Those of you that know me, know that last June, I married the love of my life and best friend, Thomas Bradley. You also know that our wedding was somewhat different from the traditional (how many people do you know that used a divorce attorney as their officiant?!), as were some of the choices we made leading up to and following the big day.
However, the choice that seems to continue to spark the most controversy has been the changing of BOTH of our last names. I expected it to seem a little strange to people at first, but I never expected that I would be put in a position to defend this choice on a weekly basis, even a year after the fact. Sometimes I think I'd be less judged if I followed in the steps of one, Ms. Carrie Underwood and "didn't even know my last name." I'm not trying to whine or get mad, but I would like the rest of the world to know that their words can be irksome and even hurtful to those of us in the "hyphen-nation."
Here are just some of the comments/reactions I have heard in the last year:
1) When we went to legally change our names at the Social Security office, it took me all of 5 minutes. When Bradley got up to the counter the trouble started before he could even fill out the form. First we had to convince the man behind the counter that it was, in fact, legal in the state of Virginia for a man to state marriage as a reason for changing his last name, and be granted the request. (We checked.) Then we were told that even after filling out the paperwork (3x more than I had to fill out) he might have to go to court to be granted the request. While we ended up not having to, the idea that we could have frustrated me.
2) A few weeks later, I had to refile some information for insurance at my job. My boss noted that both of us had hyphenated names on the form, and commented that he'd "noticed it (both of our name changes) on Facebook," but he "didn't think it was a real thing," and that I "must be more stubborn than he thought." I've had others make similar comments, some of them in much more vulgar vernacular. "Guess we know who wears the pants." "She's got you by the balls." Why is a woman changing her name normal, but a man changing his name a sign of a she devil wife or a lack of masculinity?
3) We NEVER get called by the right name. It doesn't matter how many forms we write it on, how often we correct people (as nicely as possible), or who we are interacting with. People pick one. For goodness sakes, even hyphenated it's only three syllables. Is that one extra phoneme too much work? And in the inevitable event that they have to correct the forms, they do so in an exasperated manner, rolling their eyes at what they clearly think is a crazy feminist or a weak willed husband. The only time it doesn't bother me is with my students, and most of the time I have them call me Ms. G.-C. It saves time.
4) Computer systems reject my last name. I filled out a plethora of paperwork online last week for my new job, and each time it would come up with an error message saying my last name was not legitimate. My Social Security card and Driver's License beg to differ!
Here is the real story. I'm not controlling and my husband isn't weak. I am stubborn, but I have never succeeded in "making" Brad do anything he didn't want to. Here are the real reasons we decided to hyphenate:
1) We are partners. Our relationship is built on mutual respect, trust, partnership and compromise. At our wedding, we were pronounced "partner's in life," instead of "man and wife."
2) Brad wanted us to have the same last name. I wanted to keep mine. This was our solution.
3) We live on my family's farmland. It has been under the same name for 7 generations. I wanted a portion of that name to stay with it for at least one more generation, and Brad, being a history major, understood this importance.
I have no idea what our children will do when their time comes, but I hope they understand the symbolism behind why we made the decisions we did. We wanted act and be viewed as equals from the very beginning, in every aspect of our lives. It was a decision made out of love for each other. All we ask is that people respect the decision we have made, and not pass judgement on us for it, or any couple who makes a similar decision.
Now, for those of you who would like a more humorous recap, here is a link that fairly accurately describes what goes on inside my head when I'm biting my tongue: http://www.thefrisky.com/2014-03-03/14-signs-youve-got-hyphenated-last-name-problems-in-gifs/hyphenate-problems1/