Had a mind-sticking conversation today regarding women taking the last names of their husbands. I haven’t been able to shake it, and since my best writing seems to come out when I’m angry impassioned, I figured I should wrangle the energy and capture it here.
First let me establish that I am not a feminist. I’m definitely not anti-woman. I’m not a self-hating “victim” of any sorts. I just don’t describe myself as such. We all choose our causes and our commitments in life. Mine tend to fall along the lines of culture and the arts.
I probably don’t need to dictate the exact words shared during the discussion – They pretty much always go the same – So I’ll just jump to my thoughts on the subject.
I view taking a man’s last name as an optional tradition. I know most of the world participates in the practice, and that they have for centuries of years. I also know that it’s 2009, I earn my own money, and my parents are divorced. I think true feminists are supportive of women keeping their last names, women hyphenating their last names, men taking women’s last names, and women taking men’s last names. It’s really just a matter of choice, and really, shouldn’t anyone’s statement of personal identity be such?
As far as “Mayka Mei” goes, I think my name is faaaabulous. It’s alliterated. It rolls off the tongue. It’s as aphonetic as Heck (which actually isn’t aphonetic at all…), but it was made up for me and I’ve liked it enough to keep it and I’m the first of my kind. (There is a Micronesian toddler named after me. She is also a fraternal twin.)
Forgive the Steve Jobs philosophy and cult of personality talk, but these days a lot of people think of themselves as brands. A byproduct of capitalism? Maybe, but essentially we make or break ourselves by the words we share, the actions we take, and the reputations we build. We typically do it on our own. The average person cannot afford spin doctors and image protectors to take care of his or her PR. I am an average person. I am absolutely anal retentive about how I am perceived, and there is no one more responsible for who I am today than myself.
It comes down to this: I am not defined by the people I date. My future partner will not be the one managing my LinkedIn profile. Nor will he or she be the most important person at the next family dinner. She or he does not give me clout for who I am, cannot speak for my actions (though I hope they’ll be close if they have to guess), and was not the one to have done my homework in high school.
Before I was anything else, I was Mayka Mei. I have always had the option of perpetuating childhood nicknames or ending them in their existence. I’m my own agent. I’m not big enough to need “people,” but I am big enough to take care of myself.
Someone’s last name isn’t going to add to or diminish from my personality. It may make the organization of legal files easier, but it’s not “who [I] will be,” as my colleague put it today. Twenty years down the road, I will be who I will be, just two scores older.
Also, there are really very few last names that will make my full name sound even better than “Mayka Mei.”
(In case it’s not clear, I don’t care if you readers take your spouses’ names or if you never find spouses. If you’re a decent human being living a happy life, then I think you’re already on your own way.)