(Check out my “What’s in a Name?” post before you read this. This post will be much clearer if you do.)
After yesterday’s visit to the Social Security office Pete and I are now legally known as Sara Sawochka-Dalton and Pete Sawochka-Dalton.
My last name change hasn’t taken on too much attention because most people expect a woman will either stay with her maiden name or hyphenate her maiden name with her married name.
But I’ve been fascinated by people’s responses, both negative and positive, to Pete’s last name change.
Pete’s last name change has received the strongest positive response from women (with a few exceptions). Female friends, co-workers and family that we’ve told generally have been in favor of Pete changing his last name to take on my last name in addition to his own. Women have also been the most appreciative of his change. Men’s responses generally have been more ambivalent—they think it’s a bit odd and typically want to know why he bothered.
One exception to the generally favorable response from woman has been Pete’s mother. After our visit to the Social Security office, Pete called his mother to let her know about his new last name. Pete’s mother asked why he did that because men don’t do that—at least she’s never heard of the man hyphenating his last name. Legally, of course, any couple can change their last names the way Pete and I did.
But most don’t, because the idea that a woman should take the man’s last name, but not the reverse, is a tradition in our culture. This tradition comes from the stale, patrilineal belief that upon marriage a woman becomes a part of the man’s family (and even the man’s property in many times and places), so she must change her last name to reflect her new family’s (owner’s) last name. But marriage isn’t a one-way union, and no woman should be considered property of any man (or vice versa) in a day where women and men have equal rights. I’m a member of a two-party union. However, I do not belong to Pete and Pete does not belong to me.
We aren’t the only married couple in the country that has legally done a dual last name change. We won’t be the last. I’ve read stories where the man even takes on the wife’s last name only, with no hyphenation.
I’ve learned that my husband is more of an out-of-the-box thinker than I’ve ever given him credit for. Pete went against the norm to change his last name change. I’m so proud of him! When I presented my idea of both of us changing our names, Pete was open to it. Pete didn’t see any arguments against it.
It takes guts for a man to change his last name. I admire and very much appreciate Pete so much for his decision and willingness to make the change! To me, the change shows that he honors our union as much as I do, and our newly combined last names reflect that honor!