From the Editor: No shame in my name

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On the first night of our honeymoon, Gideon and I sat next to a married couple from Texas. We had been matched up as dinner companions for the rest of the trip, so we talked about all the pleasant things you talk about when you want to have a good vacation. Near the end of the meal, the husband asked us what our married name was. I cringed. I knew the cordial train had derailed before it even left the station.

“Actually, I’m keeping my name,” I said. “You know, with my job and everything. I’m already published under my name. You know?”

That’s how I respond to almost everyone who asks me about my married name. I figure it’s better than blurting out, “Well, you see, I’m a crazy feminist!” or “I was born Samantha Jones and I’ll die Samantha Jones.” Both are true, if you’re wondering. Attributing this decision to my profession is usually the easiest way out of the conversation, so it’s what I do. Sadly, it didn’t seem to satisfy our dinner companions. The husband leaned into me, laughed and said, “Well, that’s when you take his name personally and keep yours professionally.”

I was stunned. “Well, that’s when you stop assuming I live my life the same way you do,” I wanted to say. Of course I didn’t say that. I was filled with salmon and chocolate mousse and rage. I knew better than to say what was on my mind.

So I threw my head back, laughed and told him I hadn’t thought of it that way. It was the kind of response that begged for a change of subject. Fortunately, dinner was almost over. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time somebody has confronted me about my decision to keep my last name. People rarely ask me about my new name, but those who do almost never respect my choice to remain Samantha Jones.

“What are you going to do when you have kids?” an acquaintance scoffed when I told her.

“We’re going to hyphenate, probably,” I said.

“Eww, I hate hyphenated last names,” she said. “Your poor kids.”

My children don’t exist yet, and this woman already pities them because they’ll have two last names. There’s being judgmental, and then there’s this. It’s a whole new level of judgment. If life were a video game, she would be ready to defeat Bowser.

“You have no idea how much this hurts your husband,” another acquaintance said. “You should do this for him.”

I didn’t tell her about how Gideon and I discussed that very idea two months into our relationship ... when I told Gideon I could never take anybody else’s name, and he said he didn’t expect me to. He knew then that it would go against my nature to change my last name. He respected that decision, and it’s one of the many reasons I love him.

Some people have called me “Mrs. Keas” or addressed me and Gideon as “Mr. and Mrs. Keas.” That’s not the kind of thing that upsets me. I understand there is a certain expectation of a married woman, traditionally and culturally. Most people are well-meaning. Others, like our dinner companion, are insulting.

I know it’s a non-traditional choice, even with more and more modern women making the same decision. Much of my life is non-traditional, though. I like it that way. More importantly, my name is an integral part of my identity. That hasn’t changed because I got married. There’s just another part of me now, a wonderful part.

The next time somebody tells me they don’t like my decision to keep my last name, I hope I’ll have the courage to stand up for myself. I’m proud of my name. It’s about time I said so.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.