The Benefit Of Taking His Name
“If I don’t take your name we can’t get married?” you ask your boyfriend, thinking that somehow he must be kidding.
“My father will never understand that my wife doesn’t have my name.”
“Can I do a hyphen?”
This isn’t the first time this conversation has come up since you decided to get married, and each time you told him that you’d think about it. Which you kinda did. But really, you never thought that it would become a deal breaker. Surely, he understands that you’ve spent years building your name as a writer and in this world your name is the only way that people recognize you. Take that away and you’re like a zebra with no stripes. You might as well be a horse. And furthermore, women don’t take their husband’s names anymore. Most men don’t expect it, don’t even ask. Next he’ll be wanting you to knit him a sweater.
But at the same time, you get that in his African culture names are very important. They’ve been passed down for generations and tell the story of who they are and exactly what part of Africa they come from. Your wife can’t go around calling herself by her own name. She might as well marry herself. So what are you going to do? Can you just start over?
10 years later…
You’re on the phone, kicking it with the lady from tech support when she asks you the origin of your name.
“Oh, it’s African,” you tell her, proudly. “It means, ‘the people who never look back’.”
You decided to take your husband’s name after you came to terms with the fact that it may have been his marriage deal breaker, but it wasn’t yours. When it came down to it you never even liked your last name in the first place because everybody had it. Jones, Smith or Brown? take your pick. There was also no emotional connection to it. The name came from a grandfather who if you saw on the street, wouldn’t recognize you, and if asked for a dollar, he wouldn’t give it. This you know because you tried once and he said, ‘no.’ So why were you fighting for this name again? Oh, your work. Well, you would just have to start over.
Actually, you worked harder to build your new name the second time around. The beauty was, this time you weren’t alone. Your hubby was there inspiring new ideas and introducing you to a work ethic that you had no idea existed. “Do you want to be the greatest writer that ever lived?” he would ask, throwing your own words back at you, sounding like Debbie Allen from the TV show Fame when she asked Leroy, “Do you want fame? Well, fame costs. And here is where you start paying!” …said after the one thousandth rewrite.
One day it occurred to you that your new name had far outgrown your old, which had a lot to do with your husband. See, it was never his intention to take away your stripes and leave you out in the cold. The act of taking his name was much deeper than just signing a piece of paper and becoming his ‘property.’ You became, in his own words, his ‘responsibility.’ So the benefit is now you have a partner committed to lifting you up. Call it old fashioned, anti-feminist, or the natural order of things. Though it’s not to say that a name carries the same weight for every man. Some men really don’t care like that. One friend said that her husband offered to take her name when they got married and another who has been married for years and kept her maiden name, now plans to take her mother’s maiden name. So it’s different for everybody. All you know is you’re proud to carry your man’s name, and true to its meaning, you have never looked back.
Cover Photo by AfroDad