So, this Christmas I went home and spent a few weeks with my awesome family. During that time, I went along to help my sister-in-law set up her brand new kindergarten classroom. My 11 year-old sister Bailey and I were put in charge of organizing the books. Bailey was in charge of fiction. She organized sections of story books, and chapter books, and books about Disney characters, etc. Being a Master’s-toting librarian, I was in charge of the non-fiction and what we called the “issues books,” which is what we deemed books about things like bullying, moving, whether the tooth-fairy is real, why we all have to take a bath, and the like. Bailey did a great job. She really enjoys organizing, reading, children, and helping, so this job was right up her alley. She was good at telling the difference between fiction and non-fiction animal books, not always an easy task at the kindergarten level. Then at one point she came across this Sesame Street book. The book simply gives out hints about the characteristics of a specific muppet, then asks the reader “Who am I?” But Bailey picked up the book, looked at the title, mused “Who Am I?” and then commented, “Definitely an issues book,” and handed the book to me. It was one of my most awesome moments as a big sister. She is growing up too fast, and sometimes, I think, not fast enough, because I want to know all about her now.
The question has been a prevalent one this season since John and I also got married during the long break. It was wonderful and beautiful and happy and all the things a joining of two people into an official sort of family is supposed to be. But there has been some major pressure to change my me-ness, or at least what I am called.
John and I have known for a long time that I wasn’t planning to change my name. We feel that it’s unnecessary, and can you imagine me having to change all of my online accounts?! It would be a total nightmare. It is, however, traditional, and people love to cling to tradition down here in the Deep South. The woman at the Probate Judge’s office tried to convince me to change my mind. A co-worker called the Human Resources department to try to get them to tell me that I was required to change my name (which they of course assured her, I was not). There are some people in my family who aren’t happy, since they feel it is my duty to “honor” my husband in this way. I’m not even crazy about the word husband, since it technically means “manager.” (I’m a bit of an etymology nerd. Wife means “woman.”) I don’t need someone interested in woman husbandry, like others might take up animal or agricultural husbandry. I’m thrilled to have John as a partner and family for life, and that’s what he’s interested in being, so we’re both happy (though he’s not a fan of the word spouse, so we’re gonna have to figure something out with the labels).
A few people seem to be frustrated with the lack-of-name-change simply because they enjoy the activity of spouting the words “Mrs. Husband’s Full Name!” at newly married women. I am keeping the Ms., so I am even more frustrating for these people. I guess we’ve figured out one thing about who I am. I am no fun at propagating traditional loss-of-individual-personhood memes at all! To be clear, I am happy for the happy-name-changers. I may even feel differently when we have a family, and want more of a family label for us, but I really wish people around here were more inclined to respect personal choices for everyone! Defending this decision has been tiring at a time I’ve been exhausted by all of the otherwise-happy activity.