Last week over lunch a friend of mine told me she was getting married. Now, the news of her engagement wasn’t exactly a surprise to me. After all, the two of them had been dating for quite some time. What did come as a surprise was when she told me he was going to be taking her last name.
I know plenty of women who hyphenated their last name after jumping the broom and I know a few who just kept their maiden names — neither of which is really considered a big deal nowadays. But for a husband to take his wife’s name?
I had never heard of such a thing.
It felt weird to me and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to react. So I just sat there with a confused smile on my face, picking at my salad as she shared her joyful news. Gradually, she fell silent as she sensed my withdrawal from the conversation.
As the lunch became progressively more and more awkward, I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and I just bluntly asked why in the world would he take her name?
I’ve known this woman for years and trust me, she’s not at all one to rock the boat when it comes to social norms. She’s a Betty Crocker, conservative, Christian, ex-sorority girl — hardly the man-whipping, take-no-crap, ultra-feminist, leftist I would expect such news from. (Well, maybe not “expect” — but it would certainly be unsurprising.)
But then she explained why … and I felt like a complete moron.
Her fiance grew up in foster care — bouncing from place to place — until he aged out of system.
He has no memory of his biological family and feels no real attachment to his surname. In fact, if anything, she said he was resentful to the people who (only) gave him a name and then had nothing more to do with him.
He wasn’t proud of his name, he felt no loyalty to it and it certainly never brought the feeling of connection or of belonging to a family.
But her’s did.
As she explained, I felt smaller and smaller until I was sure only my eyes were peeking over the table I wanted to crawl under.
But I understood what she was saying, it made perfect sense to me. The question was why did it take an explanation before I was accepting of it? Should it matter who takes who’s name in a marriage?
Apparently for me, it does. Or, it did — but no longer.
When I married my husband, there was no question I would take his name.
For one, my maiden name was “McNutt” — a rough name to grow up with, without a doubt — and I dropped it without hesitation.
Like a bad habit.
My dad had asked me if I was going to make McNutt my middle name after we took our vows and I laughed saying “Nope, you’ve got sons to carry that name on — I’m out.”
But now that it’s gone, I do kinda miss it. After all, your name is part of your identity and I had been “Kasie McNutt” for nearly 30 years before I became “Kasie Strickland.”
I was ashamed of my judgmental reaction to my friend’s news and it made me realize that as open-minded as I think I am when it comes to fairness and equality, I still have a long way to go.
Here’s to a long and happy marriage for the two of them — no matter what name is written on the marriage certificate.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Sentinel-Progress and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the newspaper’s opinion.