Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why I Changed My Name (And Why I Still Regret It)

Because Mr. Scientist really, really wanted us to have the same last name. I blame the patriarchy.

He offered to change his name; I was convinced his very conservative parents would hate me.* Next!

Hyphenation seems ideal, in the abstract. But! My family name was, say, the equivalent of 'Gloomy': The Gloomy-Scientists. Dr. Gloomy-Scientist. The Drs. Gloomy-Scientist. Right.

Although he's a liberal Presbyterian, and I'm a liberal Jew, he did change his life radically for my religious preferences (keeping kosher, helping build a little hut so I could dance around with a mutant lemon and dine al fresco- very fresco- in the rainy fall weather,** etc.). I thought I had to make a sacrifice of equal value.

I don’t mind being Jenny Scientist, but I mind that a part of my identity is subsumed in my husband. And I loathe getting letters to Mrs. John Q. Scientist. I am Ms. Scientist, and I will be Dr. Scientist. Never, never Mrs. Scientist.

I love my husband, and I made the choice freely (except for the social conditioning and the patriarchy, y'know). But changing my name made me queasy, afterwards, as if I'd bartered with my independence. It was my choice, but it echoes, to me, of women-as-property. I feel like a bad feminist. I wish we'd found another way.

The other day, Mr. S said to me, 'The only thing that bothers me about it is that people think I'm oppressing you. I'm not! We have an egalitarian partnership! But the social meaning is tied to oppression.'

Yes, dear. I know.

* Though apparently, they already did. If only I had known. Mr. S still won't tell me what they said. Which is probably for the best, now that Army Green's Chinese 'girlfriend' has inspired better attitudes.
** The first year we were married he had to take the whole thing down alone- and it is enormous- because I was laying on the couch whimpering in agony from a nice case of dry socket. Poor dear.