I am your textbook feminist. Went to college, took a few women’s studies courses (I was a women’s studies minor, actually), and now can and will spend hours talking your ear off about why the Dadbod trend is sexist or why you should not announce your baby’s gender until after your baby shower. Which is why, when my husband and I got engaged in 2013, I felt this immense weight laying on me when it came down to what would happen after our wedding: the name change.
One of the most obvious remainders of a patriarchal society in our current culture is the fact that women are expected to leave behind their name for their husband’s after marriage. To me, it has always been just another way society tells women that men are just more important than they are. But alas, as my wedding grew closer, I realized that I would need to come to terms with the fact that I was going to leave my own name behind.
I want to preface all of this by saying that I was not pressured to change my last name by my husband, or my friends, or my family. I made the decision to do so, knowing that I had the option not to. I love the idea of last name hyphenation. It provides a great opportunity for a couple to show that they have united as one, rather than one being absorbed by the other. I would likely have taken that route if “Buntin-Redmond” didn’t sound so utterly horrific. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s move on…
In movies and TV shows, whenever a girl has a crush on a boy, we see her doodle his name into her notebook, inevitably replacing her own last name with his. And I can think of girls throughout my adolescence who have anxiously awaited the day they could trade in their own last name for their beloved’s. I have never been that girl. Despite being married with a new name for over a year, I still feel uncomfortable when I receive mail addressed to, “Mrs. Jonathan Buntin”, because that’s not who I am.
Being a Katie
I, along with thousands of other young women my age, am a Katie. My name is less a descriptor of me, and more one of popular baby names in the late ‘80s and early 90’s. It is not a unique name or a memorable name – I often tell new acquaintances that it’s alright if they forget my name, because it just happens so frequently. In my classes in school, there was inevitably always another Katie, if not more than one, so I was often given a special identifier: R. Katie R. Of all the Katie’s in the world, I was Katie R, or, as I grew older, Katie Redmond.
Even aside from the convenience of having an additional descriptor to my prevalent first name, being Katie Redmond has always meant a lot to me. Back when my grandfather was born, his parents’ last name was Redmon – no “d” – but the nurse filling out his birth certificate misspelled his name, and thus “Redmond” was born. He tried changing his name once he joined the Navy and then again when he went to college, but it was a fruitless effort, and after so may years of having the last name of Redmond, he just went with it. My grandfather’s son – my dad – is the only son in a family with four daughters, and he just so happened to have two daughters himself. Not to get all patriarchal here, but since the moment I learned that wives take their husband’s last name, I’ve grieved over the fact that the Redmond name dies with my sister and me. It’s more than just a last name, it’s my family’s history.
So while I my excitement grew as my wedding day got closer last spring, so did my hesitation. I didn’t want to trade in my name for a new one, even though it belonged to the man I love. I liked my name, and I felt like it was a part of my identity. And in changing my name, it sort of felt like I was shedding off my identity, my family, my history. Bleak, I know.
But as I filled out the Social Security name change form, I realized that I didn’t have to erase any part of me – I could just add on.
Instead of removing any of my given names, I tacked a new last name onto the end. I now have four names, like a princess or someone from a Hispanic nation. And I love it! While Redmond isn’t officially my last name anymore, I still write it into every form I fill out. I haven’t erased my history, I’ve increased it. I’m Katie Redmond Buntin, and I have let nothing go.