Sorry, future husband. Keep it to yourself.
Up until a few years ago, in every relationship I’ve had — both long-term and after a surprisingly good first date — I’ve considered what my name would sound like if I married whoever I was seeing. Some of my boyfriends had uninteresting surnames, others humorous, many quite plain. While I won’t oust them here, I never felt like my first would match their last.
Now, I understand a few things here: A. I’m single, and B. changing your last name has little to do with how it sounds. But as an independent, hard-working, successful and devoted 26-year-old, I’ve worked really hard to build a name for myself.
And though it might not seem like such a big deal to forgo ‘Tigar’ in favor of some last name I don’t even know yet, when I meet this mysterious future husband … it feels like one to me.
So, I’m not changing my last name for marriage.
And nope, falling madly in love with someone one day isn’t going to change my mind.
My name — and frankly, my SEO footprint — is part of my identity, as a writer and as a person. It encompasses the family I was raised by, the name I scribbled on notebook paper as a child, the name I put on my first apartment lease, my tax forms, my holiday cards, the adoption papers for my pup, and it’s the name I imagine on my best-seller one of these days.
So why is it that I, in the 21st century, lose part of who I am just because I decided to say ‘I do' — based on a tradition from the 15th century?
Here’s why I don’t (and won’t) want to follow suit:
1. I’m not property.
In the 14th century, when women married, they lost not just their last names, but their entire name except for the pitiful title of ‘wife of [fill in the blank of the bloke].’ Then in the turn of the 15th century, based on scripture, the church decided that when you marry, you become one perfect, religion-obeying pair, so thus, you must have the same name to tie you together. And obviously, because women could not own property, vote, or really, do anything, it was declared that the woman shares her husband’s name.
The few women who protested this were considered forward and ambitious, and were usually shunned or punished.
Though we’re still working on that whole equal-pay issue (and loads of other inequality injustices that this article doesn’t call for), women have been able to vote for decades. There are fewer female CEOs, but there are still very powerful investors, decision- and taste-makers, who rule the working world (and the household). And yet, we’re still adapting to an old principle that was fought against from the time it originated.
We strive to have it all, but we’re willing to sign away part of who we are, simply based on an old fundamental rule that’s deeply enriched in religion, not in reason.
I won’t be the property of my husband one day, nor will I take ownership of him. Instead, I hope we’ll work together to build a life, an income and a family together, regardless of our differing last names.
2. I don’t believe you have to share a name to be a family.
My mom is one of my dearest best friends, and we’ve been lucky to have a close relationship for all of my adult life. And not once growing up or now, have I cared what her last name was. Or frankly, even what her first name was — she was always just ‘mama’ to me.
I also can’t remember a time when my father referred to her by her full name, or called her anything other than ‘Kim’ or ‘Honey’ or some other sweet (and sometimes sickening) pet name. Though my mom did take my dad’s last name, I have several friends with parents with differing last names, and it’s never mattered to them. It’s never made them less of a family.
The whole foundation of a family, to me, isn’t built on sharing a last name, but instead, it’s solidified by the love, respect and kindness you show one another. Sure, my future children might have to remember that mommy’s last name is different from daddy’s, but I have faith that my kids can handle an extra word in their kindergarten vocabulary. Moreover, I hope to teach both my daughters and sons that they are capable of making life choices for themselves — and if they want to change their last name to their spouse’s, they can.
If they want to create a completely new name, they can do that too. If they want to keep it as it is, go for it. They might not get to pick the family they’re born into or the name they’re born with, but when they become adults, they can select for themselves.
3. It’s a lot of work for something that I really don’t want to do.
I’m not lazy (promise), but it’s not a simple process to change your last name. For my friends who have gone through the whole shebang, it’s taken long lines, lots of paperwork and hassle. And let’s not forget the non-legal to-do list too: updating your work e-mail address, your social profiles, your entire internet presence.
If it’s important to you to be Google-able or to be referenced for a job by word of mouth, changing your last name can be damaging because not everyone stalks your Facebook to know that your name changed. Or really, cares if you’re Lindsay Tigar-Smith or Lindsay Tigar Smith or Lindsay Smith Tigar or whatever it might be.
What bugs me most about the extra effort put into the name change is that it doesn’t have anything to do with the marriage or the husband — it’s purely up to the lady to manage. Getting a new social security card won’t bring me closer to the guy I just married. Dealing with the stress of a new work email and updating my tax forms won’t make us want to have wild, crazy newlywed sex. Sharing the same name on our house deed isn’t going to make us better parents or go on more adventurous trips together.
Frankly, it's several pieces of paper that’ll piss me off instead of making me a better partner.
4. I freakin’ love my last name.
Growing up, I kind of hated it. Nowadays, I get growled at from time-to-time and I sincerely can’t count the number of time a dude has busted out with ‘Eye of the Tiger’ at the bar when they find out it’s pronounced like the animal. But regardless of how ridiculous it might be, it took me a while to fall in love with my name. I had to realize that it was different, and that difference made me special and memorable.
A name isn’t everything, sure, but when I see bylines or someone introduces me, I’m proud — not only of my family who helped build me into who I am, but of the name I’ve made for myself by my actions and determination.
Here’s the thing you’re probably thinking: ‘She’s not even in a relationship, how does she know what she’ll do when she meets the right person?’ I’d say you’re right. I’m not there yet. But I’d also counteract with this: If he’s the person for me, and I want to keep my name and still love him, marry him, share my life, my bed, my dreams and our children with him, does it really matter if I take his last name? Can't he still love me as Lindsay Tigar, just like he will when we're dating and engaged?
I fully intend to love someone for better or for worse, in tough times and in a great ones, but I don’t need to share his name to do that. I wouldn’t ask him to transform his identity — professionally, socially or emotionally — so I hope he won’t ask me to, either.
Lindsay Tigar is a writer, editor, and blogger living in New York City. She started her popular dating blog, Confessions of a Love Addict, after one too many terrible dates with tall, emotionally unavailable men (her personal weakness) and is now developing a book about it, represented by the James Fitzgerald Agency. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.