Since officially announcing we were getting married, people have started to call me Mrs. ___. They don’t ask, they just assume that I will be taking my SO’s last name. I’m not. This is not a reflection on my SO or his family or his last name or our relationship. It’s about me.
First, I already manage more than one identity. Hadena James does not include my real last name. It is my first and middle names. Even after four and a half years, I still occasionally forget that Ms. James is me.
Second, I would still have to be Ms. James. My last name isn’t used very often because we really only us last names in our professions. About a third of all the people I hang out with, probably have no idea what my last name even is. Since we started handing out reception invitations I have been flooded with friends’ requests on Facebook. It finally dawned on me that they probably hadn’t friended me before because they didn’t know my last name. They knew James was my last name as a writer, but they couldn’t find me under that, so they started “finding” me because my last name is on the reception invitations. I’d also be willing to bet more than half of the friends I do have in darts, found me through my SO’s Facebook page and not because they knew my last name.
Third, I am 36. By the time I get married, I’ll be 36 and 1/2 years old. That means unless I live to be over 73, I will have carried my last name for half my life or more. Frankly, a girl gets attached to a name after this long. I can’t imagine my name being anything other than it is. It has become part of my identity. Most women who marry, will have had their husband’s last name for a decade or more by the time they reach my age. Or will be working on their second married last name because the first marriage didn’t work out. The point is, that most women do not carry their maiden names into their mid-thirties. I’ve talked to a few that did and they all feel the same as me, it’s a part of their identity at this point.
Finally, changing my last name to his doesn’t improve our chances of making our marriage work. It doesn’t make anything more or less legal. What it does mean is that at 36, I’m changing all my banking info, all my business info, all my tax info, my driver’s license, my social security card, my car registration, my student loan repayment paperwork has to be redone, my college diplomas have to be reissued, all my current medical information has to be updated, and only god knows what else. If I don’t change it, it’s a matter of checking a different box. This final point ties in heavily with the third. I’m not 22 or 25. I have a long paper trail of life behind me. Changing my name is more about filling out forms than bolstering our relationship.
Thankfully, when I told my SO, I didn’t want to change my name he was fine with it. Some other people haven’t been, but making them happy isn’t in the Notes section of my life plan. I do admit I was surprised by the number of people who thought it strange that I wasn’t changing my name.