I love my husband. He is comfortable with me being myself and making my own choices, no matter how it is viewed in a misogynistic society like Nigeria’s. We try our best to simply do what works for us and drown out all the noise. Years ago, when we first began dating, I told him I would never change my name, a decision I had made long before we ever met. He shrugged and said it wasn’t that important to him.
But it seems important to everybody else.
Immediately after our union, the jokes and questions about my name remaining the same soon followed. In these modern times, immediately following the vows the bride is expected to run to her social media handles and begin to exterminate her old identity. Anything addressed to us no longer even bothered to add my name in, simply “Mr & Mrs ‘insert husbands full name’,” like I had become some sort of appendage to him, and any insistence that i have to be addressed by my ‘maiden’ name is met with head shakes and eye rolls. I have nothing against answering your husband’s name. I understand the logic behind wanting to have one family name for you and your future children, and I understand that it is an age old custom that signifies that you and spouse have joined together to form a new unit.
But I don’t want to change my name.
I do not want to be passed on like a bottle of whisky from father to husband, switching names according to which man I now belong. The first time, I had no choice, I was born with that identity, but now as an adult I have a choice of whether I choose to change my identity along with my marital status.
My husband is from a different ethnic group than I am, so I would be losing my identity in more ways than one.
I am super uninterested in the shitload of paper work required.
I am very close to my family; I am secure in my name. I know that my family has my back.
Heaven forbid, if something were to happen to my husband, or in the case of a divorce? I then hastily erase his name and tack on whatever new name another man has blessed me with? Women are out here getting re-branded more times than Google.
I LIKE my name.
I do not understand why only men seem to have the privilege of dying with the name (and title) that they are born with. If marriage was truly a union, then in my opinion, both partners either cleave their names and form an entirely new name, or join both names to become their new last name. I remember posing the question on my Facebook page once; I was met with outrage from some men (and also, some women — the yada yada “you feminists” are always bitching about something type). To some men, it was completely out of the question that their wives would not answer their name. Have you ever asked yourself WHY? Is it because that is what you have known and been taught? What you have come to acknowledge as normal and acceptable? Does it signify some validation of manhood (read: sexism) and why would it be so abhorrent for you to imagine changing your own last name?
In an old fashioned and closed minded society like Nigeria, the importance of woman is determined by who she is attached to. Any married woman can attest to being treated with more respect and reverence than our single counterparts, and consequently, most women are chomping at the bit to be *elevated* from ‘Miss’ to “Mrs so and so” (while men comfortably remain Mr all their lives), and are quick to cluck disappointedly at women who do not choose to follow the cultural norms and traditions, even while acknowledging being wholly oppressed by them. I believe in the beauty and freedom of choice and I believe in women exercising their right to choose. If women do not stop acting like we are simply pawns and property to be exchanged, used and silenced, nothing will ever change. Let us not forget that this is the same society in which women once were not allowed to drive, vote and work, amongst other extinct traditions. Changing your name should be something you are excited about and have chosen to do for your own personal reasons, not something that you are obligated to do as a “good christian wife” or a “good Nigerian wife”, and certainly not something that is the God given (read: society given) right of any man.
My identity is not the God given right of any man.
So no, I have no intention of changing my last name. If I do, it will be my (miraculous) choice. No, the world wont come shattering down if my children and I don’t have the same last name. And, when the time comes, who is to say our children cannot double barrel our last names? When you change your name, you cease to have the same last name as your siblings or parents and I’m sure you do not feel any less related to them. Sensitive male chauvinists may frown in fury and deem me “uncontrollable” but, luckily, my husbands masculinity is not so fragile that it hinges on me being branded with his logo. Maybe he might like for me to answer his name. But he respects my choice not to.
I know that I will continue to be met with resistance when I ask to be addressed properly, but that does not offend me. They will continue to address me, and I will continue to correct. Again, the beauty of this all is the freedom of choice.
In the words of an eloquent rapper:
“Do you and imma do me.”
This article was first published on Ozzy Etomi’s Medium page – @OzzyEtomi
Photo Credit: Dreamstime.com