What’s in a name…

I recently got married… married for love .. to a wonderful man… who loves me .. respects me .. knows to give me my space, but still… I GOT MARRIED.

Why is getting married such a huge thing for me.. a huge burden… an identity threatening black hole that is intent on sucking out my individuality and freedom? because society does not treat marriage as something private; as a mere form of commitment between two individuals. Society rather treats marriage as a ticket to butt you with its humbug justifications, inappropriate jokes, cruel expectations, and deeply unsettling views about how you should love and live. This is especially so, in a country like India.

You may say that such views and expectations are present in everybody’s life and at all stages of life but what we forget is the suddenness with which a woman’s reality changes the moment you announce that you are going to be married. People happily take the liberty of obliterating Your identity and make you Mrs. john/ Mrs. Mary John .. your caste based/family based surname changes or  your parent’s name is replaced by your husband’s name(as in my case a tamil woman, where the norm is to add your father’s name either as initials or the entire name). I know many Priyas, Keerthis, Malas and mythilis, who changed from Miss. Priya Dad’s name to Mrs. Priya Husband’s name or simply Mrs. Husband’s name.

Many women voluntary change their surname or add their husband ‘s name and are quite delighted in doing so. Social media is one place where this name changing is widely on display and validated by the number of likes and gushing awwww comments. I am happy for women who happily change their names/ surnames.. I am happy for those who want to flaunt their lust, love or commitment through this.. I am happy for women who feel empowered by their ‘married’ status… but I am sad that they are not aware of the patriarchal power play that ‘norm’ises it and normalizes it… I am sad that they can’t see how culture and tradition perpetuates the existing inequalities in society… I am enraged for those women who have no say in this name game and I am indignant for those women who try to say a ‘no’ but are helpless in the face of society’s insensitivity. People justify it by saying that marriage is a social commitment and the society needs to be informed of your new association but, hey, I have never heard some man being called (Mr.s.) Mary / (Mr.s.) John Mary.

I have even come across practices in some parts of India, where even a woman’s first name is changed after marriage and she is given a new name in her in- law’s house. Imagine having to consciously learn to ‘respond spontaneously’ to some other name. I know a Niramala who was renamed Anjali… the Nirmala who fought with her brothers.. bunked classes.. learned “madrasi”( grrr… ughhh… disgusted emoji) from her tamil neighbours…Nirmala the sister.. Nirmala the student… Nirmala the neighbor.. Nirmala the woman became Anjali the daughter – in – law, Anjali the wife and Anjali the mother. A change of name, more often, is a symbolic severance of all the previous ties, identities and past life.

I know of a friend who got into a crazy fight because her husband’s name was printed as her surname instead of her parental family name, in an invitation. Sadly, no body seemed to understand her anger for such a ‘small matter’ , after all it’s what is usually done,  it’s more convenient…. it will be easier for friends (read strangers) from her husband’s side to identify her… she is mad to take offence at something so nice.. I tell you, she WAS mad, not just mad but furious.

The same thing happened to me recently. I am in an important post in a well known organization and in one of their public invitations I was named as “Myname My Husband’s name” without any consultation what so ever. For Heaven’s Sake, I am the same person holding the same responsibilities in the institution. WHY SHOULD MARRIAGE AFFECT HOW I CALL MYSELF? OR HOW I VIEW MY OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES? WHO GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY NAME WITHOUT ASKING ME ?

Hope the caps was able to convey my fury, humiliation and high pitched screams. My husband was smart( we are part of the same organization) .. he showed me the invitation proof (they didn’t even bother to mail me a copy of the proof even though technically my official position is higher than that of my husband) only after he had made the calls to the relevant people to correct the error… so that he could insure his safety when the volcano erupts. In spite of the timely intervention a few invitations had already left the press with the woeful ” myname Myhusband’s name.”

So yeah.. Shakespeare.. a rose is a rose no matter what you call it.. but not so for us women… the name change heralds our metamorphosis… one day we are women and girls but suddenly  we become wives and nameless nothings hiding in the shadows of the empty “Mrs.________” and  forever trailed by the curse of our husband’s name

yours truly

My name alone.

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19 thoughts on “What’s in a name…

  1. Shortly after my first wife and I got engaged she looked at me and said, “We need to talk.” I could see she was already prepared for a fight. So I mentally began cataloging everything I could have possibly done to piss her off, settled on the three most likely and began preparing my defense. “I’m not changing my last name”, she said and then started listing off all her reasons. When she finished, I said,”Ok. I really didn’t expect you’d want to.”

    Over the years we would receive invitations and junk mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. MyLastName and Mr. and Mrs. HerLastName. I’ll admit that it always confused me slightly the depth of her reaction to the mail with my last name. When I was called Mr. HerLastName (which was quite often), it never really bothered me. It wasn’t until one of our close friends sent us a wedding invitation to Mr. & Mrs. MyLastName that I finally understood. While I found it amusing because it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other, she had to fight for her identity as an independent person everyday; even with our closest friends.

    The only time last names were ever an issue for us was when we were expecting our first child. We discussed options that included hyphenating or combining our last names somehow. We tried to look forward and give her options for when she had the same discussion with her potential mate. Good solutions really weren’t available. So I came up with an idea. The sex of the child would determine the last name. Girl got hers, boy got mine.

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      1. Feel free. It worked out well for us. Just so you know, we had a daughter. Her and my last names are different. It does cause some issues in social situations, and more than a few “are you her step-dad” questions. Nothing that can’t be laughed off and easily explained.

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  2. On a different note on your post – the feeling of “being” married. myfirst marriage I was too young and we did live together first. Afterward I didn’t like being married. Outwardly everything appeared to be the same but it was like all these invisible strings came out from him and attached themselves to me like he now had the right to everything inside me. My thoughts, my reasons why I did anything. He has a right to anything I considered private. I couldn’t have anything private. I had to account for my time. It wasnt that he demanded it or that we even talked about it. I realized it was not a good marriage. But I tried. We had 2 children. He was a lousy father. After we separated he divorced the kids, too and did nothing for them. They are more than grown now. I wish I had more wisdom in my youth. But I do hope your marriage will be a good one and that you are harpy.

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      1. I want to thank you for nominating me. I appreciate it, but I will have to ask you to nominate someone else. I have tried to participate with other ones, but I am so swamped ( and behind) with other writing obligations with the book I’m writing my head is spinning. But again, thank you.

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  3. There you go, finally I have found yet another wonderful person to stand for the same thought.. I haven’t changed my name and my Dad s name s still with me,and lucky that My man too doesn’t hav issues with the same,though it’s not the case with rest of the things between us,still compromise with those..as for me what matters isn’t the name or nything,but love and understanding is what does!!

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