I’ve never been quite sure how marriage would fit into my life’s story. Do I want it to? I’d be lying if I said no or tried to play it off like I don’t care one way or another. I care. I’d love to be someone’s wife one day. I’m just not sure if I want to take someone else’s name in the process.
Hear me out. Women are most often given the name of their father at birth. In previous centuries although I’m sure some outliers exist in our current society, women were viewed as property and last names were used to delineate who one belonged to. A girl went from fathers house to husbands. A transfer of property paid for with a dowry and made official with the changed last name. While it’s true that my father has taken care of me to this point in my life, I don’t believe he would tell you that he ever did or does own me.
Taking a man’s name (assuming, of course, a heterosexual relationship) just seems like such an archaic practice in an era where women are more powerful, connected, and personally wealthy than ever before. In talking about this with various individuals, male and female alike people have various reasons for why they would or wouldn’t take a partners name and why as a man they would want their significant other to do so. Some men chalk up wanting their partner to take their name to feeling like their household is united and one. Others feel it shows commitment on the part of the person taking the name to the marriage and future. There were, of course, those whose sentiments were rooted in traditional notions of gender roles, a perspective I can understand but don’t necessarily agree with. Some remarked that if their wife kept her name or hyphenated, they’d only pay half the bills since they were only head of half the house (which is a conversation for another day).
Women, like men, have many reasons for why they would or wouldn’t take a partners name. Some friends told me it was just something they always dreamed of doing. Others said it makes life easier legally. Some prioritized their future children and wanting to bear the same last name as them. There were arguments for unity in a household as well. But, there were also concerns about what it means to give up one’s name, particularly in certain career fields.
I used to say I wouldn’t take my future husband’s last name because I simply didn’t want to. I didn’t believe in the practice and it just seemed stupid. Shoutout to seven-year-old feminist Gab and my mom’s hyphenated last name. Now, at twenty-four years old as an author, budding academic who has already published, and owner of two businesses, I have different reasons. I need you to be able to easily find me and my work on Google. What happens to the book I already published? Do I do a reprint with my new name? What if the new name confuses people? What if it just doesn’t have the same value or come to carry any weight?
It’s true that I could use a pen name and keep publishing under my maiden name but that just seems complicated. I could continue to go by my maiden name in creative and professional spheres. But, if I’m going to do that then why change my name in the first place? I’m sure I’d have to do updated business paperwork to account for the new name on ownership documents.
Ultimately, my point is, I’m building and have built a life as Gabrielle Hickmon which isn’t to say it will end once joined with someone else. It’s to say that maybe I want to leave this world just as I came in, down to my name. Maybe I want to leave a legacy in my name and my name alone. Leave something behind that honors the name of my father and his father and his father’s father. Hell, maybe I’ll give my kids my name or at least hyphenate their last name. And maybe I’m looking at this all wrong, but I don’t want who I am to get swallowed up or eclipsed by someone else.
I need this shit in my Dad’s name, in my name. The best future bae might get is a hyphen. But, I wouldn’t count on it.