March 25, 2014 by Dadinator
I don’t often claim to be a pioneer of any kind as much of my life has followed a reasonably “normal” trajectory. I met The Mamantor (before our Mamantor and Dadinator days), married and had 2 wonderful kids. We lived in sin for a while, but I think most people do now days – and you’re slightly mental if you don’t. But hey, that’s just me.
Before we got married we talked about surnames. Well we talked about The Mamanator’s surname; as a man the default position was that I would simply keep my name, and the world would revolve around me. Yay manhood. I would forever and always be Mr. Magee because I have a penis.
The bulk of my married female friends didn’t change their surnames for marriage. I don’t know if that means anything in particular, but it is interesting to note. I’m sure that 20 years ago it would have been unusual but in the here and now, among my friends, keeping one’s name is the norm. No women I know have hyphenated either, the hyphenation thing irritates some people and is something generally reserved for children, so they inherit both their mother’s and father’s name.
My mother changed her name when she married dad back in 1980. It was the done thing. She changed it back again after they split up, which was quite an administratively easy thing to do and there was no charge to change the name either time (unlike a deed poll change).
But snap back to the more recent past. In 2010 I got married. After some discussion The Mamanator decided she was going to change her name and hyphenate. Any kids would also have a hyphenated surname, so she’d have the same surname as the kids and still retain her old family name “Curtain”. She would be Mrs (or Ms) Curtain-Magee.
And all was well.
So the ceremony happened. I loved it. It was the greatest day of my life till it was knocked off by the births of my children.
And then something happened. It might have been the next day, or maybe it was while we were in honeymoon, I honestly don’t recall. I read a card some friends had given us. A card that changed everything. If you ever think a greeting card is a waste of time, remember this little story.
It said something like “Dear Mr and Mrs Curtain-Magee, all the best for the future.”
That phrase Mr and Mrs Curtain-Magee It shone out at me. Like it was written in 100 point bold font that flashed pretty colours and had theme music behind it -like a website from the early 90s (it wasn’t, it was just ink in a card). It played on me through our honey moon. It made me think and um and ah about our names. Men don’t change their name, right? I mean hyphenate MY name, I’d be betraying the great patriarchy. I couldn’t, could I? COULD I? I’d never heard of it being done before, but the logic of it was inescapable: Our family unit was a merger of my wife and I. Surely merging names made sense?
After a little soul searching and some chatting I decided I would do it. I would become Mr Seamus Curtain-Magee. I haven’t regretted the decision. It got me some funny looks at VicRoads when I presented my marriage certificate to the clerk and announced I’d like a new driver’s license with my new name on it. It’s gotten me some muddled attempts to say my full name from high school students as I’ve been teaching “Is it Mr Curtain? or Mr Magee sir?”. It has also won me some praise here and there (especially from the in-laws). But more importantly (be several orders of magnitude) it has also meant that we all have the same surname in this family. And I like that outcome; for reasons I don’t fully comprehend. Oh and it has been done before by some celebrities, not many of them, but enough to validate it as a choice.
I remain the only person I know personally who is in the “men who changed their name for marriage” club, however.
So, what will my kids do? You can’t hyphenate into infinity. The good news is: that’s their problem. They can deal with it according to the social mores of their generation. All the while complaining that their parents have found ANOTHER way to make their lives difficult.
It’s only left me with one real problem. What’s the male equivalent for the term “maiden name”? I seem to have one, but I was never no maiden…. Any suggestions will be gratefully appreciated…