Sheryl P when I get married.

Most people who know me on a superficial level are surprised by this. I am weird and wacky and not interested in doing what people expect of me. When people complain that I'm not being proper or ladylike, I throw it in their face. My shirt is too low and my cleavage is bothering you? Well, that's your issue, and if you are going to complain I am going to flash you. There is nothing inappropriate about some boobage.

I am not someone who is easily described by the terms 'proper' or 'traditional' or 'ladylike'. Except ... as the wonderful G!Ness would tell you - I am a little bit socially conservative when it comes to my own values for my own life. More so than people would ever expect. (Sex and the City example for you much? People's general first impression is that I'm a "Samantha", but I'm a "Samantha" with this huge, hidden dose of "Charlotte" underneath).

But!

While I have these weird pockets of traditionalism and conservativism in who I am, they are a choice. I am choosing to take Bunny's name, and to be a Mrs. Those are my choice. They are not being forced upon me.

Sometimes, though, I get this massive dose of guilt from society about it. Feminists who say "you can't be a feminist - you're changing your name". Other people who think I am undermining my own womanhood and autonomy by changing my name. Casual friends who think "oh, you're changing your name? Have you ever thought about keeping your own?"

What's so stupid and ironic about that, is that the women who don't change their names, and who want to be "Ms" or who decide to hyphenate and keep some portion - society guilts them about it too.

Why is making a choice about what our names will be for the rest of our lives as a woman something that we should be made to feel bad, or guilty about? IT SHOULDN'T BE. It's a choice. It's identity. For a lot of people, changing their name is never going to be honest. For me it is.

I have a lot of reasons to change my name. I've never been attached to my name. In fact, it's a pretty easy name to tease about (I can't tell you how many three little pigs jokes I've heard in my life). Beyond which, I have genuine negative attachments to my name. I have a barely-there relationship with the paternal half of my family. I have no relationship with my "father" - why would I want his name?

For me, getting to change my name is partly about getting to step away from associations with people who have hurt me, and who are toxic in my life. It's an amputation of sorts, with all the messiness and loss implied (because for me, everything to do with the paternal side of my family is messy).
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It's more than that though. It's about being able to redefine myself with a name that I love. It's about deciding to embrace a new family that I have chosen and that I am creating. It's about honouring Bunny's mother and father, and his family. Honouring them doesn't involve dishonouring my family. My mother and brother are still a part of my life, and getting married does not by definition change my relationships with them. Sharing a last name has nothing to do with the relationship I have with them. My family relationships are defined by feelings and time together and shared experiences. A new name does nothing to change that.

For Bunny and I, it's a symbol of coming together and creating a family. It's about mental and emotional unity. Is it fair that I have change my name and he doesn't? Maybe not. But I'm ok with that.

No relationship is equal. It's not like we split everything equally down the middle. Somethings work out to his benefit, some things to mine. Some issues are hard on me and he wouldn't have noticed. Every relationship has its inequalities in it. At the end of the day, it's about each person making enough compromise to be comfortable and feel right to both parties.

And geeze, I haven't even gotten to the Miss/Mrs/Ms thing yet. Maybe I'll leave that for later, lol.

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