Or: it’s my marriage, and I’ll troll if I want to.
If there’s one thing that screams “adulting” more than taking out a mortgage…
…it’s sorting out a product transfer because the fixed term on that mortgage has ended. Which is something that I did last week, and which means I now pay less to live in a two-bedroom house than I would for a garden shed in London because society is fucked, but that’s a whole other rant.
Like many financial advisers, mine operates on a commission system. I buy a product; the lender or product provider pays my adviser a fee. Which means follow-up calls to check in on various aspects of my finances, just while they have me. And conversations like the following, which I reproduce here word for word:
“So, are you and Mr Stringer married yet?”
“Um, yes; we’ve been married for a while actually…”
“Oh, cool; so do you want me to update your details?”
“Will I update your name on the system?”
And so on, until the penny drops.
Sure, I could make it easy for him: laugh, and say oh, I didn’t change my name, but I don’t.
Because it’s a ridiculous default.
Because I’m not the one making commission from this call (and I’ll troll if I want to).
Because, either way, I’m expecting ten minutes of woke dude chat about how cool and feminist it is that I didn’t change my name, which will almost certainly include the ol’ and how did your husband feel about that chestnut (I don’t think we actually had a conversation about it? if I’m honest?? because name-changeage isn’t his default either, which is probably why I was into the idea of marrying him???).
Spoiler alert: not taking your partner’s name on marriage is not “cool and feminist”. It is women on banknotes in a world in which misogyny is an electable platform. It is, frankly, fucking trivia.
But, as a semi-professional hypocrite with her own blog, I reserve the right to be irritated by this particular micro-annoyance. Particularly when it’s on Christmas card envelopes, because not bothering to establish a friend or family member’s actual name is the height of rudeness and you were raised better than that.
I’ve been a Ms since I was 18 years old. It never made sense to me that men got one title whatever stage of their life they were at, while mine was supposedly dictated my marital status. “Miss”, once you reach a certain age, is of a parallel with the archaic “Master”, and it made me feel like a character in Little Women. As for “Mrs” – well, I lacked the necessary qualifications there.[Sidebar: I would happily do away with titles and honourifics altogether: people are people are people; and enforced deference begets a whole industry of faceless arseholes abusing train companies on social media. But you try having that conversation with your bank manager.]
Look, you can choose to adopt the traditional naming conventions on marriage if you like. I like the romanticised ideal of a single family unit, united by a name, as much as anybody; particularly if said family unit includes children. Sure, it irritates me that the default – for heterosexual couples in particular – is to adopt the male partner’s name, and I always feel a little twinge of sorrow for the passing of an old identity when a name changes on Facebook. But plenty of normal people seem to find this shit pretty moving, and it’s not like it’s any of my business.
But then I think: that’s another tedious, administrative performance palmed off to women. I mean, it’s a pain in the ass just changing address details when you move house, and 90% of my bills are online. And then what if you get divorced, and have to go through it all again? Just speaking practically? Like, if it was me there’s no way I’d want to waste hours on life admin that I could be spending sobbing in my pyjamas to Netflix romantic comedies/plotting black revenge.
And then there’s what, for me, is the biggest reason, but also the shortest: S.E.O.
I mean, how sexy is that byline.
Sure, search engine optimisation isn’t at the top of everybody’s wedding planner – although, I find it surprising that none of the wedding magazines or “offbeat” bridal books have made the point yet (hey, SWD: it’s been a while, call me?). Depending on your profession and its reliance on a personal brand (ugh), giving up the name means giving up the associated Gmail account, Twitter handle and byline. And in 2017, the chances of your new name not requiring a veritable telephone number of digits afterwards to make it unique must be infinitesimal.
I’ve been building a byline and a platform for more than half my life, which almost certainly means that there’s plenty of utter shit attached to it: but that shit is mine, and I ain’t giving it up for no man. And yes, I did Google my alter ego, had I opted for convention: just finding out that she already existed was enough for me to bin that idea.
In the grand scheme of things – and as a man who has gleefully admitted to sexual assault prepares this week to take on one of the highest, most powerful offices in the world – I don’t kid myself that my choices are going to change the world, no matter how unusual they still sadly are. But at least I get to make the choice, so I guess that’s pretty cool. After all, as recently as the 1970s I would probably have needed my dad’s permission just to get that mortgage so suck it, patriarchy, I do what I want.