Updated: Sep 3, 2021
I grew up with parents who have different last names. My dad loved the idea of my mom keeping her last name and our household was very matriarchial. My father is as feminist as a man born in 1959 can be, which is to say he believes women should have every right and every opportunity and that they should absolutely run the world, but he also believes that a woman who is unmarried by age 32 must have something wrong “upstairs”. I have no idea where he came up with the number 32 and neither does he.
The idea of keeping my last name, holding on to my identity, just like my mother, always seemed right to me. I would be a feminist just like her, a powerful woman who was subservient to no man. Therefore, around age seven when I received my very first The Knot magazine for Christmas and started thinking about my one-day wedding, I decided that I would never change my last name.
As I grew up, I held fast to my decision to never change my name like a badge of honor. Even through relationships and breakups and major life milestones and changes, every time I thought about getting married or anytime it came up in conversation with my girlfriends, my position was clear and unwavering. When I started dating my now fiance, I remember telling him that I would never change my last name, just to make sure he was ok with that early on — yeah, I can be a little intense — and he was.
As our relationship progressed and the idea of marriage and building a family together became more and more real, I began thinking more seriously about this last name thing. One day I started asking myself, did I really want to have a different last name than my children? Why was I attached to the name of my father? Then I thought about the fact that the whole damn thing is patriarchal and my last name is my father's father’s father’s, not my mother's mother’s mother’s, so it’s a man’s name whether I change it or not and since that’s the case, who did I want to tie myself to, my father or my husband? That question really shook my perspective. At the end of the day, I would be building a life and a family with my husband, so why wouldn't I want to have his last name?
Suddenly, all of my previously held ideas and plans came shattering down. In an instant, changing my last name made perfect sense. I said it aloud, my future name, and it fit like a favorite sweater — cozy and worn in. Not long after my revelation, I expressed my new intention to my then-boyfriend — yeah this was all before we even got engaged — and it went a little something like this:
“I decided I am going to change my last name when we get married,” I said with absolutely no introduction to this topic as we were driving home one day. “Really? What changed your mind?” He asked, somewhat amused by my out-of-the-blue statement, but not surprised because he’s used to my directness. I gave him a detailed summary of the thought process that led me to that conclusion, and he nodded his head. “Sage Schenavar, I like it.” He grinned at me, my heart swelled, and the final nail in the “I’m keeping my last name” coffin was hammered in.
I felt pretty good about this decision, confident with my new thought process, and honestly just waiting to get engaged by annoying my man with photos of the engagement ring I had picked out and was waiting for him to order — not knowing that he already had it and was making me sweat, in part, because I had absolutely no chill. Yeah, I didn't see that one coming. Then I had a moment of panic “what will my dad think?” I avoided telling him, but eventually, he asked me, “so, you’re going to keep your last name right?” (I just want to point out that this conversation also took place before I even got engaged and he said this during an only semi-adjacent conversation, so I guess we know where I get my crazy from). “Uhh, actually… I’ve er… changed my mind about that…” I confessed. He was surprised and asked me why to which I took a deep breath and then gave him the full rundown as confidently as I could muster. “Well, honey, you never cease to amaze me.” He sounded proud.
I still look at my mother, who is completely happy with her decision to keep her last name, in awe. She is still a badass and my inspiration for womanhood every damn day even though I’m making a different choice than she did. Her choice was right for her, and mine is right for me — or at least I hope so, that’s all I can do. Who knows? Maybe I’ll change my name, have a new epiphany, and then change it back, but probably not, that sounds like a pain in the ass. What I have realized most is that feminism is fluid and you can be a feminist and be a Mrs. so and so, and you can be a feminist and be a Ms. or a Mr. or completely titleless. There is no one-size-fits-all-feminism or anything for that matter, so just do what feels right to you even if it goes against what you decided you would do when you were seven — actually especially then because seven-year-old you probably shouldn't be making major life decisions.
XOXO — Sage