Married, living in the country, basically barefoot and pregnant, relying on her lord and master to bring in the bread - an unlikely proponent of feminism.
And yet I find myself championing the right for women to retain their surnames after marriage should they wish. It is sort of accidental; I did not mean it to happen. In fact I never really thought about it until the day after I got married.
My father-in-law greeted me with the words: “Aah, here comes Mrs ------ junior!” I was horrified, I had completely forgotten to tell everyone that I would not be taking my husband’s surname. To be honest, I had never thought about changing my name anyway.
What a pickle – I looked about me and everyone was beaming beatifically as if I had achieved a great feat – all I had done was get married and yet everyone looked at me as if I had become something new and exotic. I was exactly the same person as I was the day before.For the rest of the day I was slightly lost for words and the enormity of what had happened with those six silly little words gradually sunk in. Society expected something from me that I was unable to give.
At first, I let it ride. I still had my job where I continued using my own surname – changing it would only cause confusion, and besides my husband’s surname was far too long. It is triple barrelled, totals 15 letters when used fully and is definitely not Anglo Saxon.
But as time went on I did get annoyed about it. However, I did not change my passport, banking details, tax details or any other form of documentation. It was not needed and after a while I found out, quite by accident, that there was no legal requirement for me to do so. It is just custom.
But going against a custom, means taking on society and causes much hurt and heartache. My family and indeed my husband’s family were horrified. They could just about swallow the idea that I needed to keep my own name for ‘professional’ reasons but that I wanted to keep my own name was an anathema.
What shocked me more though was the attitude of friends. Especially girlfriends. Only the other day I was presented to some new people. I had briefly met one of them for a fleeting moment at a drinks do some 10 months previously. I introduced myself using my own name to be immediately contradicted by my hostess who said: “Oh, you will know her better as Mrs ------!”
I was furious and said without hesitation that I did not use my husband’s surname and pointed out that I never had. There was an uncomfortable silence. It was rather drawn out before conversation resumed again with me being studiously ignored. In order to maintain relations I had to apologise and suffer a lecture on how inconvenient I was.
But that just about sums up the problem, society does not like inconvenience. Me keeping and using my own name is inconvenient. I mean how do you introduce people with different surnames? What do you say to ones children? It’s so terribly embarrassing…So now I have to make a stand. I don’t want to, I am not good at it and quite honestly I am rather scared. But all I would like is to be respected for who I am and that does include my right to be called by whatever name I choose. My husband has no trouble with it – so why should society?