My thoughts on women changing their names at marriage have, possibly, been a little off the feminist beaten track. I took my husband's name, as I'm sure most of you know. I figured you have to have some man's name, and at that point in my life I pretty much rejected further association with my father. I would be more tolerant of his weaknesses and limitations now, but the decision had to be made then.
So I took a new name as a symbol (to myself only) that I didn't have to be defined by my father. But now what do I do? Divorce is inevitable, apparently, and I have this name linked to a family that doesn't want me. And I've had that name longer than I had the other. Who the heck am I now?
My professional reputation, such as it is, is all with this name. Only my siblings and my mother even know the old name, probably, so changing back to my former name would be confusing to my friends. A soothing truth is that my children have this name. Sharing their name isn't essential, certainly, but is comforting and a little grounding right now.
Latching onto that might just be another manifestation of the dangerous tendency available to women of defining themselves through their children. And of course I'm more than my name, but I have to have one. And I don't know exactly what I want here.
Which leads me back to the feminist policy-making. What could I possibly tell a young bride? "Don't change your name because 26 years later he could turn into a duplicitous scumbag, and then who will you be?" You can't say that when everything is hopeful and new and when the focus should be on permanence and commitment. But I do sort of wish I'd thought more about that possibility, and that I didn't have this permanent-feeling symbol that I turned my heart and identity over to someone who much later rejected both.