In Marriage, Men Are Taking Women’s Last Names

Leandra and Amelia Gchat about a recent announcement in the NY Times

11.02.15
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Leandra: This weekend I read in Vows (wedding announcement section of Sunday Styles) that this one couple was taking the woman’s last name. They didn’t make a “thing” of it — just mentioned it.
Should I write something on that? I found it so interesting
Mostly because it seems like there has to be a very deliberate conversation that occurs between the couple before that decision is made
Whereas with women taking men’s names, it feels much more like, wash-rinse-repeat
Like there’s a level of compliancy about a woman taking a man’s name, right? You either do it — because that’s what the system has convinced you is normal — or you don’t, because you’re someone who questions and takes issue with the system

Amelia: Or for business
Or you hyphenate for best of both worlds

Leandra: I’m so curious about the impetus of a man taking a woman’s name, you know? Makes me think about whether the problem with femininity is that we don’t act more deliberately upon the decisions we make
Like…ultimately, I took Abie’s last name (which was an anniversary gift to him because I am cheap) because it meant more to him for me to take it than it did to me to keep my own last name. And it’s not like the I chose the first one in the first place.

Amelia: It’s funny because there’s making a statement and then there’s just doing it because why wouldn’t you?
I always assumed I would take my husband’s last name for the sake of tradition, which you know I love
And would keep my name for business and log-ins
And gmail

Leandra: That’s exactly it! The sake of tradition
The thing about women and decisions, I think, is that what defines “for the sake of tradition” is changing. Or is definable in too plenty a selection of ways

Amelia: That’s true. But also, now women can marry women, men can marry men — who takes whose last name is becoming less important.

Leandra: The point I think I’m dancing around is this: what does the conversation sound like between a man and a woman who decide to take her last name? And how is that different from the one that happens between a couple who takes his? (Often the latter conversation doesn’t even happen)

Amelia: For me it would be like:
Let’s be real. Diamond is better than whatever your ancestors threw at you. You know it, I know it. Let’s cut the bullshit and give you the better half of this team’s moniker
Or — what was their last name by the way? Should we call them The Moderns?
Mr. and Mrs. Modern (formerly Mr. Tradition and Mrs. Modern )
Maybe she wasn’t going to take it at all
But then he said: “I want us to feel like a family, I want people to know we’re married by name. It makes holiday cards easier!”
But they felt like hyphens in this age of brevity and character limits made for too many letters. Too wordy. Annoying on holiday invites. So she said, “Just take mine!”
And he was like “Ok you’re right your last name is way less likely to rhyme with Penis.”
And so it was.
But I like the idea that you often bring up — that this could move things forward so that in x number of years, the question becomes: so whose last name are we gonna take, mine or yours?
There is something very TIDY that I like about taking one last name for the whole family, though.

Leandra: I agree with you! It also connotes a sense of newness, and that’s what you’re doing, right? Building a new family.
I don’t think it’s un-feminist to take a man’s last name — nor do I think it’s misogynist to want that from your partner, but I also wonder if I feel like that only now because of a new perspective that challenges the patriarchy. Who are the men who are taking women’s last names?

Amelia: You’d have to be the kind of man who, every day, is cool explaining why you chose this last name

Leandra: Or at least idealistic enough to imagine a future where no one asks

Amelia: If you had the chance now, do you think you would ask Abie to take your name?

Leandra: I don’t think I would. I’d feel uncomfortable. That’s telling isn’t it? Maybe I’m old-fashioned

Amelia: Old fashioned in that specific category, sure, but then again, getting married is old fashioned. Having your dad walk you down the aisle while you’re wearing white is old fashioned. But it’s also kind of modern because these are things that still happen.
No one’s thinking about your virginity when you wear white
No one thinks your dad is selling you off for political reasons when he walks you down the aisle
What’s cool is that now, doing these things is a choice because we have the freedom to do whatever the hell we want

Leandra: But our motives are still being questioned right? When I saw in the paper that he was taking her last name, my initial thought was: that’s cool. And then I wondered what that conversation had been like, and then I thought to myself, are women having conscious conversations about the decisions we make? Are these the things that ultimately feed the engine of a system we’re constantly trying to rebel against? I don’t have an answer, it’s the conversations that move the needle, right?

Collaged by Krista Anna Lewis. Carousel illustration originally by Alice Notley via T Magazine.

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