The elephant in the room
On the anniversary of our wedding, I wanted to share my struggle about the elephant in the room: my name.
Since we got married lots of people have called me Mrs Harris. I don’t have an issue with this since I haven’t aired my views widely. “Mrs Michael Harris” I have a massive issue with. I am not Mrs Michael Harris, and I’m not even Mrs Harris.
Why is a woman relegated to second-best once she is married? No one would say “Mr and Mrs Naomi Allen”. In fact, it is often used as an insult to call a husband by his wife’s surname but for a woman it is “just what you do”.
I tried it. I have used Mrs Naomi Harris and have even changed my email at work, but it doesn’t feel right and it isn’t who I am. Naomi Allen didn’t die and I don’t what her to be gone.
I find it very old-fashioned that a woman adopts her husband’s name with no adoption or recognition of the woman’s history or heritage. What about the last twenty-something years when I was an Allen? I have achieved many things as an Allen and it is a part of the person I am today and indeed the person my husband fell in love with. I am proud of where I have come from and the challenges, struggles and choices my parents and grandparents have made.
Many things have triggered these feelings for me: The throw-away comment by a fellow female who was mortified that a newbie wife was making her husband change his name… “How unfair is that! The man has to change his name???”; and, letters addressed to “Mr and Mrs Michael Harris”, albeit generous and kind-hearted, as if I don’t even exist or matter any more. I am just Michael’s wife.
I do recognise, however, that it is important for two individuals, representing their own families, to join and become one family. When Michael & I have children one day, I want us to become a unified family with one name.
If one day we have daughters (or sons) I want to teach them that our marriage is based on equality and that we have a true partnership. That they can choose what they do and that wife, husband and their families are important in the marriage. I want my children to value both of our contributions to the family which includes our history and what our parents gave us. My achievements are down to me just as Michael’s achievements are down to him.
It seems I am not alone, as this recent Daily Mail article suggests (don’t judge me, Mail Online is a guilty pleasure) it is not unique for couple to use double-barrel or even combine their names into a super surname. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3122546/Men-taking-wife-s-double-barrelled-surnames-MESHED-versions-rage-traditional-marriages-fashion.html
So there, I said it. The elephant is uncovered. For now, I have not changed my name. Maybe one day I’ll become a Harris. Maybe one day I’ll become Mrs Naomi Allen-Harris. Symbolising our joint heritage, that we are equal and we are starting our own family. But for the time being I am sticking with what I know.
Mrs Naomi Allen (for now)