What’s in a name?

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UP FRONT -

I SUS­PECT MOST WOMEN lucky enough to marry George Clooney would waste no time in be­com­ing Mrs Clooney.

How­ever, I didn’t think Amal Ala­mud­din, the in­ter­na­tion­ally-re­spected hu­man rights lawyer the ac­tor mar­ried re­cently, would change her name.

This week we dis­cov­ered she has of­fi­cially be­come Mrs Amal Ala­mud­din Clooney, and will be known as Amal Clooney.

When her law firm up­dated their web­site with her new name, it at­tracted so much ex­cite­ment that it crashed their server.

Amal is smart enough to be brought in by the Greek gov­ern­ment to ne­go­ti­ate the re­turn of the El­gin mar­bles from the Bri­tish Mu­seum, so why isn’t she smart enough to hang onto her own name?

Maybe she was sick of hav­ing to spell it. You can just imag­ine: “A-L-A-M-U-D-D-I-N. One L, one M, two Ds,” she’s prob­a­bly said a thou­sand times. Maybe, when cou­pled with Amal (“A-M-A-L”), it was all too much.

Per­haps she just wanted to make sure she’d have no trou­ble get­ting restau­rant reser­va­tions ever again. Or maybe she just did it be­cause she wanted to. What­ever the rea­son, the tra­di­tion of women tak­ing their hus­band’s name upon mar­riage strikes me as a to­tally out­dated, ar­chaic step.

Women back in the 1960s and ‘70s fought hard for the right to keep their maiden names, and yet to­day most women over­whelm­ingly con­tinue to take their hus­band’s name on mar­riage.

The name change has long sig­ni­fied the hand­ing over of a woman from one man — her fa­ther — to another man — her hus­band.

So why do mod­ern women still re­nounce their iden­tity in this way?

A quick straw poll shows that I only have a hand­ful out of hun­dreds of fe­male ac­quain­tances who have kept their own names.

When I asked my News With Suse Face­book fol­low­ers why they changed their names, many said it was “per­sonal choice”.

How­ever, I’d sug­gest that many women are ex­pected — and even pres­sured — to give up their name upon mar­riage.

Some friends told me they would have quite liked to keep their own name, but their hus­bands felt more strongly about it than they did, so they gave in.

Oth­ers had more pro­saic rea­sons: get­ting rid of hard to spell or pro­nounce maiden names. For oth­ers it wasn’t a choice but an obli­ga­tion.

It seems a pity to me: I just don’t see why the so-called fam­ily name should be the man’s name, and not the woman’s. Is it just to grat­ify the ego of the bloke?

Why do we need a fam­ily name at all? Th­ese days, with one in three mar­riages end­ing in di­vorce, there are many blended fam­i­lies with a splen­did ar­ray of last names. No one seems to suf­fer un­duly as a re­sult.

Just two men I know have taken on the names of the women they mar­ried. One, my un­cle, hy­phen­ated my aunt’s maiden name on to his own. They went from be­ing Miss Dixon and Mr Smith to be­ing the Dixon-Smiths. Another took on his wife’s last name, Rivers, be­cause he sim­ply pre­ferred it to his own.

For most men, this is just not an op­tion. Ask a man who’s get­ting mar­ried if he’s chang­ing his name, and he’ll act like you’ve asked him whether he’s hav­ing his old fella lopped off.

I didn’t take my hus­band’s name when we got mar­ried, although I sus­pect he would have quite liked me too. My job as a jour­nal­ist was a con­ve­nient ex­cuse, although it was more than that.

You see, I have al­ways been close to my own fam­ily, and I just didn’t see why I should throw away my own fam­ily name in favour of my hus­band’s fam­ily name. It just didn’t feel right.

In the be­gin­ning I thought I might change my last name once we had kids, but I re­main more at­tached to O’Brien than ever. This is de­spite the fact that no one can ever spell it, the apos­tro­phe is a pain, and my ini­tials are SOB.

It still sur­prises me that the majority of other women don’t feel the same way about their names.

Th­ese days, you can live to­gether be­fore get­ting mar­ried, walk down the aisle preg­nant, and get hitched jumping out of a plane if you fancy. But, sadly, few women dare to keep their own names. Blog with Susie at susieo­brien.com.au and follow her on Twit­ter @susieob

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