I wouldn't refer to myself as a maiden in any
respect, save one: I kept my maiden name when I married.
It was 2005, not 1955, so I didn't really think it
was a big deal. But everybody had something to say about it.
Interestingly, the people who had the most adverse reaction were
not my close friends and family, but peripherals: co-workers, sixth
degree acquaintances, the woman in the bridal registry department
at Marshall Field's. The strongest reaction I got from my inner
circle was from my paternal grandmother, who called me "a stinker."
The elderly. So profane.
In the wider world, I heard a lot of things along
the lines of "Oh, well aren't you modern?" accompanied by
eye-rolling. The subtext seemed to be "Who do you think you are?"
By not changing my name on some paperwork, I was apparently
symbolically burning my bra, donning combat boots and storming the
Capitol. For the record, I firmly believe in bra support, but
otherwise am in favor of Doc Martens and political
No question that changing my name certainly came
from my feminist ideology, but is this truly what passes for
subversion? From the time I was in 8th
grade, it was just something I knew I would (or rather,
wouldn't) do. And there were other practical reasons, too. I'm a
freelance writer and my byline is my business. It would have hurt
my career to change it. Less important, though not inconsequential,
is the fact that my first name almost rhymes with my husband's last
name, and I didn't want to sound like a nursery rhyme. Hyphenating
was not an option because our names, when united, basically mean
"small weiner." No thanks.
My husband was initially a little bugged by it, but
he realized it meant more to me than it did to him and he got over
it quickly. I can honestly say that neither of us had given it much
thought until we became parents and suddenly it was an issue again.
For other people, not us. They ask things like, "What will you do
when your son's friends call you Mrs.?" Seriously. What do they
expect me to say? "I'm going to drop-kick that toddler out of my
house, ask him what kind of mongrel raised him, then tell him not
to return until he can address me correctly." Come on. Why would I
get mad at a kid for being polite?
Another common question is, "Aren't you sad that
everyone in your family has a different last name than you?" Quite
the opposite, actually. Now that I'm a mom, so much of my life and
identity is consumed by my life with the kids. I wouldn't have it
any other way, but there is more to me than motherhood and my
pre-baby name is a reminder of that time. I like that these two
identities have unique names - a "Mrs." at school functions and a
"Ms." in my professional life. The division is especially appealing
on days spent covered in baby vomit, shuttling the kids and
negotiating dinnertime. I remember the time in my life when I once
got to go to the movie theater, brush my hair and, you know . . .
My point, I guess, is that the decision whether or
not to change your name is a very personal one that every woman
needs to make for herself. I have friends who have changed in order
to dump a cumbersome maiden name, and those that kept it because
they simply didn't feel like waiting in line at the county office.
It's not always a grandiose statement. But isn't that the whole
point of a post-feminist world? We get to choose what we want to
do, for whatever reason we want, without being coerced into it.
Rebecca Little, a native Chicagoan, loves discovering new ways to keep her two very active boys entertained lest they resort to spackling heirloom furniture or flushing toy trains down the toilet - not that those are real examples. Follow her at PinwheelChicago.com.
See more of Rebecca's stories here.
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