Monday, October 8, 2012
[Melany] The Last Name Project
In this new series co-hosted by from two to one and The Feminist Mystique, we will be profiling an array of individuals and couples about their last name decisions upon marriage or what they expect to choose if they marry. The goal is to explore how individuals make decisions about their last name, and to highlight the many possibilities. We will be posting profiles periodically and encourage you to stay connected via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you would like to participate in this series, email Danielle at danielle [at] fromtwotoone [dot] com or Shannon at hill [dot] shannonp [at] gmail [dot] com.
The following post is from Melany, a high school history teacher living in California.
I have been married for just over a year and we are currently raising two feline children, but plan to start a family of human children within the next ten years. I identify myself as a feminist, which my husband constantly mocks me for, and I come from a family filled with divorces.
I often imagined as a young girl that I would get married – and what I thought about the most was not the wedding details or who the man would be, but instead what my last name would change to. Growing up I was very distant from my father, and from his family for the most part. He had been an alcoholic since he was a teenager, and I became an angry teenager who was bitter that he had abandoned me. I could not wait until I was an adult who could find a man to love me the way my father never did and take my husband’s new name in place of my father’s.
This was my mindset when I became an engaged to the man who is now my husband. I had every intention of ditching my dad’s last name as soon as I could and taking the last name of the love of my life. I of course gave my dad the conciliatory call to tell him I was engaged, but I had no intentions of having him walk me down the aisle, and quite frankly, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to invite him to the wedding given the comments he made while he was drunk at many other big family events in the past.
And then everything changed. Not overnight, but my dad began go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
completely on his own accord for the first time in his life. He had been in treatment many times in the past, but it was always as a result of a threatened divorce or as a result of a court order. He told me that it was my engagement that inspired him. He said he realized that I was about to be married, and he had missed my whole life up until that point. He told me he wanted to get healthy to be there for when we had his first grandkids. He also began reaching out to me more, and apologized to me for the first time in his life for what he had done to me and to our relationship with each other as a result of his drinking. He met my fiancé, and for the first time, actually remembered meeting him afterwards.
We began talking more on the phone, and I decided that I would invite him to the wedding, but I would still have my mom, and not him, walk me down the aisle. My one year of engagement became a pivotal point in my life – I was reconnecting with the man I wanted to do away with so badly while at the same time I was getting ready to make the biggest commitment of my life my new man.
My husband and I talked about the last name change. He was fine if I kept my “old name,” but was not open to creating a new name together or taking my name. While I have feminist tendencies, this was perfectly fine with me as taking my husband’s name matched my original childhood plans. We plan on having children, and I did not want them to have a hyphenated name that combined their parents’ original last names, and I wanted to have the same last name as my children. Based on everything up to this point, the big decisions were made– my dad would be invited to the wedding, but my mom would walk me down the aisle, and I would take my husband’s name.
And then everything changed. And this time, it was overnight. My dad was taken to the hospital by an
ambulance about a month before our wedding. He was conscious, but in a lot of pain, and the doctors didn’t know exactly what was wrong with him. He was put in the Intensive Care Unit and over the next three weeks he was transferred in and out of ICU, went in and out of consciousness, and eventually was in a coma and due to an internal problem, complications from surgery, and a lifelong of drinking. He had organ failure and the doctors told me that if he did wake up that he would most likely have permanent brain damage. The hospital staff suggested that we take him off of life support – and since he wasn’t married at the time and I was the oldest child, it was my call on whether to take him off of life support or keep hooked up to machines fighting for a shell of his old life. I talked to one of his brother’s that had been showing up a lot at the hospital, my mom, and my husband, but ultimately it was my decision. My dad’s brother that had been there for the duration of his time in the hospital suggested I wait until after the wedding to decide so that I didn’t have to plan a wedding and a funeral at the same time, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around making my dad wait to die so that I could start my new life. About a week before the wedding, I made the decision to let my dad go and began making arrangements for his cremation and funeral while managing my final bridal gown fitting, hair and make up tests, rehearsal and dinner, and all of the other things that go along with planning your own small wedding. When we went in to get our marriage certificate a few days after my dad’s death I decided that I would keep my original last name and add my husband’s last name. No hyphen, no middle name change, just a new addition to the end. As a teacher with a long last name, most of my students just call me by the first part – my original last name. It always makes me feel more connected with my dad and remember our past. Losing my dad forced me to accept our past relationship as it was, and I am now very glad to have kept that whole part of my identity rather than abandoning it for a false reality of a new start at life.