When I got married, I changed my name.
I didn’t do it because of societal pressure, although believe me, there’s plenty of that out there. I had a few reasons.
Firstly, I liked my husband’s name. It sounded nice. It worked. I liked the idea of sharing that name with my future children.
Secondly, kids at school had trouble with my maiden name (ugh, that’s such a weird name for it. “Maiden” name. Is my married name my “crone” name?). My maiden name is Scottish and consonant-heavy. It’s not difficult or anything, but kids still stumbled.
Thirdly, I liked the idea of separating my writing from my teaching. My playwriting is all under my birth name. My teaching under my married name. A nom de plume! Boom, easy!
Or so I thought.
TURNS OUT THAT’S A FILTHY LIE.
Society pressures you to change your name, to conform, to fit in. Then it financially penalises you and you suffer for years, dragged into a legal pit of doom.
I got married in 2014. Seven years later, I still get asked for copies of my marriage certificate to prove I am who I say I am. Why? Because my degree and diploma are in my birth name. Because I thought I’d wait until my driver’s license and passport expired before renewing them. Because my job requires a police check every three years and needs documentation so you can be tracked under both names. Because despite changing your name being the norm for women, every government department is stunned that you’ve done it and requires proof that you’re not a dirty liar.
Side note: why do government departments not communicate with each other? Why can’t I just provide proof of identity to the IRD and have it automatically updated everywhere else? This also applies to changing my address. I can’t remember everywhere I need to update my details every time I need to move in this housing-insecure country. It’s really annoying.
It’s just such a catch-22. And no one talks about it. No one tells you that you’re going to have to pay for a new passport and driver’s licence and that you’re going to have to track down a Justice of the Peace to sign a million copies of your marriage licence so that you can prove your existence to your bank, government departments (who need to share information, dammit) and any school you want to work at. It’s a TRAP. It just follows you around, adding an extra layer of hassle and complexity anytime you need to do something official, like buy a house.
I chose to change my name. My husband didn’t pressure me – he was happy either way. If he had a hideously awkward or boring surname, he would’ve changed to mine. We would’ve hyphenated if both names together hadn’t been such a Scottish mouthful. I chose to do it. And I like my name – both my names. But I wish someone had told me what an utter rigamarole it is, because my ADHD means official forms are super frazzling and intimidating for me.
Oh, and I still need to update my licence. Maybe everything would’ve been easier if I’d done it all at once. But I was poor as a church mouse when I married, and documentation is EXPENSIVE.
So yeah, don’t change your name. Or if you do, don’t do it officially. Our society seems to want women to conform to the norm, but then punishes you financially for doing it.
Be a feminist. Save your money.