Not Exactly the Joneses
We're one of those families. You know, the kind where everyone has a different last name. The names my husband and I have kept and the combination we chose for our son are connecting and confusing and we love it.
It all began a long, long time ago when I was a little girl who had notebooks full of curly-Q cursive doodles bearing the name I would take when I married my grammar school crush. Mrs. Jessica Main. I wrote it out over and over. Sometimes it would be Ms. Jessica Ashley Main or Mrs. J.A. Main, but his name was always in there somewhere. The little feminist flashes went off when I was in my early teens and received a note from a lady at church. There, printed on the embossed card was her name. And it was altogether different from her husband's and children's last name. Oh, I thought, you can do that.
Close to that time, my grandfather made a casual remark at a holiday dinner about how my brother would be the only one who could carry on the family name. Without skipping a beat, I spoke up. I will carry on the family name, too, I said.
My grandfather blinked for a long time and then smiled at me and knew that even if he wasn't sure what to think of that, I was. And I knew then that I wouldn't ever really be Mrs. anybody. I would always be called what I'd always been called.
I knew that to my core for so long before I met the man who would become my husband that it didn't occur to me to discuss it. Until we got engaged, that is, and everyone we knew began asking -- assuming since they knew my independence -- if I'd be hyphenating or taking his last name. Neither, I'd say, I will still be Jessica Ashley.
How will that work? What will your kids be called? Won't that be confusing? There were always the follow-up questions. But I shrugged it off. It'll all work out just fine, I said. I was sure of it.
And it has. It has because we believe in our choice to keep our names. And we have a sense of humor about how other people perceive it and who we end up being to them in the process. All of Bruce's shirts from the dry-cleaner say Mr. Ashley on the inside and I smile to myself every time a solicitor calls and I stop their schpiel by saying, I am the lady of the house but I am not Mrs. Anyone -- a little name game that often works better than grousing that we're on the Do Not Call Registry.
Many members of my family, my own grandmother included, still don't get or refuse to admit that there's none of his name in mine. Anywhere. Honestly, it really doesn't matter to me. I know who I am, Bruce knows who he is and we like our names just the way they are.
When we had our son, there was no pause in deciding he'd be hyphenated. We know he's smart enough and thoughtful enough to choose how to proceed with whatever name or names he chooses when he's involved in a marriage or partnership or has children. In the meantime, we're teaching him that he has more letters to write, but that having two names is special. It is a bit from Mommy and a bit from Daddy and a name that's all his own. For now, because he doesn't know yet that most other kids don't share this hyphenation situation, he's good with that.
It's not perfect. His whole name doesn't fit on the monogrammed stickers I bought for his lunch box and sippy cups. And people still shake their head in puzzlement when I correct them in how they call us. Sometimes, friends assume I will judge them for taking their new husband's last name or something ridiculous like that. This was and is the right choice for me and for us because it was our choice. We're that family, the one you can't put just one name on.
Cross Posted on Silicon Valley Moms Blog (sister site of Chicago Moms Blog)