So, the other day, I went to see this new doctor. And the receptionist proceeded to take down all my particulars, starting with my name. The conversation went something like this...
Her: Mrs. or Miss?
Me: Can I go with Ms. please?
Her: No, you have to choose between Mrs. or Miss.
Me: Well, ok then. Mrs.
Her: What’s your first name?
The name entry reads: Rohini
Her: Your husband’s name?
Me: But I don’t use his name.
Her: I need it for the records.
Me: Jai His surname
The name entry now reads: Rohini Jai His Surname
Me: But that is not my name. My name is Rohini My Surname
Her: But we have to write the records like this only.
Me: But if you make my bills in this name, my company will not reimburse me because that is not my name as per official records
Her: (gives me a most exasperated look) Ok, I’ll write it like this then (in a tone brooking no further argument)
The name entry now reads: Rohini Jai His Surname (My surname)
My surname is relegated to brackets! I notice the mulish expression on her face and decide to lay down arms. But before leaving, I ensure that my prescription and bill is in the right name. My name!
As you might have established from this fascinating (not!) anecdote, I have not taken on my husband’s name after marriage. And it’s not an error of omission – because of sheer laziness or the administrative hassle. It was by choice. Actually, it was not even a choice since I never really considered the alternative.
When I was born, I was given a certain name. That’s who I had been for 25 years before I got married. That’s who I am today. And that’s who I am always going to be. Rohini Jai’s Surname is some third person who I don’t know and have no wish to create out of thin air.
That being said, I don’t have anything against women who do change their names when they get married. Maybe they don’t think it’s such a big deal. Maybe they don’t want the lifelong administrative hassle that comes with keeping your maiden name (having to provide proof of your marriage for every passport, visa, property registration and school application for a start). Maybe they don’t have their identities tied down to ephemeral concepts like names. Maybe their in-laws feel strongly about it and they don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.
Whatever the reasons, to each their own. I respect their choice and I wish they would respect mine. I really would rather not have to get into an elaborate argument to get my name correctly reflected at a doctor’s office. Or live with a bank account statement where they must put either my father’s name or my husband’s name as my middle name. Or be judged as the woman who did not love her husband enough to take on his name.
Surprisingly enough, this possessiveness for my name does not extend to the name that my son carries. I don't want to complicate his life by saddling him with multiple last names. I am quite happy to let him carry just Jai's surname. I know he is mine - I carried him inside me for nine months after all - and I don't need to affix my name to his to reassure myself of that.
Again, it's fine that there are people for whom it is important to have the child's name reflect the heritage of both parents. My only doubt here is what would happen if a lot of people started doing this. Wouldn't it complicate things? For e.g. if Meena Khan Gupta were to marry Amit Kumar Fernandes - would their offsping then possibly be called Shalini Khan Gupta Kumar Fernandes? And what of the next generation and the generation after that? Just a thought...