Monday, 18 February 2013

A Romantic Gesture

It’s half-way through February and I have finally gotten the hang of writing 13 instead of 12, so I thought the time was ripe for a ‘New year-new me’ post.  Maybe throw in a little Valentine's love.

Then I wrote this…

I didn't make any new year’s resolutions this year.  I figure with a new house and a baby on the way, this coming year is already going to be a long list of unmet expectations and goals so why pile on more self-inflicted guilt.

The older I get (because, you know, at 34 I’m aged and wise now) the less I find myself making sweeping proclamations or grand plans about who I am or will be.  I find life has a way of laughing at these kinds of gestures anyway.  What’s the saying?

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Little did I know when I made that high school art project emblazoned with this Beatles lyric that it would turn out to be the most poignant of life lessons for me time and time again.  I believe I have mentioned before how I have a tendency to become doggedly stubborn about a chosen glamorous, worthy of a rom-com script, life path and then become witheringly depressed when it doesn't pan out.* What I have slowly come to accept about my life is that the daily negotiations of everyday life, punctuated by occasional big decisions and leaps, actually created a very lovely life. Strangely, this realization is very close to the subject matter of my PhD. You know, one of those stubbornly-held-on-to rom-com plot points which now sits unread on maybe three bookshelves (mine and my parents’ included).

That being said, there are some things on the year long To-Do list and most revolve around Pruin and need to be done in the next two months because I’m giving myself the second half of the year off. If at next Christmas Pete and I are still looking adoringly into one another’s eyes (or at the very least can still stand to look one another in the eye after seven months of baby and resident in-laws) and the house is still standing and the baby alive, I will count it a successful year.

It’s the simple things, really.

The biggest item on the To-Do list (which coincidentally illustrates the ‘life is what happens’ discussion above) is officially changing to my married name.

*GASP*  cue shock and horror

I’m over the whole ‘should-a-woman-change-her-name-after-marriage debate/anxiety.’ Do it, don’t do it.  It’s no skin off my back. Yes, it’s a bummer that it is assumed the woman will take this action and that it is her place to do it. Yes, I can see the argument that it is a ‘feminist’ issue. However, there are so many more pressing feminist issues which involve extreme bodily violence, injustice and death that I can’t jump on this particular ‘first-world feminist’ bandwagon.

I waited at least a year into our marriage to even take the first steps due to over-zealous relations crying out ‘Mrs. Hislast, Mrs.Hislast’ moments after the ceremony and every time I was in proximity thereafter.  I mean, I had only just earned ‘Dr. Mylast’ two weeks prior and it was already getting swept under the table.  I had a year of angst around how changing my name would be losing my identity. It was all very rom-com, internal-conflict, fake-drama worthy.

I briefly tried the professional vs. personal name game. That was a worthless experiment as I have no professional life, but no ‘official photo id’ proof of the personal name.

Picking up packages at the Post Office became a real bitch of an experience.

I won’t lie, those experiences, which involved an over abundance of paperwork and tears, went a long way to sealing the decision for me.  (Is it really necessary to drag the marriage certificate, a property tax bill and both our passports to the office for a package from my in-laws? This is not a matter of national, or even postal, security. JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN CROSS STITCH!)  The imminent arrival of Pruin took me the rest of the way.

We already hold two different passports with two different names. Our visa applications are slightly more complicated because we have different names. We already cross customs in different lines because we don’t share nationality or name.  I wasn't going to add another small body to that confusion. I also am not going to saddle my kid with a double-barreled last name (my own double-barrel is the root of most of the name angst) along with double passports. If we are going to continue this international life we are going to do it as a family.  In name as well as biology.

Most importantly, I now want to change my name. My time with Pete and our life together are the best things to happen in my life and are the reason all those little daily negotiations of everyday life add up to a very lovely life.

Why not commemorate that little bit of wonderful with a mountain of confusing paperwork, an embassy, numerous international phone calls spent on hold at £1.50/minute and a governmental office visit?

** there are too many of these 'woe is me' posts to highlight and, really, who wants to remember, or read, privileged whining?


  1. Changing the name is the way to go!! Although I hated writing my new name for a long time....much longer than Hatch and old habits die hard. I find it unnecessarily confusing that most of my friends go by a different name than their husband and children! Sharing a family name is simplie and unifying. What happens years down the road at family reunions when you all get family tee shirts ....mommy gets to cross the name out with a sharply and write in her preferred moniker? Nice! ;)

  2. Congrats and totally agree with Jocelyn (though I have her beat by one letter - but who's counting once you surpass custom monogramming limits)! My own family still addresses everything 'Mrs.' instead of 'Dr.' so I'm not sure why I expect the rest of the world to notice. Very sad that it would surely be different if Rhett had the PhD. At any rate, you will find the change quite a sigh of relief and as Jocelyn said unifying! Congrats!

  3. Love your writing - and decision. Life is so complicated - simplify when you can! So much easier when your children are in school too - at least the teacher will know who you are connected to when she hears from you, without looking it up. That's why I never changed my name after my divorce. Although I would have liked to be disconnected from the ex.!!

  4. Good to see someone re-affirming my own thoughts on the subject. I put off sorting out the paperwork after we got married and found having different surnames a real pain. I had major difficulties hiring a car once when my driving licence didn't match up with my credit card. It feels good that we all share that common thread now. It's really annoying too when you send someone a Christmas or anniversary card and you have to write different surnames for each family member - Mr Smith, Ms Halliwell and Charlie and Lola Halliwell-Smith. Aaargh! Makes my hand hurt. I'm a feminist AND I want my kids to grow up having that feeling of belonging to their tribe, and to me the name thing was an important part of that.