Sometime during middle school, I started writing ‘Luckey’ in the top right-hand corner of the pages of my school work where we were supposed to put our name and the date. While there were multiple Sara(h)’s in the small Catholic school I attended, there was only one Luckey in middle school, and that was me. I knew I could write just my last name up there and still there would be no confusion, no ambiguity, just me. I carried on that way through high school and still in college and never ran into any duplicate Luckey’s.
My name is Sara, but a lot of people still and always have called me ‘Sara Luckey’. It’s one of those names that fits together and rolls off the tongue in a nice, pleasant, and affable way. Some of my friends and classmates would just refer to me as ‘Luckey’, foregoing the ‘Sara’ half of my name all together. This still happens and I have always liked it. I think I always will like it. It feels joyful and friendly, intimate and warm. When somebody calls me Luckey, I know they’re comfortable with me and that comfort is typically mutual.
When I was 25, I got married. Prior to the marriage we had discussed me taking his name and I had said that I would prefer not to. My mom, dad, sister and brother are all a Luckey to somebody, first names sometimes set to the side when we interact with others. I identify strongly with my family of origin and the name that comes with being a part of that family. As much as my family is home to me, so is my name. The future (now ex) husband and I had a conversation wherein I related that I felt connected to my name and that I didn’t like or understand the tradition. It never made sense to me that women were expected to adopt the name of their husband, but it was viewed as emasculating, submissive, or weak for a husband to take the name of his wife. It was and still is a thing that isn’t commonly done, and I didn’t want to play into that hypocrisy. I wasn’t comfortable with it. I take issue any time something that is commonly associated with women or femininity is seen as weak or demeaning. I’m not going to play into the trope that femininity or womanhood is weakness or less-than. If it’s so horrible for him to take my name, why is it okay, assumed, and expected that I should be happy to take his? While I can say that I’m a fan of mutual hyphenation or new couples choosing an entirely different name, I can’t say that adopting the name of my partner is something that I would ever be comfortable doing.
At the time, my then partner said he was comfortable with it and we got married and I kept my name and it was fine. There were no earthquakes, no confusion with the post office or any other required service, and life went on. Slowly, in a way that seemed insidious in nature, people began to both subtly and overtly let me know that they did not accept my decision. Co-workers would tell me that they thought I was going to make it harder on my future children, that having parents with two names would be difficult for them. I was told that I failed to form a union with my husband, that I didn’t take on this part of him and that was selfish since he had chosen to spend the rest of his life with me. I was met with eye rolls and plenty of ‘Oh, are you one of those feminists?’, always uttered with a sneer and air of condescension. Strangers who learned of my name would congratulate me on marrying into such a cool name, then be taken aback when realizing it was the name I’d had since birth. These same strangers would then often ask me why I wasn’t fully committed to my marriage.
Though I managed to usually be polite and not return the eye rolls and the condescension, I can tell you that none of the unsolicited comments and arguments I was met with ever made sense to me, and they still don’t.
First and foremost, I have no plans to ever have children, and I resent the assumption that I surely must want some. Not every woman wants kids, brah. Furthermore, do you really think my hypothetical kids could navigate their way through the world, learn how to read, write, do math, and make their way through an entire lifetime of trials, obstacles and experiences but not be able to comprehend two people with two names? Credit my pretend fantasy kids some intelligence. I’m sure they could handle it. And as for not forming a union with your partner, if they only thing that stands between you and your partner forming a union is your last name, then you’re probably in trouble anyway. Unity is found in compassion, empathy, kindness, trust, and a willingness to work together. It isn’t found in a name or any singular word you can tack onto your identity. And while it’s true that he had chosen to spend the rest of his life with me, it seemed beyond the pale for some to consider that I had also chosen that path, that he was also being given the gift of unity and that there was no reason I should be the only one to take on this drastic and outward identity changing symbol of commitment. And yes, I’m a feminist. I believe that women and men should be treated equally, and that includes being able to choose whether or not to change their name and having that decision be free of unnecessary, outdated social pressure.
It’s sexist, dudes. Expecting one person in a relationship to do something based on traditional gender norms and with no logical motive or rationale behind it is straight up sexist. If somebody wants to change their name, then by all means, they should go ahead. And if somebody doesn’t want to, then they absolutely shouldn’t. What was most surprising to me was that people who weren’t involved in my life in any real or meaningful way felt entitled to even have an opinion on what I should or should not do with my name. It’s really just nobody’s business. I would like for everybody to think about the historical, cultural and social context of their choices when making them, especially the decisions that have a big affect on their daily life -such as taking on a new last name. But that isn’t always going to happen, and that’s okay, as long as we can stop forcing our views and choices onto other people as The Only Right Way. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa, but as long as nobody is being harmed, there’s really no reason to push it. You can be a feminist and identify as a man or a woman and take your partner’s name or not take your partner’s name, and either choice is valid. You can not be a feminist and take your partners name or keep your own and that is also valid.
Ultimately, I ended up getting a divorce, and while pretty much every aspect of my life was better for it, the entire process was made easier in that I didn’t have to go through the process of changing my name back to Luckey. My name, like my family, is home to me. Within this name there is comfort, security, happiness, joy, and an identity I have crafted and developed and grown into. While it’s true that none of that would disappear if I took on the name of another person, it’s also true that I wouldn’t be comfortable changing my name, and that should be enough reason, especially since no reason should be needed.
What do you think? Are you married? Did you change your name? Why or why not? Are you able to get married and planning on it some day and have you thought about this? What did you decide? Meet me in the comments below!