Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What's in a name?

Today on Scrubs Eliott told Jordan that she might want to marry Keith but not sure if she wants the last name Dudemeister... it got me thinking about how most women change their name after they get married and of a conversation I had with with a concierge a few years ago when I tagged along with Kashif for a conference:

Aisha: Hi, I got locked out of my room.. could someone let me back in?

Bob: *big smile* Sure thing m'aam I'll just check your liscence and call security to open it right up for you *big ole smile and takes card*

Bob: *silence*. You're not in our database.

Aisha: Oh yeah sorry, it would be under my husband's name. Iqbal.

Bob: *types in Iqbal...pauses.. stares at my license. Stares at name on screen.. frowns at me*

Aisha: Um yes we dont have the same last name but I promise he's my husband! See the ring? *raises hand and wiggle ring finger with sweet smile to prove not crazy stalker*

Bob: *shaking his head and frowning at Aisha, very stern* You say you're married?

Aisha: um... yes? *wiggle ring finger again and smile*

Bob: You mean to tell me you got married and didnt change your last name?

Aisha: huh?

Bob: Your husband allowed this?! HE said it was okay not to take his last name?!?

Aisha: um......

Bob: *picks up phone to call security while staring at me quite disapprovingly* If my wife even thought about not changing her last name, we'd be havin some issues.

Yep much to Bob's sincere disapproval I am married and did not take hubby's last name. When I was getting married it didn't come up as a problem. Kashif asked me a few days before the wedding "so you changing your last name?" I told him I wasn't planning to and he said "cool" and we moved on.... just like that..

I always find it funny and fascinating the question of "why?" It's usually accompanied with a look of uneasy fascination as though one is witnessing a strange monkey in their own backyard. Array is she a feminist? Doesn't like her husbands last name? Haw hai!

Reason one: The Western name change thing came about when women were still percieved as virtually property with few rights of their own. First property of their fathers, then of their husbands and ofcourse the last name changed as ownership changed. Ofcourse that's not why women change their names now but the history makes me feel funny about it.

Reason two: Like all parents, mine put thought and care into naming me. The meaning of my full name is: Life Peace Happiness. I like that and I am proud of it, though I am married my name signifies who I am and where I came from. It honors the people who raised me. I felt by changing my name a part of me would change.

Reason three: In Islamic tradition women don't have to change their names and from what I hear it's Sunnah not to... during the Prophet's time women kept their name. This is why it cracked me up one ISNA conference when Kashif and I, newly married, met some aunties who saw our name tags and with eyebrows raised.. "ohh you didnt change your name? Moderrrrn woman hm?" I had to stifle a smile since keeping your last name is a part of Islamic culture dating back to the founding of the faith. Oh Auntie... Vatever!

Reason four: And yes plain old laziness was a factor too. The thought of changing my drivers lisence, social security card, diplomas, etc made me just want to take a nap.

There are ofcourse downsides, (no not the stares, and haw hai's...that's kinda funny) but our kids will have his last name and maybe having the same last name makes you all seem more... I dont know "family-ish".. and maybe its a little less complicated say getting back into your hotel, signing out kids from school... proving family ties. Maybe one day I will change it but right now I'm comfortable with status quo.

It seems most people have strong opinions one way or the other on this topic. Did you change your last name? Did you? Didn't you? Why? Why not? If you're a guy do you relate to Bob and his sincere disappointment that a patron of his hotel should keep her maiden name or will you like Kashif shrug your shoulders and leave it to her.

44 comments:

Baji said...

Am I first???????? I am still in the process of changing my name and believe me it is cumbersome! At first I thought that I would not change my name and hubby was agreeable mostly b/c of the Sunnah you mention. But, then he started hinting that I should. I think it is because of the structure here in America; it is just expected. I am glad that I have decided to shift. Eventually I am going to do another name change and take my maiden name as my middle name in honor of my father. Eventually. This has been hassle enough, believe me!
I still get all those strange looks as well. It is funny to imagine what they are thinking.

mezba said...

It's funny, not only the woman changing to husband's name, but even the kids having a common family name was not a tradition in my ancestral village. Imagine the confusion that would result if a typical family from there were to move here!

Father: Mohammad Tajuddin Siraj Ahmed
Mother: Nafeesa Begum
Son: Haroon Rashid
Sister: Farzana Hoque

People would just name their kids some 'good' name of some notable historical/religious figure! If the family was a bit educated, they would have a common tribal last name such as Bhuiya or Chowdhury, but that was it.

mezba said...

Re: my previous comment, ofcourse that's all gone now.

Aisha said...

Baji, I bet it is a hassle! I think its a nice compromise to have both his name and your father's name as well. I have a question, do you have a middle name? Are you going to have two middle names if you take on your fathers or will you rplace the old one? When I was debating to change it people said that when you take your maiden name as your middle name your original middle name is taken out and I didndt want to do that since my middle name honors my maternal grandmothr.

Mezba, LOL I have seen that actually and its funny b/c my dad's brothrs all have different last names and same with all my mamu's... all diff last names. But they also changed and adopted similar last names within their own immediate families upon immigrating.

Mia said...

Good gaed Aisha I thought Bob was going to snuff you for a minute there and give you a time out. Personally I have no intention of changing my last name the day I get married.

rehtwo said...

Wow...to be honest, I haven't thought about this, and hopefully won't have to for a long time...I'm with you on the thought making me want to take a nap. (Actually, lots of things make me want to take a nap, but that's something else entirely...) My mother chose to hyphenate her last name, but my brothers and I all have my father's last name. For some reason, this means that people tend to get MY last name wrong. Ha. So now I have to ask you...why did you choose your blog URL?

Abdusalaam said...

How about, instead of just the wife taking on her husbands name, they can both come up with a new common family name. This would make the couples last name their middle name while have a common family name too.

For instance, suppose husband's name is Haroon Rasheed and the wife's name is Zaineb Akhtar. They could decide on a new family name, let say, siddiq. Then this would make their name, Haroon Rasheed Siddiq and Zaineb Akhtar Siddiq. And their children can take on their new family name, siddiq as well. Equity prevails.
Yeah, I'd be down with that.

Subhana said...

The talks about changing my last name when I get married have also started. But I am not planning on changing my last name. Subhana Ahmed has a certain ring to it, and also some actually call me "Subhana Ahmed", so my last name has somehow become a part of my sirname. Said that, I think Subhana Bashir sounds weird and I dont know, I just feel that by chaning last name, I give up some of my identity. And thats not right! Therefore, Subhana Ahmed it is. Also, my mum didnt change her last name either.

Raheel said...

lolz @ reason 4

It is appropriate for you because of reason 2 but everyone's parents don't have that much mind.

If my future wife doesn't want to change its okay with me but you see it just shows that you are part of a family.. a home in real sense. Es ke begair bhi koi harz nahi :)

Aman said...

Interesting, on a similar note, what do you think about addressing one's mother-in-law as 'Mom'?

Jane said...

I don't think I would change my last name ever but perhaps someday I will change my mind. My kids have hyphenated last names because I didn't see why they should automatically have their father's name. After all, if it weren't for me they wouldn't exist to have their father's name. Jd and I argued over it a bit before finally compromising on mine-his.

Aisha said...

Mia- lol!! Yeah man he made me feel like a really disobedient little kid. LOL I almost wanted to apologize to him b/c he was so devestated!

Rehtwo, good question! I cut and pastd this from an article I linked to that sums it sort of: "There's something romantic and pleasantly old-fashioned about giving up your name, a kind of frisson in seeing yourself represented as Mrs. John Doe in the calligraphy of a wedding invitation on occasion. At the same time it's reassuring to see your own name in a byline or a contract." Does that explain it? I dont mind being referred to as Mrs. Iqbal, it's kinda fun and we *are* married so socially etc I dont mind being known like that. But legally, at school for purposes of diplomas and awards I am still usig my legal name. I chose aishaiqbal b/c its much less curious for me to see people google that... but if someone from Arkansas were to google my real name and then visit 500 times in an hour I'd be having a heart attack... lol while someone doing the same for Aisha Iqbal doesnt scare me :)! I'm not completely anonymous since a bunch of friends and family read this too and I post pictures, but the last name sort of gives me a semblance of a little safety though I'm sure if someoen really wanted to know they could find out.

Abdusalaam, are you being facetitious or are you serious! Totally change the last name huh. Well if I were to take it as either sarcasm or you are dead serious I would have to say that it would be fine but I feel that one great thing about common surnames or at least having your children have dad's surname is that its more traceable through history who you are and where you came from. In Pakistan no one minds having fifty different last names w/in a family b/c they all have a common tribe name too like Cheema, Jutt, Arayiee etc... Changing your last name or hyphenating everyone's might be cool but I wonder how that would affect tracing family tree's. In Pakistan its so hard to trace since Jutt/Cheema/etc are so widespread its hard to trace it if you didnt trace it from the start. So yeah. That's my take but ofcourse you could have totally been joking :)I am not a hater on changing last names, and my kids will have Kashif's last name and that's fine... I just chose not to change mine.

Subhana Ahmad is a beautiful name mash'allah and your parents probably chose it because together they sound nice :) Bashir is nice too though but its just not what you were raised hearing. Does your fiancee feel strongly about it?

Raheel the "family" feel is a good reason to change it.. its the one big plus side I see :)

Aman.... hahahahha ohh man.. I could go on about that for pages LOL... hm. I think its up to the people ofcourse... but your MIL isn't your mom you know. But saying "suss" sounds kinda rude... what do you call her? I hear people say auntie too.. It feels a little odd but I call my MIL mom and my own mother ami so there's that difference. I think if you ar truly close to your MIL its fnie.. it sucks for ppl who have to call them mom and they have bad relationships but b/c they got into the habit they have to keep saying it. So yeah that's my two cents :)

Jane, that's interesting, are your names complementary enough to be easy to pronounce as hyphenated names? I addressed this question in a comment above but how do you feel about the tracing of the family tree by changing names? Like if your son has a daughter and hyphenates his name with the name of the mom then his name will be further changed, etc etc it would make it harder to trace back geneology wise . I dont know. I was curious what you thought about that.

Zack said...

I don't see the point of a wife changing her name on marriage. My own story about this is long and complicated.

The first thing that happened to us when we came to the US was the immigration officer at JFK quizzing us about why my wife and I had different last names and how families could be recognized if they had different last names.

=) said...

Phew, i never really thought about it.I am 20 right now and certainly not getting married anytime soon. I am an Indian and at my place we don't have, how should i put it (blame it on my ignorance) but middle names, some of us do have it. After marriage we just add the last name toour names.
For the past 2 years i have been writing my first name everywhere. I hardly add my last name, one reason is i have a very long name but otherwise also, i don't feel there is a need to add my last name.
At times when i think of it, i feel why should i change my name, i don't see any reasons to do that. I liked your first expl..
I don't kno, it's like, when ur parents kept ur name, u did'nt have a choice even at that time, ur religion, or ur last name. So these things are just attached to you whether u like it or not. About religion, i am a hindu bt i am not religious as in these things don't matter to me at all coz' i think we did'tn have a choice. U don't decide the family in which ur being born.
It's a vicious circle. Hope ur getting my point.

Well, i am way tooooo ignorant about all this.

Baraka said...

Salam 'alaykum Aisha,

!!!! I cannot believe Bob had the gall to lecture you !!!!

Amusing & weird.

I didn't change my name primarily because I love my name & the desire to hold onto it was bolstered by the Sunnah.

That worked for me & my sisters but we are in the distinct minority amongst our female friends (Amreeki or Paki) who have almost all changed their names. To each their own.

I want our children to have both of our names insha-Allah, with mine being the middle name, because they are from both of us.

I have thought about changing my middle name (currently my dad's first name, Paki ishtyle) to my Mom's maiden name.

I think she'd like that.

Warmly,
B

Living Away said...

It so strange how a so-called democratic-modern society still thinks about women taking husband’s last names as the only way of respect for themselves!

Shabina said...

My plan was to change everything legally, for the sake of financial statements, the kids, etc, but keep my name for my byline and stuff...

Though it *does* sound like a lot of paperwork :)

Aisha said...

Zack- wow I can't believe they interrogated based on the fact you had diffrent last names. I read your post about the topic, very well researched with different perspectives! Thanks for sharing it.

=), are people able to recognize you with just the use of your first name?

Baraka, yes Bob had some nerve huh? :) I've been thinking of doing the same thing, giving our kids my last name as their middle name... I mean that way a part of their mom is in their name too :) Changing to your mom's maiden name would be a very sweet gesture, laikin abu ohdass nayee oh jai gay? :) (trying a little punjabi)

Living away, tell me about it!! Are you still in Brazil!?

Shabina I havent seen it get in the way of our financial statement stuff at all, we're on the mortgage together, have checks together and its not an issue, but the kids thing could get complicated but in this day and age when people dont even bother getting married before having kids I dont know if anyone would rally bat an eye or be surprised we dont have the same last name.

Chai Anyone? said...

no i never did. there were a few reasons: my name is my identity and i happen to love it - kinda reflects who i am, where i come from. i didnt like his name. i was too lazy to go about changing everything and didnt want to create complications - i was still in college at the time and had heard of a friend of mine whose records got lost due to a name change after marriage.

=) said...

Hmm...yes, i have a different name as in, it's quite unique. Bt besides that, the thing is, why should i use it ?
My identity is not even my name, my religion, my country. My identity is who i am as a person and these things do bother me at times but i kno, that my name whether it's Tom, Dick or Harry won't make any difference.
I jope ur gettin my point.
I have added u on MSN, if u use it that is. Just wanna talk to you about all this. Thnx

wayfarer said...

"Reason four: And yes plain old laziness was a factor too. The thought of changing my drivers lisence, social security card, diplomas, etc made me just want to take a nap."

- no kidding! Half my stuff is changed half isn't. Sigh. I get tired thinking of my to do list.

Chic Mommy said...

Wow, I would be in so much trouble in your situation. I changed my last name, but never wear a wedding ring. I don't know what happened there, he got a band from my family, but his mother gave me this diamond ring that wasn't really a band, wasn't an engagment ring, it was just a ring that had a design on it in diamonds. Needless to say, I gained 30 lbs. after marriage and babies and the ring doesn't fit anymore, so I go ringless.

As for the name change, I had to for Greencard purposes.

momyblogR said...

YOU are too funny! Bob...what a dope, lol!

All your reasons make me wonder why I changed mine. I did take my husbands last name. My word, I went from a very common last name to one that is only four letter but ALWAYS have to spell.

Having the same last name does make it feel more family-ish like you said, especially with the kids. But you have fabulous reasons for keeping your name and even with kids, I don't think it should make a difference. After all, it takes more than sharing a last name to make a family.

And changing everything made me want to take a blade, forget about taking a nap, LOL!!

Great post.

Bedouin of the Sands said...

My oldest sister changed her last name when she got married and my other sister didn't want to which kind of disturbed her husband but he got over it quick enough!

Jane said...

Aisha, our names are somewhat complimentary, as long as mine is in front of his. If that is switched it just sounds ridiculous, especially to our daughter. As far as what my kids will choose to do when they are adults then it is up to them. However they handle it will be their own personal choice. My only obligation in this area of their lives was to give them a name to get to adulthood with. After that they are free to hyphenate or not or totally rename themselves entirely.

I know in Iceland your last name is based on what your fathers name is, i.e. gudmundsdottir is the daughter of gudmund and thorrson is the son of thor. Seems fairly simple.

Sorry to go off on such a tangent here but with my own kids I felt like this: I carried them and nutured them for nine monts inside of me. I gave up drinking, smoking, coffee, going out late, and unrestrained junk food. I was the one dealing with nausea, heartburn, hemmroids, burping that wouldn't stop, bizarre cravings, uncomfortable visits to the midwife getting my cervix checked and studied. I felt every physical side effect and most of the emotional ones too. What a wild ride! Then the big event occurs. Hours of agonizing pain that seemed endless (no I didn't have pain relief as much as I begged, it was too late to give me any)....then the worst sensation of tearing and burning as if you are being split apart. Shortly after I held this beautiful creature and automatically let Jd take all the glory for my pain, sweat, and tears. NOT. I didn't have this child to give to him. I had it with him. This is his child but it is also mine and the name is one of the best placest to illustrate that. So as you can see my motives were pretty selfish her. "These are MY babies too!"

Jane said...

I guess you could say that I am my own babies momma.

Hadeel said...

honey - i dont know what can be more family-ish than having those kids pop OUT OF YOUR BODY. i'm glad you kept your last name.... and how scary it must be to be Bob's wife (and not only becasue of the big smiles ... *creeepy*)

mystic-soul said...

The hassle of changing your last name is a PAIN. One of my cousin lived in USA for 17 years, got departmental card application rejected at counter as her new name didn't match SS she provided !!. Let built a new credit from scratch.

BTW I see link between this post and previous post.

Minka said...

Interesting post. very much so.
In Germany it is pretty much up to everybody and it becomes more common that women just keep there name.
In Iceland it is not even an issue. You never change your last name. At birth you are given the name of your father+daughter or son at the end. At that is it. If you marry to anybody...you just keep your maiden name.

Bongi-Amma said...

Just totally out of curiosity and you dont have to answer if you dont wanna, but did you guys know each other before you were married or was it arranged? :)

Tee said...

I think the argument to keep your maiden name is well made here. It's a pain to change the paperwork, and in the case of your name, the special meaning would be lost.

I took half of my husbands last name. He thought it was fine because in his country women only take part anyway. He has 2 last names, which I foresaw as a pain in the butt (which it always is for him!) I also only gave the boys one of his last names (the same one I took.)

According to his country I should have kept my last name and added his on - but then the same "2 last name problem".

The reason I didn't keep my last name is kind of shallow - I just liked his better. Besides, it's fun to be a white girl with the last name Lopez. It totally throws people off ;)

ASH said...

My wife kept her last name, and I never even questioned why. It has led to some interesting and sticky situations over the years, nothing serious mind you....just the usual confusion over who is attached to whom and why. I worry about traveling overseas though in future with our son. If she has to leave to come back early and takes my son are they going to accuse her of kidnapping?

Aisha said...

Chai sounds like we had similar reasons:)

=) I dont mind you added me, I wont be on much till exams are over but hopefully we'll get a chance to chat

Wayfarer, yea the thought gives me a headache! lol

ChicMommy I guess you wouldnt be in trouble though since you share the last name right. I can understand not wearing it if it isnt what you wanted though. I didnt know you had to change your name for greencard purposes!

Mommyblogr, yeah I wonder if when Ill have kids I'll change it for "famlyish" reason though yo uare right, a common last name does not a family make! :)

Bedouin, yeah to each their own I guess :)

Jane that's a very good reason to change it, and you also point out a very good point that the whole name taking is not a universal culture concept evn in Iceland as Minka and you pointed out, and other countries.

Hadeel, lol yes, Bob made me feel so sad like I had been rebuked!!!

Mystic, yah it can be aproblem.. you see a link?

Minka that sounds good to me! I say we start doing tha there in the US and avoid all the stress on the woman! :)

Bongi, I dont mind the question but its explained in detail in the comments of my post below this one. I guess it depends on what you think an arranged marriage is. We were introduced and then we talked and met and got to know each other and then he proposed and we told our parnts and decided to marry. Is that arrnaged to you?

Tee, yah 'i've herad about the two last names since I grew up in Miami and a lot of people had two or even thre last names!! lol

Ash jeez kidnapping? relaly? i hope not! It's weird bc i thought it might be a problem in getting a mortgage or opening an account but its nver posed a problem.. well outside ofbeing locked out of hotel rooms, lol.

Southern Masala said...

Wow, it is cool to see how so many people have done it differently. I didn't change my name either Aisha. For most of the reasons that you gave above. Also, we got married in the summer between my junior and senior year of college and I knew I would start applying for law schools that fall, so I didn't want to take the chance of transcripts and applications being confused. I think that my sil's family is pretty funny. She didn't change her last name and her dh doesn't use his own last name, but the kids do, so they are...
N. Husain (wife)
M. Aslam (husband)
A. Durrani and S. Durrani (kids)

Lol, I wonder if the kids will be confused as to why they don't have EITHER one of the parent's names.

Also another big joke that dh has is that if I hyphenated my same it would spell S. Adams-Husain (Sadam Husain, ha ha ha, he is just tooo hilarious). So know I would never be able to hyphenate my name because I would be a walking punch line, lol.

Anisa said...

well, i liked my maiden name much better, but i decided to take bert's last name so there will be no confusion with our children...often if parents have different last names, people think one is a stepparent or they live together. also, people don't know what to call you if you keep your last name...mrs. what?

that being said, i do miss my maiden name...but purely for the simplicity of it. i'm sick of having to explain i'm not spanish.

i think it's up to the individual. i use all three of my names for my column in the paper.

great post!

Aisha said...

i'm confused. why doesnt he use his last name since its his Southern Masala?

Anisa putting all your names is a great idea for putting your owkr in print. When I wrot emy name for publication I wanted to give credit to the people who gave me birth to me too....

musicalchef said...

I haven't changed mine and don't plan to, for most of the same reasons you mentioned. And yes, it is funny when non-Western people think it's a "modern" thing!

Subhana said...

No, he hasnt said anything about me changing my last name when we get married. Probably because he calls me "Subhana Ahmed" heheh. :P

Enyur said...

I always think about that, the minute a proposal comes! There was this one proposal and the guys last name was BHUTTA (no offence, I just can't picture calling myself Nadia BHUTTA or being called Mrs. BHUTTA! lolz! I'm quite happy with my last name, so I'd probably want to keep it too.

Also, I don't think I want to go through the hassle of changing documents etc. too.

p.s. I didn't know it was sunnah to keep your name? Good to know!

Aisha said...

Musical chef, yeah the modern thing cracks me up:)

Enyur lol at Bhutta! But you know I know an uncle with a daughter named Nadia actually. guess what bechari's last name is??? BUTT. That's right. with two TT's. It's so sad b/c she's a doctor and she's "Dr. Butt" I bet she can't wait till she gets married.

Enyur said...

lol! Bechaari! I bet!

ayalguita said...

in Spain we never change our surnames when we marry! We all have 2 surnames:first one is my dad's first surname and 2nd one my mum's first surname. THis is great as we can relate as a family thru our children and we can track our family history for many centuries, I know around 10 surnames form my family so imagine, I can tell by those surnames my ancestors were muslims, jews, christians and who knows what else! I give you an example of how we do it: My dad is Called Victor Martínez Gallén, my mum Esther Blanco González. So my name is Elena Martínez Blanco. WHen I got married in the UK it was a huge problem with inlaws the fact that I didn't want tot change my name, they wanted me to take my dh's first name as my surname, no way! I said to them is spain we do it this way since the muslims were there because that is the sunna! So that kind of kept their mouth shut...hahaha My daughter is called Nuria Rashid Martinez, quite an exotic mixture in here hahaha.In the UK i had some problems with cards applications and ordering from catalogs as they didn't believe I was my dh's wife as we had different surnames, but here in Spain no one even bothers with that as we know everyone keep their surnames:)

Anisa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Suroor said...

I have taken part of my mother's name as my last name!

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