|Let's hope she doesn't plan to hyphenate, either.|
One of my Women's Studies professors said something that's stuck with me through the years. She said throughout a woman's life, her last name defines her as belonging either to her father, or to her husband.
For feminist's, them's fightin' words. Belonging to a man? Nay! Women are not pieces of property!
Maybe it's because of my professor's observation that I had such a hard time letting go of my maiden name when I got married. After all, my husband got married, too. Why didn't he have to change half of his identity in order for people to recognize that we were now family? Why did his family name get all the glory? It didn't seem fair; it felt like I was being asked to become a different person while he got off scot-free.
Or maybe I was put off by the simple fact that his last name is only six letter, three of them being "C", and people still can't figure out how to pronounce it. For the record, it's Ciocca. See-oh-kuh.
It felt wrong for people to call me "Mrs. Ciocca". That's what I'd always called my mother-in-law, for the nine years my husband and I dated. Yes, nine. We started at seventeen, and married when we were twenty-six.
Suddenly, "belonging" to my father didn't seem like such a bad thing. I'm his offspring; I do belong to him. But now I was also someone's wife, and the old-fashioned part of me couldn't see not taking his name. Not to mention my husband and his incredibly old-school Italian family would have been highly offended if I'd refused to formally identify myself as one of their own. But did it make me their property?
To me, the answer is no. That is, until someone addresses me as "Mrs Domenick Ciocca" (Until MY name is Domenick, I'm Mrs. GINA Ciocca. Get it right.). Yes, the underlying connotation of "belonging" to my husband is still there, but I understand that it's eons of tradition dictating his name be attached to our new family unit, and not some diabolical plot to beat me into identity-less submission. Yes, said traditions sprang from very anti-feminist roots, but the uglier aspects of them have fallen away over the years. At least now, we have a choice in the matter.
Some day, our family unit will grow. I hope. And when it does, I want to have the same last name as my children. I don't want to get tied up in hyphenation, and wind up with grandchildren who have sixteen last names because their mothers were as reluctant as I was to relinquish the names they grew up with.
I haven't forgotton who I was from birth to the age of twenty-six, though. My maiden name still appears in the electronic signature of all my work e-mails. I put it down as my middle name on my Facebook page. And some day, if I'm published, I guarantee it will be the name you see on the cover of my book.
Because I am still me. And because who can pronounce Ciocca, anyway?