I Have A Name, Thanks
Yours is very nice, but I don't need it
We had a coupon for 20% off the basic ceremony and had rolled into Reno to discover that the County Clerk’s office was open until midnight every night of the week. We forked over $45 and signed on the antiquated lines labeled Groom and Bride.
Yes, we eloped to Reno where the quickie divorce has its counterpart in the quickie wedding. And, in true 21st century form, Til Death Do Us Part has been ditched in favor of From This Day Forward and, interestingly, no mention was made of Forsaking All Others (whewww for this non-monogamous couple). Ten minutes; no rings and no name change.
Fun fact: A former partner wanted to hyphenate his name with his wife’s when they got married but was told he would have to change his name legally through the courts. His wife, however, could hyphenate her name by signing on the dotted line on the wedding license.
It’s almost as if females have been pets. We have first names but our last names come from the real humans, the men. Yes, as infants most of us are given our last names by our fathers, males. That goes for baby boys as well as baby girls. But when women marry they traditionally take their husband’s name. Or at least they used to.
I did the first time around.
Years later when I found myself in divorce court I spoke up quickly and asked that my name be changed back to Remington. Here’s the tricky bit and I wrote more about that in another piece, An Old Family Tradition: Secrets*.
The short version:
Standing there in divorce court I blurted out that I’d like my name back: Remington. Neither the judge nor the clerk asked if that was my legal maiden name.
It was not.
Growing up I had one name on my birth certificate but I never used that name. I didn’t even know about that other name until I was 8 years old (surprise!). Jason Remington was my Daddy and Remington was my name.
I was a year old when Jason married my mother. The man whose name was on my birth certificate refused to sign the papers allowing Jason to legally adopt me but my parents decided that I would be Remington anyway. This was probably a wise move in 1960’s small town America.
On that day in divorce court I chose my own name. It’s mine for keeps.
And thanks to the official piece of paper from that divorce court my name is now on all my identification including my passport. Remington may not have been my legal name growing up but it sure is now.
I love my partner and am incredibly happy to share life, creativity, adventures, and a too-small apartment with him. We’re a couple of old hippies who got married for the right reason: our accountant told us to. Getting married put him on the lease of my rent-stabilized apartment (in New York City that is love, friends, real love) and got me on his health care insurance. We’re also poor enough to get a financial benefit at tax time for allowing the state to sanction our relationship.
But no rings to signify possession and we each kept our name. Ok, yes, we do have matching blue titanium ear hoops in our left ears but who’s going to know what that means?
There are countless ways that our culture has codified the lesser place accorded to females in society. These crumbling remainders of a dying structure are slowly being removed. Being given away by a father to a husband and taking the husband’s name is one of the easier ones to move past and more people do it all the time.
I feel like it got a nice nudge out the door from same-sex marriage. Imagine two women or two men standing by a towering white cake surrounded by their loved ones and saying: Change my name? To what?
Mazel tov, my sisters and brothers, and thank you.
It should go without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway): if you want to take your husband’s name when you marry, more power to you, sister. It’s now your choice.
Or should be.
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