Lately, I’ve been feeling like a lot of all the customs involved with “getting married” in America are nothing short of a big, pointless, hassle, consumerism at its most effective, emotionally-clad best. Internationally or unintentionally set in the way of well-intentioned brides to keep us from thinking deeply about the larger issues women face when preparing to enter the life- and identity-altering state of actually being married.
One of the deeper issues came up the other night, when my fiance and I ordered his wedding band, and the sales person asked me for my name for the ticket, which I gave, and then prompted me for my “future name,” to which I replied easily, “I’m not sure yet if I’m going to change my name or not,” to which she smiled and said, “I didn’t, and that was ten years ago!” She still had a ring in the appropriate digit to signify the status of married, so I took that to be a sign of approval and success for such a decision, and moved on, focusing on the pearls.
Then one glance over to my sweet fiancé’s poor face revealed what a heart-wrenching statement that off-handed comment was to him. I asked gently, “That really hurt your feelings, didn’t it?” And he admitted that yes, it felt like a blow that I was really, seriously, considering it. This was the first time I’d announced the idea to a stranger, in his presence, at least. So maybe he finally realized I was serious about it.
It was not well received among my inner circle of friends when I tested the idea at a friend’s wedding reception a month or so ago. “Why not?” “You’re crazy,” “What’s the point?” “What about your future children,” and “But, don’t you love him?” were some of the incredulous replies from my closest friends.
But, I’m not too concerned with what other people think – other than my fiancé, whose opinion out of love I choose to weigh with equal or more weight than my own. I’m a forward-thinking gal. One who’s got quite a bit of social capital, personal branding, and presence revolving around the little issue of my name. My name that is unique to me, a quality that many others with “common” names don’t quite get, that I have had to come to grips with anyway, that I have finally accepted and reveled in and embraced, publicly, to the world. My fiance’s last name, on the other hand, is one of the top 10 most common. So yeah, I’m considering keeping mine.
“I thought you were just going to keep writing under your maiden name, but take my name, you know, in life,” he said. Yes, that had been the working plan. About a year ago. A year in which a lot has changed for me. In which I have grown, learned to love my name, as difficult as it is to spell. In which I have struggled anyway with the already great divide between career and life for the modern career woman.
But also a year in which I’ve grown as an individual and a future life mate. In which I’ve tested the merits of compromise, of putting relationships, especially the most important ones, first, and found the choice to be wholly satisfying. In which I’ve chosen to accept the proposal to fully commit my life to that of another, no matter how big or small the issues, a commitment that I take very seriously and am excited to figure out how to operate within in just less than a month.
It’s not the person or the commitment, but rather the culture that puts this sort of identity-crushing expectation of a name change onto women that I have a hard time coming to grips with.
I wrestle with that, with planning for kids, with career plans, with expectations, with all the trappings of being a modern women that are more than minorly complicated when marriage comes into the equation.
By nature, I question all of it, because I know in doing so I will find my own way, whether it follows the beaten path or not. As a product of homeschool, it was proven to me that the unconventional choice, when made with everyone’s best interest in mind, can be incredibly effective.
But out of love, I also realize that in getting married, I’m choosing to commit not just one aspect of my identity to another person. I’m choosing to surrender all of who I am to someone who’s surrendering all of who they are to me. And I realize that the word “surrender” will be highly contested by other forward-thinking women and perhaps men. That’s fine. They don’t have to choose frame this commitment in the same light that I do. But to me, that is quite simply the ultimate description of what real love is. And here’s what it looks like.
After the exchange in the store, my fiancé sat silent for a moment, thinking. Then, he looked at me, with his eyes full of all the love that makes me know I can trust all of myself and my identity to him, and said, “Know what, it’s your name. And in the end, that’s not a decision I’ll ever have to face.” Stripping himself of his pride, of his blind acceptance of a cultural norm neither of us can fully rationalize, he loved me in that moment exactly in the way a forward-thinking gal deeply desires to be loved.
“I will leave it up to you.”
March 4, 2008
For those keeping track, it’s been a while since I posted here. In fact, my boss is one of those people, and he e-mailed me the other day to ask when I would be announcing the “big news” I’ve promised. It’s coming, still. I’m working on it – when I find the time. In the meantime, things have been going swimmingly at my new blog, Personal PR. I’m also a part of the newly launched Brazen Careerist network. Oh yeah, and I got officially engaged and have been planning a wedding in the meantime. It’s now less than two months away. So needless to say, finding balance in my life has been one of those things that’s been a struggle. So for today, I thought I’d share with you a guest post blog friend Elysa asked me to write as an ABCs for Gen Y project she’s launched to celebrate her blog’s one year anniversary. Enjoy. And more about this site is coming soon. But first, I’ve got to focus on balance:
B is for Balance.
Balance means different things to different people. Some devote their careers to it. Others say it’s a myth. Most just want it, whether or not they think it’s really real. We talk about it a lot – different ideas on how to achieve it in our work, how to make it better in our lives. We talk about balance between work and home. Balance in our finances. Balance in our commitments. Balance in media coverage. Balance in politics. Balance. So it helps to know: what does balance look like?
Balance basically boils down to two things: omission and commission. What we choose to do and what we choose not to do. And both are important. Equally.
Tonight, for me, this is what balance looked like: watching a Barbara Walters special about the royal family, cuddled under a blanket with my fiance by my side and my laptop casually at hand. Instead of worrying about the floor of the bathroom that flooded the other day (fans are in place, I’ve done all I can for now). Instead of starting to address the hundreds of wedding invitations that came in today and need to go out in a week. It means calling my friend back to chat. It means not obsessing over my blog for one night. And going to bed before midnight.
It means not worrying that there’s no five-step formula for living a balanced life, even though if there were, I would have a lot easier time writing this post.
The truth is, I have a pretty typically busy twentysomething life: I don’t exactly have balance down yet. The best I get some days is go, go, go, crash. Sometimes, that’s the best I can approximate balance. But hey, I’m trying. And I think that’s the key to balance. Working at it.
So tonight, balance is about writing a short post instead of a long one. Smiling in the grocery line, no matter how long it was. Spending time on relationships. Giving myself time to do all the things in the few hours after work that make my life worth working for. Living my life. Being present in it.
Give yourself permission to find your balance. And then look for it. Wherever in the wild blue that takes you.
January 26, 2008
Hello, dear readers!
I’m excited to tell you all that there is some big news coming soon for Little Red Suit, so thank you for continuing to follow this blog while I worked on building my new blog at Personal PR! If you haven’t checked it out or subscribed yet, please do. It’s definitely been a labor of love, and the feedback and response to it has been awesome.
In the meantime, I just wanted to thank you for reading and supporting this site.
Also, feel free to stop by the Career 100, a ranking of the world’s top career blogs, and vote to move Little Red Suit up in the rankings!