What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name

What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name

“My younger brother started it off by asking me how Chris felt about being emasculated. He was joking, and he did apologize about it later, but I couldn’t help wonder if he somehow represented all the men who might feel emasculated by our choice. My mother, always a supporter, just sighed. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘Just be ready for the responses. Your child might have some trouble on the playground.’

As my belly grew, the comments got even stranger. I had secretly hoped for no reaction, for our choice to be as common as saying, ‘I went with the mustard instead of the ketchup.’ No reaction would mean something good, right? That women in this country are, for example, no longer considered the property of men, even in name. That archaic systems are truly collapsing. That we can reclaim language that was formerly used to control us.

But it seemed, at least to me, that using a woman’s last name for a child threatened everyone. An older woman asked me if I was doing this to make a point. Why was all this doing perceived as mine, not my husband’s as well? At a party, a peer told me she was ‘diehard Obama’ and then argued that her only real concern about using a woman’s last name is that you risk the ease of preserving lineage and historical records.

‘Really?’ I kept responding.”

I got a lot of weird reactions when people found out that I wasn’t taking my husband’s last name when we got married. But I’m an only child, and I’d decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to change my name for anyone. Sometimes I question my decision, but most of the time I feel proud for staying true to myself. There’s nothing wrong with changing your name to match your spouse’s if that’s what you both want. But it doesn’t have to be what you want, and it’s not what I wanted.

If and when we have kids, we’ve talked about hyphenation, or combining our last names into something new… it’s not set in stone. But it’s definitely not a given for us, and it shouldn’t be for anyone. Names are important: your name is not only a part of how you see yourself, it’s also how other people see you.

As women in the United States, even though “we’ve come a long way, baby,” we still have certain cultural exceptions, including but not limited to: 1. We change our names when we get married; 2. We wear white (or off-white, or eggshell, or whatever nonsense name that’s really just white) on our wedding day; 3. We shave our body hair; 4. We wear makeup and heels when we dress up. Well, guess what? As a white, cis-gendered woman in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship, I currently do none of those things. Somehow, I’m still a woman. The world is still spinning. My husband still feels like a man.

In summation: we don’t have to do any of this nonsense that society still expects we do. We absolutely can, and plenty of women love doing all of the things I’ve just listed. I’m not saying all women should start following my lead, but I’m saying they can. You can. If you don’t want to do some, any, or all of these things, it’s okay. You’re not alone. There are plenty of us out there following our own paths to womanhood. There’s no rule book other than the one you create for yourself.

“The patriarchy is still deeply ingrained—in all of us. Surnames are one of the unseen limbs of the old world. Giving a child the father’s last name is still a given. And that given preserves the man’s place of power, from the Supreme Court on down to the everyday Joe. How can that still be the case? Why, I wonder, are we so slow on this one? It seems lazy of us.”


I did, and then I didn’t: Being a divorced twenty-something

“Eventually, I trained myself to compartmentalize these fears, rather than to confront them. I went to great lengths to tuck them away as tidily as I could, and developed cognitive mechanisms for assuaging them whenever they reared their ugly heads. And so, over the two years of my engagement, I never once considered the possibility that I should not marry my fiancé – not when I began to question my sexuality or when I sensed the profound ways that I was changing. This is not to say that there was a definitive red flag bearing the words, “DO NOT PROCEED – BIG MISTAKE,” but there were opportunities for me to reflect. I never took advantage of them; I was too afraid to do so.”

This hit very close to home. [via The Hairpin]

Positive & Promise

I have decided that my goal will be to update Positive and Promise by Monday, at least every other week. Originally, I thought Sunday night might make a nice, tidy deadline, but, let’s face it, I am watching “Downton Abbey” on Sunday nights. And, if I can catch up soon enough, I will be watching “Sherlock” as well. One has to manage one’s priorities responsibly.

Generally, I also will do my best to alternate more somber posts, like the one from last week, with pieces that are more light-hearted. But everything that follows has been on my mind for some time now, and I would like to put it into words.

Writing this piece will be simplest if I begin with the absolute basics:

When I was twenty-three years old, I got engaged to my college boyfriend. When I was twenty-five years old, I married him. Ten months later, we…

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Nina Mitchell: The Great Escape

Nina Mitchell: The Great Escape

I started reading Nina’s essays on The Hairpin a few years ago, and I was immediately fascinated by the story of a 26 year old woman who wakes up one morning, realises she’s had a stroke, and knows her life will never be the same. She also wrote a longer piece for The AtlanticWhen I Was 26, I Had a Stroke: The Escape, but the link I’m sending you to here today is actually an audio file, taken from The Moth. It’s Nina telling the story of her stroke, in her own words, and listening to her talk about that time in her life (over 10 years ago now) is both moving and also very, very funny.

Finally, I encourage you to check out her blog, Mindpop, where she still posts regularly.

Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls

Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls

“The Cool Girl has many variations: She can have tattoos, she can be into comics, she might be really into climbing or pickling vegetables. She’s always down to party, or do something spontaneous like drive all night to go to a secret concert. Her body, skin, face, and hair all look effortless and natural — the Cool Girl doesn’t even know what an elliptical machine would look like — and wears a uniform of jeans and tank tops, because trying hard isn’t Cool. The Cool Girl has a super-sexy ponytail.

The Cool Girl never nags, or ‘just wants one’ of your chili fries, because she orders a giant order for herself. She’s an ideal that matches the times — a mix of feminism and passivity, of confidence and femininity. She knows what she wants, and what she wants is to hang out with the guys.

Cool Girls don’t have the hang-ups of normal girls: They don’t get bogged down by the patriarchy, or worrying about their weight. They’re basically dudes masquerading in beautiful women’s bodies, reaping the privileges of both. But let’s be clear: It’s a performance. It might not be a conscious one, but it’s the way our society implicitly instructs young women on how to be awesome: Be chill and don’t be a downer, act like a dude but look like a supermodel.”

Anne Helen Petersen is a brilliant writer; her website, Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style, is a must-read if you’re interested in Hollywood culture and media analysis, and her series on The Hairpin, Scandals of Classic Hollywood, is so successful that she’s turning it into a book. I also love her un-Hollywood related pieces: on Lilith Fair, summer camp, two lane highways, and lost loves, to name a few. This article is classic AHP, with plenty of old Hollywood gossip and feminist analysis to keep you engaged. Enjoy!

Ask an Abortion Provider [March 2011]

Ask an Abortion Provider [March 2011]

“Hello! I am a person who is training to become an abortion provider. As you can imagine, it is really f*ing weird to be one of me, especially lately! I think maybe you have some questions?”

This essay has stuck with me since I read it almost 3 years ago. It’s actually the first article I read on The Hairpin, and I’ve been a loyal reader ever since. It’s meaningful because her perspective is one you don’t get every day, even though this is a subject that plenty of people have opinions about. Reading her story actually made me wish I had any interest in the medical field whatsoever, because what this woman is doing is brave and amazing and I kind of want to be doing it too. Check this out regardless of your views, and feel free to let me know what you think.

Picture Books for Grownups: A Conversation With the Author of Are You My Boyfriend?

Picture Books for Grownups: A Conversation With the Author of Are You My Boyfriend?

“One thing that sets this apart from other parodies is that it’s funny, yes, but it’s also meant to do for adult women what kid’s books do for children: provide comfort, reassurance, and the moral of the story message. And empathy, too. Everybody knows these guys. It’s not a male-bashing book, it’s a female empowerment book, but we’ve all dated these guys and dealt with these common themes of unavailability and people who can’t give us what we need. What’s the best way to handle that?”

The Hairpin does wonderful interviews, and this one is no exception. I love, love, love the idea of this book, and I think a lot of women will really connect with the story. Plus, who doesn’t like picture books?