At the bottom of the first page of my divorce decree, finalized last Friday, is a line restoring my maiden name. With that document in hand, I went to the Social Security office this morning to start the long and automated phone menu-heavy process of transitioning all the way back. After today's re-registration, I'll have to visit the DMV, change my name with my HR department and on my bank account, call my credit card companies and other financial institutions, set up a new email address, order new checks and return address stamps, and hope that, eventually, my magazine and catalogue subscriptions catch on to the change.
Isn't it a wonder that our society never asks husbands to go through all this, ever?
I understand that many women would rather share the last name of their children than hold onto to their maiden names. But why is it still the default that children receive their father's names anyway? In terms of the physical work involved in bringing a child into the world, I think we can all agree that fathers have the easy part. Would I be so radical to suggest that children take their mother's names?
Even in today's world of shared responsibilities, the majority of children I know spend more time under the direct care and influence of their moms no matter what their marital status. Maybe it's the traditional breadwinner role that affords men the right to keep and pass along their names. Yet I look around at all my girlfriends and find only a small handful whose husbands earn more, let alone significantly more, than they do. This speaks more to my girlfriends' accomplishments more than their partners' shortcomings, but the point is that every way I can argue for the forfeiting of maiden names is less-than-convincing, outdated and under-examined.
I've heard of couples that made up a new last name for both parties. I used to think that was a progressive alternative, but I don't know if it really makes sense to me anymore. Why not just say: you're you, and you can still be you after we marry, in essence and name. I'm me, and I'll stay me, too. Let's just enjoy each other.