In case anyone is curious, I’m getting married soon.
I’m not changing my name.
My fiance is.
If you weren’t curious before, you might be now, so let’s tackle some of those FAQs:
Yes, this is an option. Yes, we are seriously going to take this option. Yes, we realize this involves more paperwork, hassle, and explanation than any other option.
And finally, to the question “And Mitch is okay with this?” the answer is no. He is not okay with it; he is insistent upon it. Sure, I’m a strong-willed feminist, but so is he. It’s one of the many, many reasons I’m super stoked that we get to be besties for life. Gender equality is one of our shared values, and getting to put our principles into practice is thrilling, joyous, and pretty dang terrifying. The anxiety I felt just thinking about having to explain our reasoning to everyone made me want leave the counter-culture to the hippies and the Trekkies. I would take my husband’s name and the societal tranquility that comes with it.
But thankfully this was not a decision I could make on my own, and after many conversations about the kind of marriage we wanted to build, it became clear that while this was not the easiest option, it is the best one for us. Taking the time to carefully consider which name would represent our new family unit was such a meaningful experience. It’s one we wish would be the norm, regardless of what is ultimately decided. But cultural norms aren’t changed by wishful thinking. So in order to get to a place where a husband can take his wife’s name without the inevitable why, we knew we would need to answer that question more times than we care to count. We are not the first, but maybe we can be the last.
As I mentioned, equality is huge component of our relationship, and this post is no exception. So, without any further ado, I give you the future Mr. Mitchell Kramer:
As Cath mentioned, I am a feminist (or at least, an aspiring feminist), but my fledgling-yet-vocal feminism didn’t make this decision any easier for me. Like many of the people we’ve explained this to in recent months, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of changing my last name.
Like, at all.
It wasn’t a thought that my computer-wired brain had ever had to tackle before. So when Cath and I first began discussing what our last name(s) would be, I went through the options with her:
“Well, you could become a Vanderzee, or you could keep your last name, or we could hyphenate.” Those were clearly the only options.
“Well, you could become a Kramer.”
“This. does. not. compute.” said my little computer brain.
Well, technically, I had thought about the possibility of a man taking his wife’s last name before this moment. But Generic Man taking the last name of Generic Woman is much different than Mitch Vanderzee suddenly becoming Mitch Kramer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about Generic Man taking Generic Woman’s last name. After all, most of the reasons why Generic Woman is expected to take Generic Man’s last name have to do with societal expectations borne out of thousands of years of oppressive patriarchy. So it would make sense then for Generic Man to take the last name of Generic Woman, proclaiming that our Generic Society will no longer conform to the ways of the past. Power to the Generic Woman!
But, my tiny computer brain had never before taken this generalized ideal and applied it my own life.
Luckily, Cath was there to question my assumptions. When I told her that I had never thought about not being a Vanderzee before, she responded by saying that this was something every girl (in our culture) has had to consider since they were old enough to write “Mrs. Generic Man” in a diary.
It took a while for the initial weirdness of having any name other than Vanderzee to wear off. But once it did, I was able to consider what changing my last name would actually mean. Becoming a Kramer means that:
- Cath and I get to share the same last name.
- We don’t have to make something up like Kramderzee or the dreaded form filling-out monstrosity that is Vanderzee-Kramer/Kramer-Vanderzee.
- I can start conversations that would rarely come up otherwise (ie. conversations about masculinity, gender equality, societal pressures, etc.)
- I suddenly get the “I took my wife’s last name” card added to my feminism card deck (fitting nicely in between the “I watch women’s soccer” card and the “I’ve really been meaning to read something by bell hooks” card).
And if changing my name requires blog-post-long explanations and fielding questions like “Have you thought about ________?”, then bring it on.
And yes, we have thought about that.
And yes, we are still doing it.
And yes, we are the Kramers.
Catherine Kramer (’14) has a degree in English and works in publishing. Her continued existence is made possible by grace, warm hugs, and iced chai lattes.