My mother is the oldest of three girls and the only one that took her husband’s last name when she married. When I thought about getting married, I took it for granted that I would change my name, and felt sad about it. I’m not sure when it occurred to me that I didn’t have to.
See, I really like my name. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with the name Meagan Neely, but that’s not me. I’m Meagan Bayard Call. That’s who I’ve been for 27 years. Meagan Bayard Call is the creepy girl with a sword. She’s slightly odd, she draws a lot. She has big ideas, and sometimes she even manages to implement one of them. She’s not perfect, but after years of depression, struggle, loneliness, desperation, I’ve finally discovered that I actually rather like her. Marriage involves sacrifice, but this person, this self I’ve made myself into, that shouldn’t be one of them.
I’ve heard the arguments. By marrying, we’re creating a new life, the partnership between husband and wife, and so a new name represents the new life. That’s crap. The wife must change to a new person but the husband is the same as always? No. I AM Meagan Bayard Call. That is who my husband married. Part of me feels like keeping my name is a rejection of Matt, and that isn’t fair. It’s the same ugly little voice that had to be slammed into submission when I wanted a blue dress instead of a white one. Different is not the same as wrong.
There are practical reasons that made me want to change my name. Some day, probably sooner rather than later, we’ll have children. I don’t expect to give my children my name. I don’t wish to force a hyphen on them either. Which means when we have children we will be the Neely family, and there will be I, conspicuously Call.
Then there’s the symbolism. As much as I want to stand on my feminist high horse (if you are on a high horse, always sit rather than stand so you will be closer to the ground when it flings you off its back) I do like the idea of having part of Matt’s name be part of my name. Of taking his name.
And then I thought, you mean I have to change my signature, too?
I kept my name.
But I took his too. Or I will. When I get around to the legalities, I will be Meagan Bayard-Neely Call. As far as I am concerned, I already am.
Life is full of compromise, or at least, successful lives are. I wanted two names. Or I wanted my name with all the symbolic connection of his name. My new name, which is also my old name, does not perfectly satisfy my wants, but it meets my needs. It’s the best I can do, and that is enough.