Recently someone at work asked me if I was looking forward to becoming 'Mrs Hamilton'. I felt a bit stumped, and realised that it hadn't really occurred to me.
The fact is, the initial euphoria of getting engaged last year soon gave way to a notebook full of scribbled wedding tasks, while something as important as my surname fell by the wayside. I suppose I assumed that I would take Frank's surname, because after all, that's what women 'do'. Yet when I was asked about being Mrs Hamilton, the rebel in my baulked, and I felt sad and cross that someone would simply assume I would change my name (even if to be fair that was the path in which I was heading).
The more I thought about it, the more complicated and emotional it became. I realised that far from being an afterthought, this was a decision that for me needed a lot of consideration and a lot of soul-searching.
Here's my predicament. My name is Sally Mavin. Most Sallys I know are either over 60 or refer lovingly to someone's pet dog. I never really minded. I like my first name. But for my whole childhood I hated my surname. I hated how everyone mispronounced it (rhyming it with 'starving' or 'gavin' instead of 'craving' as it should be. I hated correcting people (I still do). I hated joining the downward line of the 'm' with the loop of the 'a'. I hated the scratchy 'v' and would always insert an extra 'i' in the speedy race towards the finish line. I hated being the only Mavin family I knew of. I never really knew my father's family. I never knew about my heritage.
But now I'm the last Mavin. My sister has kept her married name. I have no brothers or paternal uncles or cousins. My dad is dying. This surname that I'be resented for 30 years is all I have. I'm the last one.
I did a lot of research, looking for some intelligent pearls of wisdom that hovered somewhere in the middle ground between the overtly feminist and the dutifully subservient. Some arguments bordered on the ridiculous: taking his name would prove I take our marriage seriously or (god forbid) would mean I could order monogrammed towels (I wish I was joking, but I'm not). Others pleaded on behalf of unborn children who might face 'confusion and ridicule' over potentially different surnames. Others went into long arguments about being relegated to the 'wife of' someone instead of a person in their own right. But if I thought for one second that Frank applauded such a misogynistic take on marriage then it's safe to say I wouldn't be marrying him.
Perhaps it's about how much you're willing to sacrifice and compromise. Being married, living under the same roof, sharing your hopes, dreams and aspirations, supporting one another. It takes compromise. Cooking dinner every evening because your wife is working long days that week is a compromise. Putting more money into the savings pot every month because you're on a higher salary is a compromise. Doing the cleaning while your other half enjoys a catch-up with old friends is a compromise. But giving up your name? Your identity? The person you've been for the past two or three decades? I'm not sold on that.
Giving up a surname means different things to different people. Some people can't wait to cast off their name like dead skin and embark on something new. I'm not making a judgement on whether it's right or wrong. It's a completely personal decision. But for me it's not easy, and I struggle to understand why some women do change their names without it being a careful, active decision.
I'm still undecided, but for now at least I'm happy as I am. In my darkest moments I imagine myself having to endure the pain of saying goodbye to my dad, knowing that there will never be anyone to carry on his legacy. The decision of whether that name continues or not lies with me. And it feels like a huge responsibility.