Many people don’t know that my last name hasn’t always been Mahady. I’ve never had a close relationship with my father and an even less close one with his name. It was a bad one. German, hard to pronounce, and easily confused with something you wouldn’t want to be taunted with as a kindergartner.
So, when I was 18, in homage to my mother and her parents – the people who actually raised me – I changed my last name to theirs. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I am proud to be a Mahady and am grateful for the even stronger connection it has given me to my maternal parentage.
Since then, I’ve always known that it would have to take a name infinitely more awesome than mine to get me to change it again (in the event that I get married to an equally awesome man, of course).
Despite my clear preference for my own, there actually are other names out there that would fit the bill. For example, most of the Irish surnames are pretty good or those really cool British or Scottish names. I work with a woman whose married name is Lovely. You can’t get much better than that.
Hyphenating could be an option, but honestly, I have a long enough name as it is. And keeping my maiden name as my middle name? Come on. How often do we even use our middle names? That would be a demotion of the highest order.
Suffice it to say, I’m a name snob and I must admit that in a dating situation, I probably spend too much time thinking about what my first name would sound like with his last name.
A guy’s preference
Now don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t not date a person if he had a horrible last name, but should our relationship get serious, it could create an obstacle. Because even in these modern times, most of them men I’ve met have set a pretty clear expectation that when it comes to getting married, they expect their wife to take their name.
Most people agree that the whole idea of brides relinquishing their maiden name for their husbands’ is really a product of one’s culture, not religion. (Muslims are a notable exception. Women are forbidden from taking their husbands’ names since it could convey some notion of a husband owning his wife, an idea frowned upon in the mainstream Muslim world).
There aren’t even many hard statistics on how many women decide to keep their maiden names (the figures seem to hover somewhere around the 15 percent mark) and there is no real data out there to suggest how many Catholic women do so.
But these days, so much of our culture is tied to a particular religion, even in the U.S. The Western European-Puritanical structure upon which our nation was founded – and in which it was standard for the wife to take the husband’s name — is still present. We may not be Puritans, but we still live largely in the culture they created.
But it’s not all societal. There is scripture that, depending on the context in which you choose to read it, could support the idea that a wife changing her name to her husband’s is in accordance to the will of God.
Wives, submit to your husbands as the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. —Ephesians 5:22-24
Again, context is everything (or nothing, depending on your views) when reading that passage, and I think, dear readers, you can guess my thoughts. But it is interesting that a lot of my married friends changed their names with passages like that in mind, doing so in order that they could feel closer or more connected with their spouses (with the secondary, never-mentioned-until-after-the-honeymoon reason being that their husbands wanted them to).
Sure. I guess that’s a fair. But if you need to change your name in order to feel connected to your spouse (or them to you) – even if it’s just to emphasize, not create, that connection – I think that still says something.
Give and take
Granted, someone could switch that statement around on me, too: Why am I so stubborn about giving up my name? What if I was about to marry the love of my life and he just couldn’t live with me keeping my name?
Well, first of all, the love of my life would never let something like that get in the way of our relationship (he’s awesome, remember). He could share his opinion, but in the end, he would understand that it’s my name and my choice, and he’d be OK with whatever I decided.
I also think that a marriage should be a partnership, an equal give-and-take. And if my husband-to-be wouldn’t want to give up his name, then why should I?
I love my name. And I think anyone who will love me enough to marry me (opinions and all) will love that I love my name and understand my reasons why — because I love the family that gave me that name, I love the life I lead with that name, and because the love that we will share should and will transcend any name.