I am one of those girls that planned her entire wedding when I was six years old. I knew how I wanted everything… and believe me, it happened just as I had dreamed it. Minus my husband’s height. I let him slide under the height requirement because he made it his personal mission to crack me up at least once a day. That being said, one of the only things that I didn’t plan out was whether I wanted to take on his last name…
I came across a blog post on masalamommas yesterday and it really resonated with the girl in me. I see how the writer of the blog wanted to maintain her identity and hold on to her family lineage. I liked that basis, but for me, changing my last name to that of my husband’s has a different significance all together. Here is my story…
I always had an attachment to my last name. You see, my situation is a little unique. When I was born, I was not given my father’s last name. I was rather, given my grandmother’s name in memory of her. In Bangladesh, there is really no practice of family name that is strictly followed, especially for female children. So I was the cool kid that had a funky last name that really was her grandmother’s nick name.
You can imagine the novelty of such a thing. But it was also awkward. My father had his last name, my mother opted to take on my father’s first name instead of his last, and my sister and I were given my late grandmother’s nickname as our last name. We were a family, but unidentifiable by any one family name.
When we moved to North America, my father was often called by my last name… my mother by my father’s last name… it was never cohesive. Over the years it became an ordeal to explain each time we met someone new that Mr. Ali is my father, Mrs. Nowab is my mother and I am Ms. Nuri. Yes. I have to admit, my last name was pretty cool. I have never met another “Nuri” other than my sister… and each time I heard my father say the name, you could see he remembered his own mother. Yes. All that meant a great deal to me.
Than I got married. His last name isn’t unique. Rather, it’s the Islamic equivalent of “Johnson”, it’s not as bad as “Smith” but I mean, google his last name and you’d have to spend an hour just getting through the first page of results. Needless to say, I was not too thrilled with the idea of going from a super unique last name to one that would probably get me listed on a security watch list at the airport. [JUST KIDDING GUYS] lol. In all honesty, my husband was pretty indifferent to my changing my last name to his. His thought was that his mom had kept her maiden name, he didn’t think “today’s woman” even did that.
But I oddly felt at odds with myself. On one hand I felt a little feminism kick in… I wanted to maintain my identity. But as I thought more about it, I realized that when I married him… we started a new family. One that should have an identity. At that point I thought of convincing him to change his last name… come on… Mr. Nuri had a cool ring to it… didn’t it? He didn’t find it very amusing. When that didn’t work, I got to thinking about all the times I had to explain to people why my family was a mosaic of last names. Although, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with keeping your maiden name, I realized that I wanted our new family to be known as it’s own unit.
In a sense, I realized that once I got married, my life entered a new chapter. When we were growing up, I always wanted to be referred to as a TEEN. Even when I was 12, I would demand that my mother refer to me as a pre-teen, (at least the label had the word teen in it) because we wanted so badly to move on to the next [more significant- in our eyes] part of our existence. In my opinion, when I entered this chapter of my life, I inherited a title that I was given the option to adopt. When I finally changed my last name, I did not make a submissive decision to be identified by my husband’s identity but rather a title that came from the new chapter of my life. I know that when my children are born they will have a name both my husband and I share, just as their conception will be something we both share. When I look at my last name, I feel more a part of a partnership, a team, than I did when we didn’t share a name.
I sometimes miss my old last name, but I feel every bit a “Nuri” as I have ever, because to me, no one can take that away from me. I don’t think I would be any less a “Nuri” even if every wedding invite that came in the mail was addressed to “Mr. & Mrs. [Enter Husband's Last Name Here]” I don’t think I would be any less a “Nuri” because my passport says otherwise.
I think my identity is in my manners, in my values, and in the twinkle in my eye that mirrors that of my Grandmother’s, whose beautiful name I was able to carry as my own for as long as I had.