What’s in a name?
Quite a lot, come to think of it. You spend a lifetime forging your identity through your name. Others associate good or bad things with your name or make associations with people of similar names. Tell me about it, it’s difficult enough choosing a baby’s name.
The cultural norm in the UK is for women to take the husband’s family name. It’s tradition. And I am breaking the mould. I am a bit of a rebel like that.
I am a man who has decided to take my wife’s family name.
Thankfully, those I’ve told already have taken an open-minded view on my name change. There are a few who might not say it directly to me, but I can read in their expressions;
“How could you? That is ridiculous!”
“Seriously, you’ve given up your name for a woman’s surname? ”
For a minority, it generates quite an unexpectedly furious response. I get the look. It’s the same kind of look you get when you mention ‘sprouts’ to a sprout-hater.
So, to all you sprout-haters out there, or if you are simply interested to find out why I changed my surname, please read on.
Reasons for the change
When I got married back in 2006, we agreed to keep our respective surnames on the basis that if we ever had children we would then go with one family name. With a child on the way now is the time to have a single family name. The decision is practical. After all we share everything together: our house, our money, the housework, everything. A family name for our child is a natural progression of our sharing and it avoids confusion with two different surnames. Together we will face the world.
So why not use my family name?
My wife and I both agree that Reeve sounds nicer than Leake. Especially with my first name. Charlie Reeve sounds quite dignified. And it is so much easier to match other first names.
So there you have it. The reasons for the change are about having a family name and about a preference for elegant phonetics.
It helps that I don’t have an emotional attachment to my name. Neither did my father. He was supportive of my name change when I eventually plucked up the courage to talk to him about it. Thankfully, just before he passed away.
My mother? She has re-married and now uses her maiden name so there’s no qualms there.
I hadn’t considered just how archaic the term ‘maiden name’ was until I wrote this post. Surely modern society has progressed since the macho society of old when this term was coined?
This got me thinking…
Why do women take men’s family names in the first place?
Taking the man’s family name is a cultural norm deemed socially correct in the UK and other societies around the world. But this does not make it right or correct. That is a matter of opinion based on your personal and social biases. It gets really interesting when you uncover the historical reasons behind this cultural norm:
“Although surnames didn’t even exist in Britain until the 13th century, the biblical story of Eve being formed from one of Adam’s ribs cemented the idea of a woman as an “appendage” to her companion. That surnames came to follow this pattern is no surprise. Until the mid-20th century, marriage was a complex patriarchal exchange of money, status and property – of which women were a vital part; marriage signalling [sic] the woman’s assimilation from her father’s to her husband’s estate. But things have moved on since then.” The Independent newspaper
And just to be clear, I’m not talking about being on the side of bra-burning feminist ideals nor am I an advocate of the metrosexual. It is that I would like to think that life in 20th century Britain has moved on since the middle ages. The act of man taking the woman’s family name really shouldn’t be such a huge issue.
I mean, why should women take the man’s surname?
What about double-barreling or mashing your surnames?
Well, we could have. And we’ve given it serious thought.
One of my brothers has double-barrelled already and it sounds good. But putting Leake-Reeve or Reeve-Leake together just doesn’t sound good. Especially when you swap the first initial of each name around and you get…
Now that had us both rolling with laughter. You can tell that toilet humour features highly in our lives.
And as for mashing our surnames? Just count the number of times the letter ‘e’ appears in both names and I challenge you to figure out a sensible mash-up.
How I changed my name
£37 and a few deed poll copies posted and it’s all done. Once I received my passport with my new name, it is officially changed. Done and dusted.
And if you don’t agree, that’s fine…
…I’ll just keep on being me.