Monday, July 10

De-hyphenating a name

My last name is a pretty significiant part of my identity, just as much as my first name or nickname. Yesterday Heather, my sister, announced she's engaged to her long-time boyfriend Tim Albano. We all saw it coming, so there wasn't a big reaction. She casually mentioned that she would take his last name. The two ardent feminists voiced our opinion briefly but there wasn't much discussion. The justifications of hyphenating names (if I have ranted to you in person yet) are
  1. Keeping the name of the mother's family alive,
  2. Showing that the family is a dual product of two converging families. Whereas taking the husband's name historically signified that the wife was leaving her family and joining her husband's,
  3. Reaction against the wife sacrificing her identity for her husband's and being "branded" as his property,
and some minor reasons. But since the single name is mostly just a fossil of anbandoned sexism, it's not a huge deal. Then something hit me at work today. Our name not only reflects our family past, but also identifies, defines, and especially labels our family in this generation as a distinct entity! There are lots of Johnson familes and quite a few Bakers, but we are uniquely the Baker-Johnsons - the BJs. I don't care about the survival of our name; if five generations from now there are no Baker-Johnsons or etymological descendant, I'm fine. If the name disappeared now, however, I'd be absolutely tramatized. If Heather abandons "Baker-Johnson," she, in my perspective, abandons our family. She chooses to kill or forget that part of her and the Baker-Johnsons exist fundamentally different and deprived from then on.

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