To those who have changed last names: I understand. I do. I know it's difficult, and this may seem like a small battle, one that's not worth fighting. Yet, each time one of you makes the change, I feel slightly let down.
There are those who change both names. I knew this happens in certain communities, but thought it was an anachronistic, outdated ritual, perhaps followed by a few backward families. It seems I was wrong. For those of you who do this, who walk through this fire of ritual sacrifice to emerge with a new name, I feel pity. But I also feel outrage.*
I know I had it easy. The Guy didn't want me to change my name: my in-laws didn't either. My mom was pleased that I chose to keep mine. I know it's difficult to fight a battle with the ones closest to you.
A group of friends discussed this a few days ago. All of us, except one, were of the same view. This friend feels we shouldn't judge what is someone's personal decision, that it doesn't matter what name you choose to be called by. It shouldn't, in an ideal world. But in an ideal world you wouldn't only ever hear of women changing their names after marriage. In an ideal world, you shouldn't need to change your name, because your name would only be an identifier, not an indicator of your marital status or which household you belonged to, or of your caste or your religion or your race.
The Guy's brother-in-law spoke up to tell us a story that left me feeling proud that I was related to him. He talked about their struggle to give their son his wife's name, about the obstinacy of forms and procedures and a doctor who said he couldn't help as they had never come across such a case before. (I wonder what he'll say to the next person who has the same request.)
He said we have to be the change. That we have to break the cycle of tradition.
Unless enough of us are known as Ms Anylastname rather than Mrs Husbandslastname, until it's common for people in one family to have different names, until there is one less example in favour of "Oh, but your (sister/sister-in-law/cousin/friend) changed hers" and one more for "Oh, but she didn't change hers"; society isn't going to change, and nor are forms and procedures.
If your name isn't important, why change it? And if it is, why change it?
*I wondered why these people who want the wife/daughter-in-law's name to begin with a particular letter, don't search for a girl with such a name to begin with. I realised it's probably more difficult to find a girl with a name they consider acceptable than to get the girl they choose to change her name.