Hey, remember when I got married almost two years ago and changed my name? Or, to be more specific, hyphenated it, like the crazy neighbor in Uncle Buck? Well, I’m now thinking about changing it again. No, nothing bad has happened; I plan to stay married to Ed until the cold grip of death takes one of us or Jason Bateman is single, whichever comes first.
There was a lot of back-and-forth on the name change issue while we were engaged, and I came to the hyphenation decision as a compromise. If I were to have my way, I would have simply kept my own name (and would have let any future kids have Ed’s last name only), but it was important to Ed that his name (which is perfectly nice and lovely and not awful like Buttmunch or something) be in the mix somewhere so I put on my big girl panties and changed it. It wasn’t a terribly difficult process and I did like that my initials stayed the same. On a purely practical level, it was good to have my maiden name in there as I interviewed for jobs and reference and background checks were conducted. While my name was obviously longer now, it all seemed to flow nicely. Ed was happy, too. Wins all around!
Except, well, it seems people can’t really handle this. One of the names is routinely ignored (ie either I’m referred to as Christen DeFazio or Christen Ed’sLastName), even with people who have only known me with my hyphenated name. Family members are totally confused; my father-in-law, either through misunderstanding or straight-up denial, is convinced that my maiden name is my middle name. Even goddamn Facebook wouldn’t allow me to put a hyphen between the two names and flagged it as fake (fuck you, Zuckerberg!). I know that convenience for others is a lame reason to switch my name for a second time in two years, but if I’m not being called by the correct name in the first place, then maybe it makes sense to lean into conforming.
This subject has always been somewhat complicated for me. As someone who never planned to get married I never thought it would be an issue. Once that changed and the topic came up, I think a lot of my hesitation to make any changes was partially due to all the changes happening in a relatively short period of time, and my brain’s inability to process it all. Moving, getting married, and starting a new job all in a span of a few months AND I was expected to have my mind made up about my name when we applied for the marriage license? GIVE A GIRL A BREAK. Irionically, my own family’s thoughts or feelings didn’t hold much weight for me. My mom and I haven’t shared a last name since I was five, and my dad figured I’d change it. Conversations with Ed from April 2010 to, oh, August of that year went something like this:
Me: “So, I really don’t want to change my name. You can deal with that, right?”
Ed: “It’s just a name. It doesn’t change who you are.”
Me: “Then WHY does it matter if I change it?”
Ed: “It’s tradition. And I like the idea of us having the same name.”
Me: “Yes, the tradition of transferring ownership of a person from her father to her husband – delightful!* And if it’s just a name, why don’t you change yours? We’d have the same name. Problem solved.”
Ed: “But I don’t want to change my name.”
Me: <Head Explodes>
And then there’s my stubborn streak: it was widely accepted that I would change my name and I didn’t like that people – some of them mere acquaintances I see once a year at a party – were making assumptions and offering unsolicited opinions (verdict: Yes, I should take Ed’s name as DeFazio is “too ethnic” and no, I don’t understand what the fuck “too ethnic” means). Oh, you think you know what I should do? BITCH YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE. Immature? Possibly. But obviously I got over it. Oddly, the longer we were married and the more settled I was with all the crazy-making adjustments, the less freaked out I was about changing my name. Yes, it’s weird to think about being known as a different person after more than 30 years, but there’s really no denying that my life is different – and great – whatever my name.
*I don’t think that women who choose to change their names are playing into the patriarchy, as there is an option there now that didn’t exist before. I was just trying to win a fight. Carry on, friends.