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The Name Game: Holiday Card Edition

Posted in Personal Essays on December 20th, 2011
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A few years ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to change my last name if I ever got married. It was something that had always bothered me about marriage, and when I realized that I could get married without changing my name (Thanks Feminism!), the idea of marriage looked a lot more appealing.

My mother and I were having a conversation about my decision after Adam and I were engaged and I said, “I’m not changing my name. But if someone makes a mistake and accidentally calls me Mrs. Lee, then I won’t get offended. People make mistakes and it won’t be worth constantly getting bent out of shape for.” To which my mother responded “Well I certainly hope you wouldn’t get offended! It would be an honor to become Mrs. Lee!” An “honor” she knew I wasn’t going to receive.

All of my female friends who have gotten married have either hyphenated or changed their name. Some said they liked the tradition. But a few told me that “It’s just easier.” I don’t understand how hours of paper work and standing in line at bureaucratic offices and on hold is “just easier” than…doing nothing. But as Amanda Marcotte has written what “just easier” really means is that it’s easier to suck it up and do the paperwork than stand your ground and be seen as a castrating feminazi.

I’ve gotten a few pieces of mail addressed to Mrs. Adam Lee which is oddly unsettling even though I know it’s an archaic form of address – neither my first or last name is on the envelope, and yet it’s a communication meant for me.

Now that it’s our second holiday season as a married couple and we have sent out our second batch of holiday cards with return address labels that have both of our first and last names written on them clearly, Adam is getting frustrated that most cards are sent to “Mr. and Mrs. Adam Lee.” I really don’t care if it’s addressed that way to both of us, I just want to see the sparkly cards and see the pictures of people’s babies and pets. But this morning Adam remarked to me, “Is it worth sending out these cards if everyone just ignores you and erases your name?” I was like “Yeah! Glitter penguins! Duh!”

But I’m touched he’s offended on my behalf. Maybe I should gently remind people that I did not change my name. If I never tell anyone about it, aren’t I playing my own game of “it’s just easier?”

8 Responses to “The Name Game: Holiday Card Edition”

  1. Marc Says:

    My wife kept her last name, which seemed completely sensible to me. That was 23 years ago and we still get greeting cards and other mail from some of her relatives and one of our friends addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Marc Epard. They know damned well what her name is and it’s an aggressive anti-feminist move on their part. I don’t think she bothers to correct them anymore, but it’s up to me to open that mail because “There’s no Mrs. Epard here.” Come to think of it, neither of us have much to do with most of them anymore.

  2. Steve Bowen Says:

    Well I’m tempted to change my name to Adam Lee just to get more hits on my blog. But that aside, there is a long and venerable tradition of professional women keeping their own name. I see no reason why that should not be expanded to the social sphere.
    I thing the more egregious tradition is in eastern Europe where for example the daughter of Mr Setek is called Setekova (belongs to Setek) and when she marries Mr Pakov becomes Pakovova (belongs to Pakov). At no point does she nominatively own herself.

  3. MissCherryPi Says:

    Hi Marc, thanks for commenting. I have been tempted, as has my husband to send those letters back with “No Such Person” but to be honest I think it would just confuse people – they would call my parents and ask if we had moved and what our new address is. And I appreciate the sentiment of birthday or holiday greetings even if the form of address is retrograde.

    Steve – there are some cultures where women do not change their names at all upon marriage, and others where they not only change their last name, but also middle. So Mary Jane Smith would become Mary John Jones.

  4. EL Says:

    I have the same issue. I didn’t change my name, since in my view it’s an archaic practice, and reminds me of cattle branding.

    Next time I write the (usually well-meaning) offender, I just sign both our full names inside the card, and underline mine. Usually does the trick. I picked that one up from my Grandma, who did the same thing. Works well and is a gentle reminder.

    I don’t see how a “By the way, I am still ‘Cherry Pi’” on the end of your next email/phone call/holiday card could offend anyone, as long as you don’t follow it up with a statement about cattle branding!

  5. HEN Says:

    I always intended to keep my last name, and now 10 years later, it hasn’t been an issue. Only once in a while will I be referred to as “Mrs. Moore” or will we receive mail addressed as such, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. Now with the kids, who both have my husband’s last name, things might get more confusing as they get older. I actually had a librarian ask me if my son was adopted (while he was standing right there) b/c we had different last names! Made me consider carrying their birth certificates with me at all times as proof of parenthood!!

  6. EL Says:

    Just popped in because I realized I forgot the point I wanted to make when you posted this. Personally, I believe “coming out” as a person who kept your name is very important. The more others see it as a valid choice that reasonable people adopt, the less taboo it will be to keep your name. Yes please, gently remind people! A random stranger on the internet (i.e. me) thanks you.

  7. A'Llyn Says:

    I didn’t change my name, and we do get a few cards every year addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Him or occasionally Him and Me His-Lastname. Mainly from his distant family and family friends, who aren’t people we particularly correspond with at any other time, and who I figure just don’t know/remember.

    Stressing my own name on a return card isn’t an option since we don’t send cards ourselves (much too lazy), and I really don’t feel strongly enough about my relationship with these folks to bother mentioning it in a special communication, so I figure I just accept ‘Mrs. Him’ as an occasional social title even if it’s not actually my name. Like, if my formal title were ‘Duchess of Awesome’ (which it totally will be someday), my legal name would still be whatever it is, right?

    I’ve thought of it as not a big enough deal to worry about…although I totally get your point about whether or not this is another form of the “it’s just easier” excuse. ‘Cause yeah, it is that, too.

    On the other hand, I have one relative who addresses cards to Me and Him My-Lastname, which I find mildly amusing, so I guess we’re sort of even.

  8. Jackie Says:

    Knowing that I’d either be hyphenating or keeping my own name, we made sure we were very aware of all the couples that did the same when we sent out or invitation to the wedding.

    Holidays are the one time of year when the lack of regard for the name change really comes out. Strangely, my family addresses holiday cards with the proper last names, but anniversary cards get the Mr. & Mrs. H greeting. I don’t get angry about it, I just laugh.

    And, fortunately, anything addressed to Mrs. H alone is clearly junk mail that I didn’t sign up for, so that’s helpful.

    I have had the (rare) instance in which the “it’s easier” to change does apply. This comes into play mostly when traveling – we lost luggage once that had tags with my name, but filed the complaint with a ticket that had his name (long story…). But aside from rare instances like that, it really isn’t any easier to share the same last name. I imagine that with kids it’s easier to not have to explain to them or their teachers why you have a different last name, but I haven’t crossed that bridge yet.

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