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The Controversial Name Change

January 4, 2010

I was at church Sunday and of course (see New Year’s Resolutions) when they asked me my name, again, I paused, and said, “well, I guess now I am Jesselyn T”.

“Now? What were you before?”

“Jesselyn Y. I got (legally) married and changed my name”.

As people walked away to bother the next pseudo newbie, a friend looked at me and asked, “so you changed your name? Why?”

Why? Why wouldn’t I?

Maybe I am changing my name because I am traditional. My mother did not change her name. In Malaysia, most women did not change their name when they got married. Interesting, in a culture that typically assumes the woman is now a part of her married family when she weds but we will not get into that. We already decided that I do not like embracing tradition for the sake of tradition. So I am not a traditionalist.

Maybe because I am a transplated woman from the Victorian age and I believe my husband thinks of me as property and embracing his name proves that *snort*. What then of wedding rings? I am a feminist. I don’t burn my bra (yet), I don’t think all men should die (just most. Kidding!). I do believe a woman should get the same salary a man does in a similar position and similar qualifications. However, I also know the reasons for the glass ceiling and a part of me understands why it is there. I am pro-choice. I am a Christian. A moderate. Yet, because I change my name, am I less of a woman? Do I lose my identity? I doubt it.

Shoestring Boy and I talked (many a night) about whether or not I should change my name. This was something he was insistent on and utterly uncompromising. I argued with him not because I really cared but because I just wanted to give him a hard time. My favorite past time, up there with shopping and reading! I am attached to my last name. Maybe less so than my first name, but nevertheless, still attached. My grandfather traveled back to China, to the village my ancestors hailed from to research our history (an entire town, by the way called by my maiden name). My maiden name was a dynasty in China. There are characteristics that we claim exclusivity to our family. Every boy in our family is pressured to produce a son to “carry on the family name”. So maybe a lack of attachment is not the reason I am changing my name. I am hanging on to it as a middle name.

Why? Because I want to. Because I want to signify a change. I was single and now I am married. I am part of an us. I am still me but more. Maybe changing or losing your last name does not mean you lose anything but rather you gain something. I am more: I am a wife, sooner or later (please God, later rather than sooner!) a mother but I am not any less a sister, or a daughter, or me. If a woman wants to change her name why shouldn’t she be able to do it without judgement? If she keeps her name then that is also her perogative. Maybe it is a statement she wants to make but maybe it is nothing at all. Maybe she just enjoys standing in the neverending line at the Department of Motor Vehicles *shudder*.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2010 8:05 am

    I am so happy to join my fiancee’s awesome family that is why I am changing my last anme. My last name now is pretty kickass though so I might actually take it as a middle name.

    Do what makes you happy!

  2. Colleen permalink
    January 5, 2010 10:38 am

    I’m probably going to keep my last name simply because I am a doctor and it would be such a pain to revise all my documents if I change my last name to my fiance’s. In non-professional settings, I think I am going to hyphenate. That’s what my Mom did, so I think it feels right for me

    That said, I think your decision is great. I personally feel that “feminism” doesn’t necessarily mean we are “anti-men”. I consider myself a feminist but that simply means that I think we are all equal and that women should make their decisions based on what is best for themselves. Obviously, you aren’t changing you name for some archaic reason such as you are becoming your husband’s property! I resonate with what you said about looking at it as gaining something as opposed to leaving something behind.

    By the way, I just stumbled onto your blog today, as I was looking for budget-saving tips for my own wedding in August. I think it’s great 🙂 My fiance and I are paying for it, so we need to be realistic about the expense.

    • Jesselyn permalink*
      January 5, 2010 1:48 pm

      Thank you for visiting Colleen! It is so hard when you are a dr. or you own your own business, you are right. Be careful of at airport. They like to look askance at the hyphen.

  3. January 6, 2010 11:50 am

    The name change thing was a big struggle for me, partly because I hate bureaucracy, but also partly because I was taken by surprise when I realized that there’s another Myfirst Hislast out there — I’d never shared a name before and honestly, I didn’t like the idea 🙂

    But I did change it, largely because of the reason you wrote here, because I liked the idea of marking a big change in my life with a change in my name.

    And yet, I do kind of have a problem with the fact that my husband made the same life change, and yet he doesn’t have to decide if he’s keeping his middle name or fill out forms or stand in line at the DMV. It’s not really practical for us to spend the money it would cost to change his name (the restrictions on men changing their names are such BS!), but it does bug me.

    A friend suggested that if your husband is really gung-ho about you changing your name, he should have to come with you to the social security office and the DMV and the bank and any other annoying name-changing errands. That way, at least the inconvenience is equal! 🙂

    • Jesselyn permalink*
      January 6, 2010 12:05 pm

      That is an excellent idea! I will definately drag him around with me 😉 I had no idea there were restrictions on men changing their names. I thankfully did not have to share a name my first name is unusual enough and I think his family is the only one with his last name in the States. I don’t like the idea of someone else having my name though it might come in handy if I am ever in trouble…

  4. barbride permalink
    January 7, 2010 9:43 am

    I liked this post. As you know I’ve struggled with whether I want to change my name or not but I like your take on it.

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