The Name Game

I don’t get it.

A few weeks ago, I got a birthday card from a step-aunt. She’s my stepfather’s sister, a very nice woman with a daughter my age. In fact, her daughter and I went to the same college at the same time, although we had different majors and never saw each other on campus.

But I digress.

The card was addressed to Maria Chilingerian.

My name is not Maria Chilingerian. It’s Maria Langer. It always has been and it always will be.

My husband’s last name is Chilingerian. He might not have had a choice about that as a last name, but I did. I decided I wanted no part of it. It’s too long to spell, too hard to say. (And frankly, even I’m tired of the waiters and customer service people making a game out of trying to pronounce it.) So I stuck with Langer. Six easy letters, very seldom mispronounced.

It wasn’t just the spelling and pronunciation of the the name that made me stick with Langer. It was the fact that Langer is my name and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to change it just because I’m married.

The way I see it, when a woman changes her name to match her husband’s, she’s giving up part of her identity. She’s sending the message that her husband’s identity is more important than hers.

Or, worse yet, that she has become one of her husband’s possessions.

That may have been the case in the old days, before women were allowed to vote or own property. It may have been the case in the old days, when a man was the breadwinner and the woman’s role — which wasn’t even considered the job it is — centered around the home and family. It may have been the case in the old days, when a woman’s main goal in life was to find and marry a man and bear his children.

But that’s not how it is today. Not with me, anyway.

I think about all the inconveniences associated with a name change. All the paperwork for new license, passport, credit cards, bank accounts. It doesn’t seem fair that this should all fall on the wife.

And what happens when a woman divorces and just wants to forget her first husband and marriage? Kind of hard to forget a man when you still carry around his name.

I also think about how difficult it is to get back in touch with the women I’ve known throughout my life. If they’re married, they’ve likely taken their husband’s names. I don’t know their husbands. How can I find them on Facebook or Twitter?

And yes, I am aware of the rare instances when a husband takes his wife’s name. In every instance I’ve heard of it, the man’s name is so horrible that anything would be better. (“With a name like Smuckers…”)

Although I’m kind of bugged by my aunt’s error, I can’t fault her for it. She doesn’t know any better. She’s old school, she naturally assumed I’d take my husband’s name in place of my own. I never told her or anyone else that I wouldn’t.

I didn’t see a need to.

2 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. Found this post when searching for how to correctly pronounce Chilingerian. But man oh man do I agree with you on this post. I have the same problem – my husband’s family, who I did tell I wasn’t changing my name, several times, still addresses things to me as if I had changed my name. Not just the old ones, either – the 20-somethings do it, too! WTH? Why should I change my name? I’m the primary breadwinner, and have a high-profile job where my name is my brand. Awesome post, thank you!

    • I won’t even ask you why you need to pronounce that name. After dealing with an extremely difficult divorce, I hope I never have to utter that name again. And I guess that’s another reason not to take your husband’s name when you’re married.

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