Tuesday, April 17, 2012

[Cauldroness] The Last Name Project

In this new series co-hosted by from two to one and The Feminist Mystique, we will be profiling an array of individuals and couples about their last name decisions upon marriage or what they expect to choose if they marry. The goal is to explore how individuals make decisions about their last name, and to highlight the many possibilities. We will be posting profiles periodically and encourage you to stay connected via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  If you would like to participate in this series, email Danielle at danielle [at] fromtwotoone [dot] com or Shannon at hill [dot] shannonp [at] gmail [dot] com. 

The following post is from Cauldroness, a 28-year-old woman who lives in Wisconsin.

My earliest memory about names involves my mother, my grandmother, and me sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. When the doctor was ready for a new patient, the nurse would shout the patient’s first name.

“L!” she called out. All three of us snapped to attention, looking first at the nurse, and then at each other. “Which one?” my mother had to ask, gesturing to the three of us. “L!” the nurse repeated impatiently. “I mean, which L?” my mother asked again.

You see, we all share the same first name. I know, I know, this is The Last Name Project. But my first name is my family name – the way a last name is for most people.

My grandmother started the tradition when she passed her first name down to her daughter. She said she wanted to honor her own mother, my great grandmother, who’d loved the name so much. My mom then gave me the same first name – in honor of her mother, she told me. And if I ever have a little girl of my own, I’ll pass it down to her, in honor of my mother.

And my last name? Well… I don’t share a last name with my mother. Or with my father, actually. And I’m not married. Or divorced, or separated, or adopted.

I used to have my father’s last name (my mother, an ardent feminist who came of age in the 60s, kept her maiden name). But for me, it was never my family name. It was just a name. Actually, it was more than that: it was an ugly name, as far as I was concerned. So when I was 18, I hunted through our family tree until I found a name that I liked, and then legally changed my last name.

Apparently the world doesn’t believe that an 18-year-old woman can just up and change her last name one day. For the next several years, I had to keep a birth certificate stashed in the bottom of my purse just to prove that I was exactly who I said I was.

I have no plans on changing my last name. It has nothing to do with feminism, although I am a feminist. It’s really just vanity: I like my last name. I think it’s pretty. I actually think it’s one of the prettiest last names out there, and I don’t want to lose it.

This led to a loud argument with a boyfriend of four years, whose last name I found even uglier than my former last name. “I want family unity!” he said. “So you can take my name,” I replied. “I’m the only son, it’s up to me to carry on the family name!” he said. “I’m the only A in my entire family,” I replied, and added, "And what does your wife's last name have to do with carrying on your family name?" “I’d want MY wife to have MY name, to show she's MINE!” he said. Not long after this argument, I left him.

Right now I’m dating a great guy. He thinks my last name is mine and mine alone, and is happy with whatever I do – or don’t do – with it. He even likes the idea of letting kids pick their last name: his, mine, or something else entirely.

I just might marry this one.

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