I guess we could blame my first real crush. The upperclassman with dark wispy hair and cool, light eyes who kissed me on top of a rickety bunk bed one summer at acting camp. The one who everybody adored but for some confusing reason had a fleeting interest in me. I was 14, bright-eyed and in love with a boy I had known for a week. I dreamt about him and day-dreamed about him and doodled about him in the margins of my spiral notebook. This doodling is where the initial problem occurred–I had been well-educated by teen magazines and crappy movies and mediocre television that as a young girl in love it was my duty to put my name and my crushes name together in big, baloon-y hearts. But my perfect boy with his perfect laugh and perfect features and perfect personality had one perilous flaw: a TERRIBLE last name. I tried to wrap my head around it, pronounce it in different ways so as to make it more palatable but even my sympathizing friends concurred that it simply was not going to fly. After much pining, I arrived at the following conclusion: I will never take a man’s name–I will be, forever, Carina Kolodny. I wish I could say that I made this decision for activist or feminist reasons but it was really just about removing what I deemed the ONLY obstacle in the way of my storybook happily ever after with the dude that turned up kissing another girl in another bunk the next week.
Despite the silly reasoning behind my declaration, the main idea has stuck. I never have any intention of being anything other than Carina Kolodny. I like Carina Kolodny. I’ve spent decades trying it on for size–why would anything or anyone change that?
To be fair, my willingness to keep my last name in the face of my grave crisis probably had more to do with the fact that my mom kept her maiden name. This was not a revolutionary declaration–I knew plenty of people who changed their last name but I also knew plenty of people who didn’t.
My dad is Kolodny and my mom is Dudenhoeffer. Despite their different names (and different religions, heritages, upbringings etc.) they’ve still managed to be together for the past 27 years. Martha Dudenhoeffer and Bob Kolodny have had a longer and more fruitful marriage than majority of the Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so’s I know… My sister and I have grown into successful and well-rounded women despite the horrible and traumatic struggle of having a last name that is different from our mother’s.
So why is this an issue for me now? Because lately as I get closer (though not too close) to what some might consider a ‘marrying age’, this name-changing business seems to keep bubbling up. Friends around me tying the knot are joyfully talking about themselves almost in the third person, “I’m Mrs. so-and-so now” or “I’m about to be the new Mrs. whatever!” they share, gleefully. And lately, some friends have been surprised to find out that regardless of what my future holds, my name will always be my name.
I don’t think less of people who want to take their ‘wedded name.’ There are plenty of legitimate reasons for doing it.
Maybe you just really dig your to-be-hubby’s name–SWEET! I get it. Maybe if I ever find and wed Johnny Badass, I’ll ditch this manifesto all together and become Mrs. Badass and live happily ever after with my band of Badass children.
But don’t try to talk me into it or tell me the benefits of it or ask me why I wouldn’t do it just for the sake of tradition? “It seems really selfish and stubborn,” one friend actually said to me.
It’s sad to me that it seems that way to her but HONESTLY I don’t honor traditions that are based in women being once considered property. I don’t buy into ideas that suggest I’m changing hands between my father and my to-be husband. I’m not a cattle or a sheep and I believe that in marriage both partners are equally entering into each other’s families.
Changing your last name might make sense for logistical reasons (kids, paperwork, simplicity etc.) but anybody with half a brain should realize that the ‘tradition’ isn’t rooted in some romantic principle. When I see girls who are recently married hop on facebook within 2 hours of the nuptials to ditch their maiden name, I can’t help but wonder why that change is the element of matrimony that is seemingly so significant to them.
At the end of the day, you are entitled to do whatever you want. I know plenty of kick-ass forward-thinking awesome-sauce ladies who choose to take their husbands name for all sort of reasons and I think that is totally groovy.
But for the love of God, don’t talk to me like I’m some stubborn, selfish hag because I’m not planning to change my name. And, in return, I promise I won’t get all John Proctor from The Crucible on you… except maybe for fun.