Saturday, July 07, 2007

Are you some kind of feminist or something?

I am used to having repetitive, vaguely annoying conversations about my name. For instance, my first name--Conseula--is spelled unconventionally (the "u" usually comes before the "e"). This causes people to pronounce it in the oddest ways (I get Kon-soo-luh alot) and to tell me "You know, your name is spelled wrong" (this happens more often than you would think). My last name--Francis--is a homonym for my daughter's first name--Frances. Do you know how many times in the last seven years I've had to answer these two questions: "You named her Frances Francis?" and "Don't you get confused?" In response to the first question, I always say, simply, that my daughter has her father's last name, not my own. Which brings me to the name conversation I rarely have anymore.

I taught Governor's School this summer and many of the kids in my class were fascinated by the fact that I didn't change my name when I got married. Here is a conversation I had on the last day of class:

Student (as I am writing down my address for her): So what's your real last name?

Me: (briefly confused by the question): What?

Student: You know, your real last name, your husband's name.

Me: My *husband's* last name is McCann. *My* last name is Francis. I didn't change my name when I got married.

Student: You didn't want to claim your husband?

Me: I "claimed" him when we got married.

Student: But don't you want to show that you're married?

Me: What does my husband do to show that he is married?

Student: He wears a wedding ring.

Me: I wear the matching ring.

Student: Why didn't you change your name?

Me: Because I am a grown up with a life and identity and profession that didn't disappear when I got married.

Student: Are you some kind of feminist or something?

So many of things I take for granted--not changing my name, not staying home with my children (a whole other conversation), feminism--were new and exotic (and maybe a little disturbing) for her. It's been a long time since I've met someone like that. Though, to be fair, she was only 17 and still has lots of growing up to do. Maybe I will be the first step in her feminist awakening.


Lori said...

Cute. I'm a card-carrying member of the same club--the "married woman who had the audacity to keep her own name" club (smile). I've been a member in fairly good-standing for going on almost 20 years now.

At around year 7 or so, I can remember sending my brothers and sisters-in-law, a note in our yearly Christmas card reminding them that I would really prefer NOT to be addressed as Mrs.(husband's name) in correspondence, invitations and the like. After all, legally, I'd never taken his name and had no plans do so . . . needless to say, that didn't go over too well (LOL).

I still can't understand the refusal by some to just call folks what they want to be called. If someone tells me his or her name is "Shaka Boom Boom" I'm only to happy to call them that. To me, it's a simple matter of respect.

My spouse has never been bothered by the fact that I chose to keep my "birth" name. (I hate the word maiden . . . as if I was ever one).
Matter of fact, after almost 20 years, he still seems to get a kick out of calling me "Ms. J." (smile) Hey,to each his or her own.

Alison said...

I love the student's abrupt return to her original question when you stumped her with the fact that you and Brian both "show that you're married" in the same way--by wearing wedding rings (and acknowledging yourselves to be married).

And Lori, I'm with you on the "maiden" thing.

Taylor said...

My mom kept her maiden name when she got married, and it has ALWAYS confused people. Isn't it weird how something as simple as keeping your own name (your NAME, for Pete's sake! That's a big thing to give up!) seems like such a scandal in our supposedly modern, free-thinking world.

CarolinaDreamz said...

Hi. I popped in via Low Country Blogs.

In my second marriage, I had only recently returned to my maiden name, and spent some real time getting to know my father... so I didn't hyphenate my name and no one seems to accept it, either.

My son just informed me that "I'm taking her name when I get married." I wonder just what her name may be, for a child to choose this option before he's really ever dated, before.

Thanks for being real and unique.