I'm Goofball and will remain Goofball

When living in Canada with my hostparents Mr and Mrs W., I noticed my mom's driver's licence laying on the table.
"hey mom, your name is .... W!"
"euh yes?!"
"oh my gosh, that is so cute. You are W. and he is W. and the two of you met and got married!!"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, don't you see, what a coincidence...you are W. and he is W. and you've met, fallen in love and both got married to each other! That's quite a coincidence right. Wow I love that story!"

My host parents gave me a very strange look and I frowned at them for that reason. It turned out after some more confusing conversation that we were all trapped in our own cultural framework too much to understand each other's surprise right away. It only got solved when my host mom all of a sudden blurred out
"My maiden name is C. though"
"Oh but how can it be, your driver's licence says your name is W"

Currently I know that in a lot of cultures women change officially their name into their husband's name and this name change is reflected in all official documents. However young Belgians growing up in Belgium don't always know this when venturing out into a new culture :p. So although I knew that people socially do get referred to as Mr and Mrs W...I really thought that official ID documents would always and always reflects one's maiden name, the one you grew up with.

With our upcoming wedding , I've also received the question what I will be called in the future? Which name will I take?"Euh.....my name is Goofball and always will be Goofball no matter whether I'm getting married or not?"

So apparently in the Anglo-Saxon countries, women assume their husband's name upon marriage. I'm not sure if that happens automatically or is a matter of choice. Anyway I find it very confusing to see Facebook suggestions of people that half of my Canadian class has been connected too but whose name I don't recognise at all (and if they put a baby picture as profile picture they are not helping either!)....turns out they were in my class after all but changed their name. Argh, how on earth do you keep track of people that way????? And why on earth is this a habit in countries where the people are seem already so keen on moving with every hick-up of their stomac?
In some countries you have the choice: the wife can adopt her husband's name or vice -versa. I know my German cousin made a very concious choice to take on her husband's family name.
In the Netherlands you can choose to hyphen both names....

But in Belgian we strictly follow the Napoleontic law that one's only name can be the name on your birth certificate. So I'm born as Goofball and I'll die as Goofball regarless my life track in between those 2 major events. I can trust that all my female classmates will still have the exact same name when we run into each other again decades later. We don't change, we don't make choices, we don't hyphen, ....

That doesn't mean that in the future I'll never get postal mail addressed to Mrs Jan ....but that would indicate that people only got to know me in a social context via Jan and they don't know my personal name. But I shouldn't try to book airline tickets on his name as I wouldn't get through customs when they compare my ID with my boarding card!! And I won't be able to open a bank account using his name either. Anything with official value that needs to identify me will hold my (maiden) name.

I've read some wedding forums and this law for Belgian citizens does seem to cause frustration for some Belgian-Anglo Saxon couples where the husband had hoped she'd take his name. You can always go to court to apply for a name change but that's a lengthy, costly procedure where you need to proof a good reason to apply for the name change and it is a benefit that needs to be granted by the minister and needs to be published among the newly published laws :p...noth something you'd arrange lightly.

Personally I grew up in this culture and it's customs. Therefore I'd feel very strange if my name would change. As if I'd loose myself. As if my identity depends on my father and/or my husband. ....nope nope, I'm glad remain myself in matrimony as well :)


Lilacspecs said…
Yes, I've gotten some strange looks here when I've mentioned taking CB's last name. Taking your spouse's last name is totally by choice by the way (in the Anglo-Saxon cultures anyway). I asked him if it would bother him for me to take his last name and he said it wouldn't, although he found the concept to be a throwback to equality for women. I put it this way: our children will have his last name and he'll have his last name and I'll feel not quite part of our family if I don't share a name with my children.

At this point I think hyphenating my last name is the best option. I can change it easily on my US documents and I'll just leave my name as it is on my Belgian documents. That way I can keep my last name while still feeling more connected to my husband and children.

And chances are this'll be up on my blog later tonight :)
Goofball said…
hmm being the only one in the family with a different name as you don't share the names of your children either, huh...

wow, never thought of that! Interesting thought. Yeah that would be a strong argument pro change.
anno said…
I kept my name for 10 years, until my daughter was in kindergarten, and I kept having to explain that, despite the fact we look completely different, I really was her mother. Before motherhood, though, I worked for a Belgian woman who said she used her own name professionally and her husband's name socially; she said it made things easier for her in the States.
Jenn said…
When I got married I chose to keep my last name and was really hassled about it. Although it is become more normal here, 80% of women still take their husbands names.

Different strokes for different folks.


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