This is how I really felt about taking my husband’s last name.
My maiden name is a very rare Muslim last name. When I was younger, no one could say it correctly. I was always correcting everyone. My first year of high school, 9/11 happened. Shortly after, having a Muslim last name was no longer simply annoying because it was difficult to pronounce, but it was terrifying. Anyone who looked, dressed, or had a Muslim name was subject to bullying. When I traveled, I was treated differently and put through a more rigorous search. I was judged before I even said a word and it made me hate my last name. I wanted a last name that was easier to say, a last name that would not cause people to make negative assumptions about me before they even knew me.
“Eventually, my last name felt like a badge of honor.”
Luckily, those closest to me complimented how beautiful my last name was and that I should be proud of how rare it was. My friends complained about having common last names because people would often assume they were related to everyone who had the same last name. And some just felt it was plain and boring. Eventually, my last name felt like a badge of honor. I developed thicker skin. I felt special that most people had never heard of it. As I got older, I grew more confident and didn’t really care what anyone thought of it anymore.
“When my husband proposed to me, I soon found out that taking his last name was something he really hoped I would do.”
I had fallen in love with my name and took pride in it. When I thought about marriage, I knew it was something I would eventually want, but I also knew I wanted to keep my last name. I was stubborn and very firm about this issue. When my husband proposed to me, I soon found out that taking his last name was something he really hoped I would do. I felt angry. “How could he ask me to give up my identity?” I thought. I felt attached to my name, and felt proud to carry it on, much like he probably felt of his own last name.
We talked about it a lot. Ultimately it was my decision but he had hoped I would decide to take his name. It was hard. I’m a feminist. I worried, could a feminist and a traditionalist coincide within the same person? Could I be both? How could I say I was progressive, if I still conformed to these traditions? But then I realized, if I believed in the institution of marriage, than I had already conformed to some of these old ideals.
Being a feminist does not mean I have to go against every and anything that isn’t progressive. Being a feminist means, we want the right to choose, not to be told what to do. And we don’t want to be limited in anyway because of our sex. So, I should have the option to either go with tradition or not. In some instances, I go against the status quo and in other ways I don’t.
To make a long story short, I did take my husbands last name. It was a huge adjustment. I went from everyone asking what my name meant, how to say it, and asking about it’s origins, to people assuming they already knew all the answers. My married name, is a very popular name, “Singh”. People assume I’m Indian or something with in that realm. Which, surprise, we’re not. Not all brown people are. I’m judged on a completely different level now. I know when people see my name, let’s say on a resume for instance, they already know I’m a brown girl. They assume I speak another language and dress in traditional Indian clothing. Sometimes it works in my favor, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I hate having a name that aides in prejudice and in my being judged immediately. I definitely got what I had asked for many years ago— an easier and more common last name. But again, I’m learning to carry it on like a badge of honor.
Though, I don’t think every woman needs to change her name, and it should always be her choice, I’m happy that I did. It’s sweet being able to say “We are the Singh’s”. It’s a tradition I absolutely had a say in, and I chose to keep with tradition. I can’t really explain it, but it feels right for me, even as a feminist.
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