Thursday, July 8, 2010

To Change or not to Change

So I have reached the point in newlywed-dom where I have to make a decision – do I adopt my partner’s last name or keep the one that I’ve had for the last 26 years? Now, I realize that if this is my only confusion in life, then I really don’t have much to complain about, but nonetheless, it is a fairly huge hassle and certainly a decision sure to endure for quite some time.

I must begin with a little background. I am not what you might consider a traditionalist. I am a feminist and also generally very practical. These things conflict more than you might think. First, I have identified with my name for 26 years. It’s me and I like to believe that while marriage might help me evolve as a person, it will not “change” me. In other words, Ragan is essentially the same person now that she was pre-marriage. So that’s part of the Keep the Hensley argument.

The other side is probably very similar to the argument that many feminists have made throughout history, which is essentially, “Screw you patriarchy. Why should I have to abandon my identity when that asshole I married doesn’t?” Or something like that. The one you’ve heard was probably much more eloquent and diplomatic, but you get the gist. And I wholeheartedly believe it. It makes no sense that I’m expected to not only sacrifice my identify, but that I should also spend a significant amount of my time filling out all of the paperwork if he doesn’t. The aversion to paperwork is my practical side shining through. What a waste of time.

In the same vein, why is it his family name that endures through generations and not mine? Chances are that I’m going to be more involved in the gestating, birthing and rearing of said posterity than he is (another conversation for another day). All this to say that I’m not comfortable with having to do all of the legwork and receive little benefit (not that carrying on one’s name is the sole benefit of parenthood).

But on the other hand…is it more practical to have just one name? Less explaining, less logistic hassle, etc. I’m just not sure that’s a good enough reason.
Our initial plan was to hyphenate both of our names, thus creating a shared family identity that recognizes both of us. But part of me, most likely the part indoctrinated by a patriarchal society, is still a little hesitant to make that move. Also, I’m not sure Hensley-Nichols would fit on most forms and would certainly be irritating as a signature…

What are your thoughts on the To Change or not to Change question?


  1. What about a new last name? Like Starlight. Ragan and Steven Starlight. No?

    Seriously though, it sounds like you're doing the right thing by working through the pros and cons for yourself. You will make the decision that is right for you and Steven.

  2. I think, to each his own. For me, I look forward to building a family unit that has fun and quarky traditions and takes random family trips and laughs, a lot.

    I don't know what that has to do with a name, but while I was reading your post I thought about my mom. She's Margaret Holaway to me but before me, she was Margaret Garrison. I know some parts of the person that is Margaret Garrison, but I know the ins and the outs of the Margaret Holaway. She's my best friend. I couldn't imagine her as anyone else. I still don't know what point I'm making, I just thought it was an interesting spin on the angle.

    For me, do I feel like a Sarah Luz? Heck no, I'm still Holaway, or Holla, and my sorority sisters will always call me that and I'll smile and remember the memories shared with them and with my pre-marriage existence. But, I don't know, for some reason when I have kids, I want to be Sarah Luz...whomever that person is. I don't plan on changing much, but it sure does give me room to grow and to start a new adventure with my that our kids will know and relate to.

    I was lazy and took my time with all of the name changing chores and in small ways, I made sure the Mr. was involved. He gathered up and kept organized a lot of the name-changing supplies we needed (documents), kept me company while I waited in many offices (text messages or phone chit chat), and met me to treat me to lunch after a successful switch (which is a funny thing since all of the finances are shared). It was a team effort on both sides for us, he had a lot of immigration stuff to deal with (trips to Memphis, filing info, interviews, etc) so that he could be a permanent resident and I had a lot of crap errands I had to make to switch my name. I still haven't updated my passport, opps. :)

    Either way, married 'folk will be a Mr. and Mrs., no matter what name they take, create, or hyphenate. =)

    (sidenote: My parents divorced when I was 15, Mom kept her married name)

  3. Hi Ragan,

    I love your blog by the way, you're such a fun writer and I enjoy hearing about the new things in your life. I would have to say you should do what you feel is right. I always thought I would keep my maiden name, I love it because it is unique and identifies me as Asian. However, I changed my mind and haven't regretted it since. In the three years I've been married I think sharing the same name as your husband helps the two of you form your life together. Just like buying a house, getting a pet, and eventually having kids, it makes you part of a whole. There is nothing more romantic than hearing your husband call you Mrs. X. Obviously you are a little bit of a traditionalist if you chose to get why not keep it going. Just my thoughts.

    Take Care,

  4. I don't think there is anything romantic about being called Mrs. Moberly. I always think about my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law. I never changed my name and I never regretted it. My husband and I ultimately landed up working for the same organization and it was great having different names, as we could operate completely independently and very few folks assumed I would feel a certain way about this or that issue because I was his wife and the same for Bob. Our kids were given both our last names. On some occasions people call me Lynne Moberly and refer to us as "The Moberlys." I think of of as my social name whereas my legal and professional name remains Lynne Webb. I amswer to both names. I have experienced no legal problems with us having separate names. It is all good. Ultimately, I think the question comes down to what symbol do you want consistently and primarily used to represent you -- not just now or in the past, but for the next 20, 30, 40 years or more? I wanted to be know by the symbol I associated with the premarital me, so I kept my name. Many women want to experience marriage as a trans-formative experience and thus I think rightfully take on a new name at the turning point of marriage. I was not looking for marriage to transform me or my husband. I was looking for each of us together to form an equal partnership and to together raise a family and acquire the capitol needed to lead a comfortable lifestyle. I think we have achieved both goals and I can assure you that the same name was NOT necessary nor would it have helped in anyway whatsoever -- other than perhaps to made a few other people who are traditionalists more comfortable with the kind of marriage we have. I chose not to live in such a way as to make happy people outside my family who do not share our values. So... do what makes YOU happy and you be doing the exactly right thing for you.