Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What’s in a Name? A Newlywed’s Thoughts on Keeping Her Name

I foolishly believed that keeping my maiden name would not be a controversy in America in 2012.  I cannot believe how wrong I was!  I keep being questioned, and even berated, for daring to keep my own name.  While all other traditions of marriage have been easily discarded, this one seems to be here to stay.

I shouldn’t have to justify to anyone why I want to keep my own name.  However, I feel the need to explain my reasons in order to enlighten people who do not seem to understand.

First of all, my last name is, quite frankly, awesome.  My mother and sister-in-law were happy to take the name of my father and brother because they loved the idea of having the last name “Diamond.”  My mother’s maiden name is a lovely Italian name, but she was happy to be rid of it because she was tired of her name being mispronounced and misspelled.  Diamond is a beautiful last name that everyone can spell and properly pronounce.

A more important reason, however, is my career.  I am 35 years old.  Had I gotten married at 20, I probably would have changed my name.  Now, however, I have had this name for three and a half decades.  I have built a career with this name.  I have many honors and awards in this name.  When I apply for other jobs, or even just network, my name is very useful.   My students call me Ms. Diamond, and I can’t imagine answering to something else.   I have a house, passport, college degree, and teaching certificate in my name.  All of these accomplishments were made with my maiden name before I even met my husband, and I do not want to lose them by changing my name.

My family and culture are very important to me.  My husband has a great last name, but it reflects his heritage, not mine.  His English ancestors came to America in the 1600s.  My ancestors immigrated around World War I from Romania and Italy.  I am proud of my heritage and want to continue to honor it with my family name.  I cannot imagine no longer having a Jewish last name. 

I have been told that regardless of my reasons, changing my name is “tradition” and “honors my husband.”  The tradition argument is a ridiculous one.  Not one person has criticized us for living together before we were married, which is also a “tradition.”  I have also not been criticized for continuing to work, for owning the house which we both live in, for not throwing my bouquet and garter at the wedding, etc.  Therefore, I cannot believe anyone would have the audacity to use “tradition” as a justification for wanting me to give up my identity.

As for honoring my husband, he didn’t have to change his name to honor me did he?  Does that mean he does not honor me?  No.  We love and honor each other every day, regardless of what our names are.  I honor my husband by my love and faithfulness.  I do not have to prove my love to my husband by changing my name.

However, I may end up having to change my name or at least hyphenate it, simply for convenience.  I realize that although I do not wish to do this, keeping my name may make hassles in my life because other people and institutions do not honor my decision.   My husband and I have been married for only 4 days and we have already encountered issues.  Wedding checks were written to us as Mr. and Mrs. (my husband’s last name).  His bank would not let them deposit them without me present, and I had to endorse them with my first name and his last name because that is what the checks said.  I worry we will run into similar issues in the future.  Of course, no one asked me if I was keeping my name or not when writing said checks, it was just assumed.  I am not upset about this at all, and grateful for the gifts.  I understand that right now people still just assume that the bride will give up her name.  My hope for the future is that someday this tradition will go the way of other outdated traditions, and women will truly have a choice to change or not to change their identities.