By the time this spring turns into summer, I will be married (provided all goes to plan, touch wood, et cetera). During our engagement I have circled back to one question that introduces many others. Will I change my name?
This decision is a feminist conundrum. Taking the traditional route – a woman legally changing her last name to her husband’s and being known by that new married name – is still largely expected for those in a heterosexual relationship. While many are happy with this set-up, it does require one person to significantly alter how they present themselves to the world. Arguably marriage does this anyway – the contractual combining of two lives is a big change. But, knowing that it is still most often women shifting their identities (and doing the admin that comes with it), it’s not a choice I can make lightly.
There are also reasons grounded in emotion and legacy. I’m attached to my original name. I have been Molly Whyte for twenty-five years. I share this name with my family. My sister and I are the only two Whytes in our generation, as my Dad gently reminds me. There is no pressure from my husband-to-be to take his name, though he isn’t keen to change his own either.
Then there are the practicalities. I have it on good authority that changing your name is a bit of a faff. Bank, bills, passport, driving licence – the list goes on. Plus, I like writing my name with the two ‘y’s going down. Try it.
The argument in favour of changing my last name boils down to wanting to share a name with the person I’m taking this step alongside. It’s something to mark this new unit we are committing to – a family fortunate to have plenty of love and support from both sides.
“Simple!”, you might say. “Double-barrel.” This would have been my preferred choice was it not for the fact that both our last names are – or at least sound like – colours. It won’t work. I put a combination of our names on the table for a while, with a quick Google search as evidence that yes-it-is-a-real-name-actually. I also considered keeping my original family name as a middle name, before deciding that it would still look weird on a gravestone.
What does this leave us with?
The approach I have settled on will involve changing my name legally. I am going to keep using my original name at work and for writing, so you won’t see any change around these parts. This feels like the right choice. It means we will share G’s last name, while I preserve whatever professional and creative reputation goes along with my name as it stands. It will take some getting used to – certainly being a ‘Mrs’ will – but I am excited to use both names in different places. It’s a way of respecting my heritage and life to this point and stepping into a new season.