"Whether or not anyone else understands, my new name is a declaration of love. And it's a choice I made because I'd rather learn to give my power away than wield it, oblivious, until it's too late."
Josiah Neufeld (yes, that's his married name) took his wife's because...well, I'll let him explain.
I did it because I love Mona - because I wanted her to know that I didn't expect her to become anyone other than herself. It mattered to me that we shared a name, so I reasoned I should be the one to offer mine up. And a combination name like Neufeld-Thiessen would only solve the dilemma temporarily. Eventually a child of ours would bring this unwieldy last name to his or her own marriage - most likely to another hyphenee...I did it because any form of power comes with duties. I'm obliged to take responsibility for my power, to learn its effects - even unintentional ones - to see what it does to others when I'm not watching, to use it in the best way possible. Sometimes to relinquish it.
Obviously, of all the highly personal choices people make when marrying, the changing or retention or invention of their name is one of the most so. It's public, it's declaratory and, whether it's perceived as a reverent nod to tradition, a declaration of revolution, or a compromise, it's always making some kind of statement. Neufeld's family isn't completely cool with it; to some of them it seems weird, to others confusing, and probably to a few, hurtful. I remember my dad telling me years ago that he'd be shocked and hurt if I ever changed my name, which surprised me; I wouldn't have thought he'd care much about a word probably tacked on only a century or so ago by some high-handed Polish official. My mother, like many women of her generation, retained her maiden name and would have considered anything else a betrayal of principles. But I know many younger women don't take that view; to them, taking their husband's name is more about creating a single family identity than surrendering her own. Most people I know have hyphenated; my high-school reunion's attendance list was noticeably double-barreled. (Those who already had hyphenates - a sizable number in my progressive school - had retained their names.) I know a few cases in which all members of the family - husband, wife, kids - have taken on a hyphenate. I don't personally know of anyone who's committed to the invention of a brand-new combo name, but one hears tell of such wondrous things.
What's funny is - although I had no intention, had I thought of it, of giving up my native-born alliteration - I sort of resented my dad's saying that. It seemed to me it should be my choice, which was as much the point as retaining a maiden name (which, as many will declare, it's still a man's name in the end.) I get the impulse to unite under a single name - in a sense, maybe it's nice for kids, too; it's a kind of commitment. But I wouldn't expect my husband to take mine, as that would feel - to me - as arbitrary as the reverse (although I get the argument to the contrary.) As I say, it's personal; in the author's case, he was making a statement - but a gentle one. He loved her, he wanted to wield his patriarchal potency responsibly, and, at the end of the day, it seems like his wife was simply more attached to her name than he. It should be said, in case you wonder, that yes, Mr. Neufeld seems to be pretty sensitive all-around. ("I wear my new name as proudly as I wear the tiny woman with braided hair I carved from a piece of antler and hung around my neck as a wedding ring. Mona wears a miniature man. Both come from the same bone. I can't remember which I carved first, but I think the woman is the more beautiful of the two.") So I don't see this practice necessarily becoming de rigeur. But I do think we'll get to a point where such a choice doesn't require explanation; after all, as cultures increasingly intermingle, the relative importance and transience and significance of names will only become even more complex. The question is whether some families will ever cease to take it personally - and whether they should.
I Took My Wife's Last Name [Globe And Mail]