Sam and Mark's Super Happy Wedding Funtime

Identity Crisis

Posted on: August 10, 2012

I am having an identity crisis.

It started with self-inking stamps.

Self inking stamps are pretty nifty. You can put your return address on one and instead of writing it on envelope after envelope you simply stamp. Done! It saves time and energy. We are eventually going to send out save the date cards and invitations and if I’ve learned anything from sending out my end of year greeting cards, it is this: writing return addresses on a few dozen envelopes is REALLY annoying.

None of this is news, of course. Most of you already figured out that stamps, stickers, embossers, or even the office printer are much better, saner, easier ways to deal with this problem. Many of you may even think I am a little dumb for handwriting my return address. You are entitled to your opinion. My intellectual status is not the issue here. My identity is.

Because, you see, most of these stamps have a name on them. A name. One. Just one name, the last name, the surname, the family name. And this is where the identity crisis starts.

Getting married is about forming a family. And no, a family does not require children, thank you very much, Religious Right. A family can be just the two of us. We are a team, a partnership, a unit, a family. Identifying myself as part of this family is important to me. Otherwise, why would I bother getting married? I mean really, if that isn’t important to you, DO NOT get married. SERIOUSLY. It would be a stupid waste of money and time.

So identifying myself as part of a team is important. But then again, so is keeping my individual identity. I mean, I am me. I have had this name for a long time. This name is my email address. This name is on my driver’s license. This name is how I’m known. This is me. And this is my family too. This is my parents and my brother who are no less important to me as a married person than as a single person. This is me. And becoming part of a new family does not mean I no longer get to be me. Right?

I will be redefining who I am. That is fair to say. I am no longer me, single gal-about-town, I will be me, married gal-about-town. It is a big change. But is it name-change worthy?

I like the Idea of being a part of “The Whatevers.” I like the way that sounds. I like the way it looks on self-inking stamps. I like it a lot. But I also don’t think it is fair that I am the one expected to give up my identity for this ultimately aesthetic detail. And that is exactly what it feels like. I must renounce my father’s name as I am no longer his property; I now belong to this new man and I take his name.

But is a tradition born from the sexist patriarchy inherently evil? Just because your father was an asshole, does it mean you have to be an asshole too? I don’t know. I don’t know that I want to support it. I don’t know that my not supporting it matters at all to anyone but me. I don’t have the complication of children to worry about. We aren’t going to pass down a problem or an insane last name.

I was trying to get Mark to agree on changing both our names to something nuts. It is a much easier pill for me to swallow, as I’ve been told from a very young age that if I’m really super lucky someday I’ll get to be Mrs. Somebodyelse someday.  He has never had to deal with this expectation. In fact, just the opposite, the idea that -*he* would change *his* name? That’s just weird.

So we will continue to be Sam and Mark. And not The Somebodys or The Whatevers or even The Whatever-Somebodys. We will just be us, together as a team, with different names but the same goals.



7 Responses to "Identity Crisis"

It is a real decision to make, and one that nobody should not make lightly. I like your decision and remember the process you describe. I know two couples who changed their names to a new family name altogether, and some who appended each other’s names hyphenetically (not a word), and then there’s me, taking my husband’s name. I did have children in mind, as well as a not-very-strong tie to my maiden name. I’m glad you have settled this unsettling question. 🙂

I really like the idea of a new family name. A lot. Ironic, because I also love the history of family names and most things genealogical. I still get this weird pull in my gut that it won’t be official without a name change, but I think it is society. Or gas. One of the two.

Kids would probably push it over the line for me, it is just easier on them, and ultimately easier on you too- you don’t get any questions. Or if my new last name was awesome in conjunction with my first name. Which it is not (Sorry, Mark!)

Just call yourself Mandy-Siew Watkins.

Seriously though, it is a tough decision. The very worst part of the marriage name/identity crisis is when you are constantly introduced as “My Wife”.

“My wife” instead of “my wife, X” is not ok. “My wife, X” is fine, because X’s relationship is wife. But just “my wife”? That gets a dirty look and a severe talking to.

We struggled with this as well. I did not change my name — primarily for the reasons you list and because it was not important to Ben that I have his name. It makes life easier in some admittedly superficial respects — none of the confusion with changing my work email address, I get to keep the license which in 35 years finally has a picture where I dont look like a moron, I dont need to change my passport or social security card. But it can be annoying dealing with any corporate entities (banks, insurance, AAA) that assume we are not married because our names dont match. If kids come into the picture, I may change my name at that point — at least legally, but likely not socially. But I grew up with a mother who had a different last name as me, so that isnt quite an argument for taking Ben’s name either. Didnt mean to write a book — but clearly this is a complex issue and I definitely sympathize with you on this. On a positive note — cant wait to get the save the date!

Ultimately it really doesn’t matter what other people think and if names are weird, names are weird. If they are confused it is their problem. I’m glad mixed names are more common, because that should cut down on strangers questioning your status. Maybe.

And I’m lucky Mark thinks it is silly for me to change my name. Actually no, I’m not lucky. That is one of the reasons we get on. It isn’t luck, it is compatibility 😛

I’m ordering the save the dates today! They are very silly 🙂

We, also, tried to find a new last name, but could never settle upon one. I ended up taking his name and keeping mine as a hyphenate to my middle name (mostly to keep my signature from being interminably long). He never introduces me as “my wife”, but sometimes as Diana, my wife”, which is fine…I do the same. I think of it as a marking behaviour . Mine! I am pretty feminist, but changing my name didn’t bother me, as I wasn’t overly attached to it. I use my first and middle names professionally, so I’m just me, not anybody’s wife or daughter or anything. Whatever you decide is right for you is awesome :).


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