A couple of months ago when we were planning our wedding, the topic of changing my name came up. Growing up, I’d always assumed that when I got married, I would change my name. When I was a little girl, I’d spend hours daydreaming about what my future married name would be and I’d practise new, made-up signatures in my notebooks (tell me I’m not the only one!). Almost every married woman I knew had taken on her husband’s family name so, naturally, I’d grown up believing that I would too.
I got married but I’m not changing my name. Here’s why:
But fast-forward twenty or so years and my thoughts on changing my name have completely flipped. As I grew older, I started to question this practise and the more I thought about it, the less appealing it seemed. In Australia, over 80% of women take their husband’s names but why is this? Shouldn’t there be a more equal distribution between both genders? I couldn’t help but feel that this was unbalanced, outdated and, quite frankly, pretty sexist. Is there any actual need for either person to change their name at all?
To me, the decision whether or not to change my name was a HUGE one. I had, after all, lived a whole 31 years of my life with the name I was born with and I worried that if I threw it aside, I’d feel disconnected from my identity. The concept of family is so beautifully fluid nowadays anyway and I knew we didn’t need to have the same name to be a strong family. After all, being together for the past 11 years had us feeling as though we were already a family long before we were married!
So over a morning coffee one day, I broached the topic with Ben and we had a really honest and interesting chat about it. When it came down to it, we essentially had five options and we talked about each in length. These were our choices:
1. I could take my husband’s name
In Australia, this is very much the traditional path that most couples go down. But… it didn’t feel right to me. Why is it assumed that I had to be the one to give up my name? How is that fair? Isn’t my name just as important as my husband’s name? Why do so many women choose to give up their names? I’ve been Rachel Bale ALL MY LIFE and to give it away felt like I would be losing a part of who I was.
2. My husband could take my name
The second option was that instead of me giving up my surname, Ben would give up his and become a Bale. When I offered up this suggestion, he looked at me as if I had two heads. There was no way he would even consider it. How interesting, I thought. He had attached such importance to his name and it was unthinkable to him to give it up. He felt very strongly about it which I understood because I actually felt the same about mine. This just reinforced my opinion that the person that changes their name is giving up something quite fundamental.
3. We could hyphenate our names
Then of course we have the hyphen option. If we were both adamant that we weren’t going to change our names, why not join them together? Isn’t that more equal? I was pretty open to this option but Ben wasn’t so keen. He really just didn’t want to change his name in any way whatsoever. As a concept designer and creative director, he’s known in his industry by his name – it’s almost like a tagline. Changing his name might cause confusion. That’s cool. I totally respect that. Cross out option three!
4. We could pick a new family name together
This option didn’t seem to be any better than hyphenating our names. Also, picking a totally random, new family name just seemed too hilarious to take seriously! How the heck do you even go about choosing something?!
4. We could blend our two names
I’ll admit, I think this is kind of cool. It achieves the same purpose as a hyphenated name without the hyphen or clunkiness. But what would our blend be? Bale + Last. Balast? Bast? Lasba? Labale? I’m laughing just writing those down! This clearly just wasn’t going to work.
5. Neither of us change our names
Realising that neither of us was 100% happy with any of the above options, it only left one solution: we just continue on as before and don’t change our names.
Naturally of course, all this talk about naming led to a discussion about what name our future kids would have. We both agreed that their names will be hyphenated… but who’s name would come first? That’s the million dollar question. Would it be ‘Jimmy Bale-Last’ or ‘Jimmy Last-Bale’? Man, this was getting complicated! Actually, I settled the argument pretty quickly when I reminded Ben that if I’m the one growing them and pushing them out of my body, there’s no way in hell that my name wouldn’t be first! Besides, the name ‘Last-Bale’ just sounds weird anyway, amirght?
Of course, the reasons for changing or keeping your name are so varied and individual and what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily what’s right for another. In the end, I love the decision we made to not change our names. For us, it just wouldn’t have felt right any other way.
Looking for more of my honest ramblings? Check out the Journal category or read these posts next:
- Shouldn’t I Have My Shit Together By Now?
- Why You Need to Re-Think Your Definition of Success
- 10 Things That Happen When You Quit the 9-5
I would LOVE to know your opinion on this issue! Tell me what you think in the comments!