Caitlin! Caitlin, Caitlin Bo Baitlin Banana Fanana Fo Faitlin Mi My Mo Maitlin…
Nothing sends a confident, independent 24 year old woman into an existential crisis like the post-wedding name change game.
I married my best friend (gag barf. Cliché death <3<3) back in July 2014. It was all wonderful and we were surrounded by both our families and all of our dearest friends. But now as my honeymoon tan starts to fade there are a number of legal and self-identification issues to sort out.
Scott and I decided during our wedding ceremony planning that we would love to be called Caitlin and Scott Rancher when they announced us after that first newlywed kiss. I was happily prepared to jump into my new life together with my husband and I was really cherishing the thought of sharing the same family name as him.
I had no idea this would offend so many of my friends.
So many women in my life were surprised. I received comments along the lines of – “Didn’t think you were one of those girls.” Or “Wow I really thought you were such an individual in your relationship, guess looks can be deceiving.”
And even comments from within my family circles suggesting – “That’s too bad. We thought you would be the only sister to carry on the family legacy.”
My decision to change my name to that of my husband’s in no way reflects whether I am an “individual” or my personal belief in my self-worth. My achievements in my life, my family and my everyday actions have constantly, and will continue to constantly, give breadth and depth to my “family legacy.” This suggestion that by somehow sharing something that was my husband’s as we embark on a new life together is self-depreciating – actually really offends me.
Our society seems to have taken the see-saw approach to defining modern feminism in the context of weddings and legal name changes as it teeters as far over as it can from the previous male-dominant standard of the past.
I recognize the historical system of taking on the male’s name following the wedding union was the result of some pretty sexist and degrading practices of marriages made business transaction. The exchange of money and goods for good wife property. The man runs the household and is King of the castle. etc. etc. I know.
I agree that the Patriarch naming scheme should no longer be the forgone conclusion to every marriage. And in some circles it can’t be – prime example: marriages between two women. Obviously there needs to be a conversation there.
And really every couple getting married should be having this conversation. I think the outcome and rationale for the “Last Name Decision” is totally individual to each couple.
I don’t think it’s fair to judge someone else’s decision to either change their name, or keep their name, just because you personally are interpreting the internal relationship hierarchies at play.
I recognize now I am just venting. But it’s not like I made the decision lightly or didn’t put great care and thought into whether I should become Caitlin E Rancher, Caitlin E Cole Rancher, Caitlin E Cole-Rancher, Caitlin C Rancher, stay Caitlin E Cole, etc.
I went through the canon of pros and cons on this decision, considering both how it influences my career and graduate school aspirations, legal documents, and publication record as well as how it influences my family, my husband’s family, my social circles, my social networking, FB, email addresses and on and on. Besides putting great thought into what implications I was setting for myself, I also asked my husband whether he had any expectations or preferences. (If you know Scott you will not at all be surprised to hear he wanted whatever would make me happy. Barf. Jk. Love you. But at least we had a conversation.)
Regardless. This isn’t a decision to be made flippantly. But you must define your own standard and your own sense of what is right for your relationship.
The sentiment that I would share something so intimate and so defining to your persona with this man I love, was a really strong argument.
To have those values called into question has been an ongoing struggle. Probably made obvious by the fact that I am still sitting on my Social Security name change papers now at the end of October. After 3 months of marriage.
I am still going forward with my name change – to become Caitlin E Rancher – but I fully admit all of those comments really made me call my decision into question. I think it is very hard to walk the line between evolving social norms and maintaining traditions.
So! I just wanted to provide some of my experience and maybe offer some support to other 20-something newlyweds playing the name change game.
And since that got a bit heavy and ranty – here’s something uplifting to leave you with as you maybe muddle through your own existential crises: