The Essentials

vaticanspy: “It’s attitudes like yours that tear down the moral fabric of our culture.” re: my announcement that I’m keeping my last name.

VitaCatholic: @vaticanspy Because we all know that modern Anglo-Saxon naming practices are essential to a moral culture.

RCGuerilla: @vitacatholic devil’s advocate: just what IS essential? who decides? are we picking and choosing here? its OK to keep my own name, but …see that lady wearing pants with the kids in sports jerseys at church, it’s HER fault we are in the shape we are in.

What is essential?

Love is essential.

For some people the question of names is essential for love, and so it really is essential. Some women cannot truly believe that they love a man unless they have visible signs of shedding their former identity and joining themselves to him. For such a woman, taking her husband’s names is essential. Other women cannot really believe that it is love unless they are fully accepted as they are without any expectation of change. For such a woman, not changing her name is essential.

For Josh and me, names are not essential to love. That left us with the option of thinking about names rationally, and determining what we thought was best for both practical and symbolic purposes.

Other things were essential though.

The status of “engaged” was essential to Josh. So we got engaged. Being able to see each other at least a few times a month was essential to me. So Josh moved. Sealing our relationship with Catholic vows was essential to both of us. We knew that wherever our marriage would go, and whatever our personal religious views might become, we wanted to start with the Sacrament of Marriage. It was essential to our love, and so we did it.

What is essential? Love. Who decides what is essential for really loving? We all do.

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17 thoughts on “The Essentials

  1. dweej @ HouseUnseen

    “Some women cannot truly believe that they love a man unless they have visible signs of shedding their former identity and joining themselves to him. For such a woman, taking her husband’s names is essential. ” I agree that such women exist, but not every woman who takes her husband’s name falls into this category.

    What about the third category of woman who is marrying a man who would very much like her to take his last name and since she doesn’t care either way, she agrees to do it?

    In both cases you describe, the women feel very strongly about last names in and of themselves. The third category of woman, the one who is just doing what her would-be husband prefers as her “love essential” is an important one.

    1. Rae Post author

      I think that she could count as falling into the category of women who can consider the issue rationally, and consider her (future) husband’s essentials.

  2. Michelle

    It really does amaze me that people think all that hard about the issue one way or the other. So I guess it wasn’t necessarily “essential” for me. I kept my maiden name as my middle name. And I dropped my first given name (legally), in favor of taking my middle given name as my first name. My parents had never called me by my first given name anyway. (Side note: My first given name is Helen….but my parents always called me by my middle name, which is Michelle)

    I suppose it belies what is important/essential to me in that I absolutely refuse to give my child a first name that I would not actually use. It was so annoying growing up.

    And of course…I have now gone on a tangent. :)

    1. Rae Post author

      “I suppose it belies what is important/essential to me in that I absolutely refuse to give my child a first name that I would not actually use. It was so annoying growing up.” I agree with you! My parents didn’t do it to me, but more than one of my siblings has a legal name that does not match what my parents consider to be the “real” name and… it isn’t my style.

  3. Kris M

    Eh… it was essential to me for an entirely diff reason. I really disliked my maiden name lol. Love my family but it is always mispronounced in a very dirty way… lots of jokes. Granted I know that happens to a lot of people, but I was glad I had the option of changing it when I got married. But… because my middle name is so similar to my married name, when I first moved here I joked that I couldn’t marry anyone from his family because I didn’t want the double name. Yeah… famous last words ;-)

  4. Katarina

    vaticanspy: “It’s attitudes like yours that tear down the moral fabric of our culture.” re: my announcement that I’m keeping my last name.

    All i can say is really???????!!!!!!

  5. Joy

    Fidelity: Whatever happens in the future I believe you should marry intending to stay married forever.

    I do agree that there are a lot of issues that each couple must decide what is essential for them.

  6. Kristy

    What in the WORLD does changing or not changing your name have to do with morals?

    (I’m so sick of the to-change-or-not-to-change debates. Just make a decision that’s right for you & your partner and move on. It doesn’t actually affect anyone outside the 2 of you and any children you might have; and if others take issue with your choice, it’s their problem, not yours. )

  7. Marc Cardaronella

    I like this because it’s balanced. Love can have different expressions for different people. There’s not one way to do something that’s loving. The same thing can go for living your faith in many areas as well. You can’t say the name thing means the same thing to everyone.

  8. Mary

    I kept my name when i got married, which has upset some people. My mother feels that she has failed in raising by having me somehow turn into a radical feminist. My mother-in-law feels that i’m a traitor for not wanting to change my name to hers.
    I was never comfortable with the idea of having to change my name, but I would have probably done it if my husband wanted me to. He didn’t care either way, so I left it. I have met so many women who tell me they regret changing their names, especially older women, who say the idea of keeping your name never even occurred to them, as it wasn’t the done thing. if they had known it was possible, they wouldn’t have changed. its those women that encouraged me not to give in and keep my name.
    I also have alot of women tell me that i’ll change my mind when I have children, as I’ll want the same name as them. And to think of the harm i’ll do to my children by having a different name to them. I used to work in the education system, and asked the teachers if they noticed any sort of issue with kids who have married parents of different last names, and they said they hadn’t. Even my ultra conservative boss, who thinks i should have changed my last name, said that couldn’t be cited as a real reason.
    it is important to remember that how love is expressed for one couple is different to another couple. For some women, changing their name was the most natural thing in the world, but i never felt that.
    This was a great entry. Thanks for writing it.

  9. Craig

    What is essential? Love.

    Well – you know I heart that answer!

    And remember my idea a while back that maybe it would be neat if at the wedding ceremony last names were swapped. I still like that idea. And by the way, the post before this – I’m one of those. There is actually much more to it than that – maybe someday I’ll get to share. I heart your words Rae – I really do.

    God bless and keep you and each and every one of yours – regardless of their surname :-)

  10. Kate P

    I do not have a problem if a woman keeps her maiden name when she marries, but I work in a school and it gets a little confusing with some of the students’ parents–I don’t want to insult a student’s mother by addressing her improperly, and also as someone with a long surname I feel a bit bad for the children with big hyphenated last names.

    Including the kids who have their hyphenated surname in reverse order because Mom makes more money than Dad. True story.

    I also know someone who did not like her husband’s surname, so when they married, she changed it. Completely. To something she made up.

    A couple years later, they divorced. She later remarried and took her new husband’s surname, and the ex-husband to this day has the name she made up. . . because it’s their son’s surname, too.

    There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.

  11. Jackie

    We made a lot of “traditional” decisions, but we thought them all through. I took his name, because I wanted the symbolic unity of the family. For some people they don’t need that symbol, but we appreciated it. If he took my name, people would’ve wondered why and his family would’ve been hurt and confused. It wasn’t worth making waves so we just did the traditional thing. But we thought about it.

    We bought wedding rings. I like that simple, visual reminder even when we are away that we are together, and that whenever he fiddles with it he can remember me. They aren’t necessary for our marriage, but we appreciate the symbolism, so we did it.

    We didn’t write our own vows. We did the traditional Catholic ones because we thought it was beautiful to repeat the same words to each other that so many others have as well. Again, traditional, but we thought about it.

    People judged us for just doing the traditional thing, but we found beauty in a lot of those things and so that’s why we did them. Not just because we thought we “should.” The symbols weren’t essential to us, but we appreciated them so we incorporated them in our lives.

  12. Elisa

    I like keeping it simple. In Spain, where I was a nanny, the mother’s last name was “de Uribe”. The father’s last name was “de Juan”. The kids’ last name was “de Juan de Uribe”. Talk about complicated. I changed my last name to be the same as my husbands mostly because I want our family all to share the same last name.

  13. Craig

    Ummmmm – one can only come back here so many times to look for new words from one of my very, very, very favorite writers – without grumbling and complaining that there are no new words.

    I. Want. New. Words.!!! :-)

    God bless you! I hope all is well.

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