Not too long ago I posted on this blog's Facebook page that I was not going to be changing my last name when I got married. I had varied responses to that news and differing opinions not to what I should do, but to what others would do. It was very interesting to hear various viewpoints on this issue.
Since I got married May 18th, it has become quite apparent to me how many people, those who didn't see that Facebook post, have naturally assumed that I am now Mrs. Myers (my husband's last name) or Christine Myers. Technically, Mrs. means "the wife of" and I take absolutely no offense to that. I am his wife and very proud of that fact.
I have done a lot of reading on this subject, mostly because I truly struggled with the decision and because it interests me as to why some women change their birth name when they get married and why some don't. According to the Huffington Post in an article posted April, 2013, only 8% of women now keep their last name after marriage. This is down from 23% in the 1990's. Although it appears that as a woman who kept her birth name I am in the minority, I don't think any woman really takes that decision making process lightly.
My name history is as follows. I was born Christine Jeanne Molloy. My dad picked out my first name. My middle name is my mother's first name. My last name is an Irish surname that represents my grandfather's family who originally migrated from Ireland to Newfoundland and finally to Massachusetts. When I married my first husband in 2000, I changed my middle name to my birth name (Molloy) and assumed my ex-husband's last name. By the time we separated in 2008, I was counting the days until I resumed my birth name once again. The biggest reason for that was because I felt that in the years I was married, I lost my identity and I regretted ever changing it in the first place.
When Chuck, my current husband, and I were discussing this issue months ago, he made it very clear that it was my choice. I struggled with the issue enormously because I could make a case to go in either direction. There was a part of me that wanted to take his last name so that we would be identified as a married couple. At first I thought that taking his name would represent our togetherness and our love.
Although I believe in women's rights, I am not a woman who would be considered a staunch feminist. One of the arguments that is made about women who do change their name when they marry is that if a woman does change her surname, it implies she belongs to a man or another person. That we, as women, need to keep our name in order to not lose our independence. I read that in an article; more than one article actually. I disagree with the fact that changing your name causes you to lose your independence. I also disagree with the fact that changing your name implies you belong to a man. Because no matter what your choice is in regards to your name, the fact is you DO belong to another person when you marry them. Not in a possessive way but in a commitment way. My heart belongs to my husband and just as much, his belongs to me. It has nothing to do with what names we choose to go by.
OK, so then why did I decide to keep my name? Because to start with, it's my name. I am Christine Jeanne Molloy. The person who with all her strengths and weaknesses, is a person who is proud of who she is. Christine Myers didn't graduate from nursing school. Christine Molloy did. Christine Myers didn't survive cancer. Christine Molloy sure as hell did though. Some people might be asking now then, why did I change my name the first time I got married? Because I was 29 years old then, not 42. A lot of how I think changed during those years and I thank god for that.
I did have someone ask me before I got married if I thought I was afraid to change my last name again because of how lousy my first marriage, especially since I was so eager to get my birth name back. I did seriously think about that question because when you are marrying for the second time and the divorce rate for second marriages is around 60%, you need to be honest with yourself and make sure you are carrying as little baggage into a marriage as possible. What I realized was that if I had never been married before, I still wouldn't change my name now. It's not fear, just a different viewpoint.
I joked with Chuck when we were having this name change conversation about why couldn't the expectation be that the man changes his last name? I never in a million years thought he would consider that. But he surprised me. He said that if he didn't have children who shared his last name that maybe he would consider the possibility. However after I thought about it some more, I realized that for all the same reasons I wanted to keep my surname, so would I want him to keep his. It is who he is and it is where he comes from. I would never want to change that.
This last name issue is my personal decision. I know people who have kept their birth name, have assumed their spouse's name, have hyphenated the two names, have used two names, and who have completely changed their name. I have no issue with any of those decisions. I don't disagree and honestly, it doesn't even matter to me. What does matter to me is how I feel about who I am. Once we stop worrying about other's people's choices and focus on our own decisions, the world becomes a much better place to live in.
I did a bit of reading this morning about this issue because one of the questions that was presented to me is how should I be identified in say, correspondence for example? For me, anyone that bothers to send us correspondence, such as an invitation, will not be scrutinized. According to various websites the proper format is to address us as follows:
Ms. Christine Molloy and Mr. Charles Myers
Apparently the woman's name always comes first and the "and" is important. The "and" indicates that the couple is married. If the couple was not married, their names would be listed in a column format like this:
Ms. Christine Molloy
Mr. Charles Myers
So what would happen if someone sent us an invitation or piece of mail that looked like this?
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Myers
That's great! While my name is not Christine Myers, I am "the wife of" Charles Myers so no, I wouldn't have a hissy fit. Because most likely, someone just didn't know about my decision to keep my name. And again, I am the "wife of". It would be funny though if we received mail that looked like this:
Mr. and Mrs. Christine Molloy
Throughout this process I have learned that the name I have in no way represents the strength or quality of the love I have for my husband. Anyone who was at our wedding ceremony for at least 30 seconds would have seen that with their own eyes. I have also learned that when I listen hard enough to my own gut, the answers are right there. The day we went to apply for our marriage license there was a space that said "surname after marriage" or something to that effect. I realized that I had not 100% made a decision in my mind before we went to the town hall. And then it happened. My heart said to write Molloy and before I even had a chance to question it, my pen was on the paper writing the letters that have forever known to be a representation of who I am: Christine Jeanne Molloy.
Photo Courtesy of: irishsurnames.com