Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Maiden Name

I read this recent advice column, regarding the apparently numerous negative reactions the letter writer has encountered in keeping her last name after she got married. I don't have too many married friends, but I do know many folks who are married, most of whom have taken their husband's surname, or use a hyphenated version. Married women face an issue of identity that men, upon marriage, do not have to face, and to a point I can agree with the nuisance of changing one's last name, reassuring business acquaintences and co-workers that (in my case, for example), Michelle Szetela is the former Michelle Solomon.

(This tripped up UVU, where I was offered a position a day after our wedding. I didn't fill out my new hire paperwork until my name change took effect because I didn't want to go through the hassle of filling out more paperwork that would update my new last name. During orientation, the name listed under the New Adjunct section was Michelle Szetela Solomon.)

I couldn't wait to get rid of my maiden name. Not that I was ever one of the women who were itching to get married, who'd been planning her wedding since teenagerhood, etc., but because I felt I'd finally be taken seriously as an adult. Certainly there are issues of identity tied to a surname, but I took my husband's last name with pleasure precisely because I wanted to take a new identity.

I come from a stable, loving household - my parents are still happily married after 42 years - but they inadvertently didn't take my partners as seriously, didn't consider me as part of a unit, until I got married. I remember being told over the years that people treat one differently after one gets married. I was only treated differently by my parents; not better or worse, but I think my status as an adult was finally solidified.

I was 35 when I got married 7 1/2 months ago, and I was tired of being seen as an extension of my parents. Over the years, I would have to remind my parents that I would have to consult a joint schedule with the man I'd been dating for what would turn out to be nine years. (This got responses of,  "....Oh," a reflection of not understanding that I might not want to be apart from him for extended periods of time, that I might want to share the experience with him, not separately, that our schedules affected each other.)

My new last name is a reflection of my new life, one in which my priority is my husband and my life with him.

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