But on May 13th 1994 you PINKY SWORE you wouldn't ever....
March 21, 2011 4:36 PM   Subscribe

How do I forgive her for the betrayal of growing up and changing?

Recently, a friend announced her engagement. Yahtzee! I am delighted for her, of course, and I am going to be a part of the wedding and all that jazz. I discovered, however, that she is going to change her name when she gets married. I remember discussing it with her less than two years ago, and she agreed with me that changing names when getting married was antiquated, and she relayed the experiences of her older siblings and mentioned how disturbing she found her sister’s loss of identity that came with it. Now, I find out she is changing her name when she gets married.

I realize that she has the right to do so, of course, and I don’t think, on an intellectual level, that she should be forced to stick to prior opinions forever, and I realize that any issue I take with her life is more about me than her. Life is a series of compromises and I don’t know what is going into the decision, etc, etc. I know there is tradition and precedent and all that. I am sure I am ‘betraying’ younger versions of myself in ways I don’t notice or don’t care about, and I know I don’t live my life in ways that perfectly adhere to the views I profess to have.

And, to be clear, I am sure not a little of this is really about mourning, on some level, the death of our childhoods, and the changing of our friendship to accommodate this new person.

My question, therefore, is how to hack my brain to make this not bother me? Specifically, it makes a little sad when I see women change their last names. I know it shouldn’t bother me, but for some reason I just feel sad when I see it (and so far, I think every woman I know that has got married has changed her last name).

And the larger question is how do I deal with the fact that my friends and I are getting older and changing? I don’t want to spend my life thinking, “But you SAID you would never…”
posted by jenlovesponies to Human Relations (51 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Well, it would bother the hell out of me, I really hate that tradition a lot. However, I keep my damn mouth shut every time someone changes it, and seethe quietly at home. That's about the best solution I've got for you, other than chanting, "I choose my choice!" a la Charlotte on Sex and the City. Everyone can pick what they want, even if 99% of the female population chooses the same thing "because it's easier."

There's nothing you can do about it, and some women decide to cave in because the husband reallyreallyreallyreally wants her to be Mrs. Hisname, or the in-laws are pressuring her, or she assumes that everyone will call her Mrs. Hisname no matter what anyway so she might as well go with it, or "I have to have the same name as my children." Stuff like that will make some women compromise, plus we've all been raised to think our names are temporary and don't count anyway.

*shrug* Nothing you can do, really. Feel quietly annoyed, just don't say anything, 'cause all you'll do is tick people off.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:41 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

actually getting married can change the way you feel about any number of things that you could only speculate about before marriage.
posted by radiosilents at 4:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [34 favorites]

You will always feel happiness looking back upon your friend's engagement. But this time right now, you will never get the chance to feel happier about this event in her life, in the moment, as it's happening. Do you really want to distract yourself from that opportunity? At the very least, make a deal with yourself to put all this worry away for now. Focus on experiencing as much joy for her and your dynamic, evolving friendship as you possibly can...it's also a nice investment into your next 20 years of maturity and change together.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:50 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

jenlovesponies: I remember discussing it with her less than two years ago, and she agreed with me that changing names when getting married was antiquated, and she relayed the experiences of her older siblings and mentioned how disturbing she found her sister’s loss of identity that came with it.

Well, you could ask her. I mean, let's say she's changing her last name to Walling. "I was just thinking about it and Erica Walling is a great name. I remember you saying you were pissed when your sisters changed their names; obviously I'm not engaged so I'm just curious: why did you change your mind? What's made it different now that you've found the right guy?"

Now, just to be clear, I don't actually subscribe to the "I'm not engaged, so..." or the "now you've found the right guy..." semi-fawning crap but if I wanted to know, that's how I would phrase it so as to solicit the information I actually wanted.

Note: I am not a good person. I don't mind stretching the truth to find things out, and unlike iamkimiam I have never felt joy for anyone else's engagement. That they are in love and happy, yes; that they are formalising a legal arrangement and getting three toasters, no.

It is, obviously, important that you not argue with her about an answer that is absolutely none of your business. But my hope is that you'll get a thoughtful reply with some solid reasoning you can at least understand even if you don't agree with it. (And that the answer will not be "LA LA LA WEDDING WE ARE ONEEEEE SQUEE!")

FWIW I did not change my name. I never seriously considered it, but knowing that it was an option, I certainly did look at it and I came up with some mundane but reasonable reasons why it might be an OK thing to do. Marriage does do a number on your sense of identity, place and family, and not everyone resolves that the way you'd expect - or the way they would expect for themselves, either.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Congratulations! That's all you need to say! Congratulating someone — expressing pleasure at their joy, whatever — is not the same as validating or affirming or agreeing with their choices."
posted by blandcamp at 5:00 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

Well, the first thing I would do is immediately drop the language of "betrayal" and start to reframe the issue in healthier, more realistic terms. She didn't, in actual fact, betray you, and since she hasn't betrayed you means that there is no forgiveness required on your part.

Once you get that out of the way, you are left with acknowledging your genuine feelings of disappointment, sorrow, wistfulness, ambivalence, etc. This switches the focus from what is now essentially "she's doing something I don't like, so how do I deal with this problem she's created" to "I'm experiencing some uncomfortable feelings that are part of the occasional conundrum of growing up and letting people make their own choices." In other words, this is really about you, not about her.

As for the name-changing thing: part of supporting women's rights and being a feminist is supporting women's right to make choices you wouldn't necessarily make yourself (and supporting their right to change their minds about their choices, too). I didn't change my name when I was married to my ex-husband and was silently, self-righteously scandalized when any woman I knew changed her name, but you know what? Now, after 6 years with my current boyfriend, I now totally get why many women change their names after all. It's not just that it's easier (though it can be); it's that it can be a powerful and genuinely meaningful expression of becoming a family together -- yes, even for feminists and even with all the patriarchal baggage it carries.
posted by scody at 5:02 PM on March 21, 2011 [55 favorites]

I agree with DarlingBri that you can totally ask her in a non-confrontational friendly way. You are just curious as to why she changed her mind, right? That's all she needs to know, and you can just ask her why to satisfy that curiosity. I wouldn't mind if a good friend remembered something I said a few years ago (that's kind of sweet) and followed up on it.
posted by hepta at 5:04 PM on March 21, 2011

Hi, I am your friend. I just got married on Saturday and decided to change my name, despite previously deciding years ago that someday, when I got married, I would keep my name.

Do I care about what other people think? Nope. And I know what I'd say to past self if I met her and she asked why I changed my mind: It's none of your business! I am who I am, and you are not me (anymore). Honestly, how dare you be sad for women like me. How dare you think we're "caving in" to our husbands or society or whomever.

Personally, I happen to find it very romantic to write "Mr. and Mrs. Supercres Macgee" on my return envelopes. And you know what? I my identity HAS changed. Because I am no longer me. I am a part of a family. I have pledged to spend the rest of my life with my hubby, and I want the world to know about it. And I have never before felt like I wanted to be partners in life with an SO, so I can see how I changed my mind. If my last name wasn't so awful maybe he would have taken my name 'cause we're crazy like that. However, not everyone feels this way about marriage or needs/wants to express their feelings of "us" in the same way.

It sounds like your friends are growing up, but you aren't. Only, getting married and changing your name isn't growing up; learning to be tolerant and accepting is.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [28 favorites]

Picture yourself getting engaged and suddenly finding, to your complete and utter surprise, that what now feels like the right thing for you is changing your own name, and that you have no idea at all why this should now be the case. How weird would that be?

(for what it's worth, ms. flabdablet and I kept our own names).
posted by flabdablet at 5:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Re how to find out -

I agree you should just come right out and ask if you're curious. I wouldn't bring up what she said she'd do in the past, or use any phrasing reminiscent of words like "caving" and "society" and all that. I think "why did you decide to change your name?" would suffice, to be honest.

And I don't think you need to be self-effacing about it, either. "I know I've never been engaged and probably wouldn't understand..."? Come the fuck on. It's a party and a piece of paper, not eternal salvation. If a close friend can't answer a simple question about a relatively minor life decision, either she's not as close as you thought or she's not as mature as two lights would have you believe.

(BTW, I once dated someone whose name I would have considered taking despite vociferous past claims to the contrary. The main reason I'd have considered it was due to the amazing mindfuck it would have given racists and TSA agents upon meeting a petite WASPy-looking white girl with that name. Ultimately none of it ever came to pass, but there you go.)
posted by Sara C. at 5:20 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I didn't change my name, and also find it annoying, but keep that opinion to myself because... well, it's really none of my business.

Now, after swearing I'd never bow to the patriarchy and let my kids have only my husband's name, I did just that. Did I and do I have some ambivalence about it? Absolutely! But it was still probably the right decision. So maybe that's how your friend feels--that she's a tiny bit ambivalent but for whatever reason, it feels like the right thing.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:23 PM on March 21, 2011

You don't really say why this bothers you. You mentioned why it bothered your friend when her sister changed her name, but is that applicable to you as well? Talk to her about it instead of making assumptions. It doesn't have to be an interrogation.

People change, you said so yourself. You've changed. How do you deal with your own change? Can't you apply that process to your friends' changes, too?

For whatever it's worth, I will be changing my name when I marry my fiancé and it has nothing to do with being "traditional" or bowing to the patriarchy.
posted by asciident at 5:27 PM on March 21, 2011

People take names for all kinds of reasons and very few of them have to do with loss of identity. I think maybe you know that, and are just seizing on this as as symbol of her moving on. Of course it hurts; that's natural. Getting married often does mean displacing one's childhood best friend. It doesn't have to be like that, but it usually is. A healthily-married person will usually consider their spouse their "best friend" and put them first.

What will help you now is to actively work on your bond with her. Hang out with her, tell her what's going on with you, bond with him if you can, meet her new circle of friends if her husband has brought one with him into their relationship. Don't let your friendship fade into the past if you can help it.

By the way, I changed my name and have felt no loss of identity whatsoever. My dearest childhood friend kept hers and has been so completely consumed by her married personhood that she no longer maintains friendships she had prior. Names means nothing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:31 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

when we got engaged, my now-husband and i discussed getting a brand new name - a family name - one that was only ours. he considered taking my name, but i didn't want it*. i liked his last name, but respected that he didn't want it.

then we went on a trip to his grandfather's...his grandfather is a wonderful old man who thinks that family history is very, very important. his family has been in the same region for 4 generations and he has books and albums and gravestone rubbings.

we got home and decompressed and started talking about the marriage again, started talking about the name change, but something had happened - we both had a sense of the history his name holds, the pride in it his grandfather takes. we are not the sort of people who normally care about that kind of thing, but his grandfather is really an exceptional man.

in the end we decided that we wanted to share a name, that there wasn't another name we liked more, and that his complaints against his name didn't stand up when weighed against the connection it gave him to his grandfather.

i didn't cave or give up my sisterhood or compromise to the patriarchy. i made a very personal choice in a situation that has too many variables to sum up neatly to appease all the women who bang on about how a woman can do exactly what she wants to do (unless she wants to keep house or take her husband's name or whatever).

*i share a last name with my abuser so for 20ish years, every time i wrote my name, i wrote his, and it just bugged me.
posted by nadawi at 5:34 PM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

There may be two or three issues combining into one here:
- (hurt, loss, fear) fear of "losing" her, fear of her "abandoning" you as a friend, of her not caring as much about you because she is so focused on him and her wedding and then moving into a new phase of life
- (anger, annoyance, alienation, distance) changes to her personality or beliefs from being in this relationship make her into someone that YOU don't relate to as well or don't feel like you even like, especially because all she wants to talk about are boring things like flower arrangements
- an ideological disagreement on whether women should take a man's name

My guess is that one of the first two is the fuel that makes you care about the third, and by acknowledging that yes, it sucks that [whatever] and you feel [whatever] for a very good reason, you will care a lot less about the abstract theoretical stuff. It's sometimes hard to truly connect with someone in the excitement and stress of a wedding, and that can suck and make you feel like you're losing a friend, all while you're supposed to be doing nothing but being supportive and feeling happy for them.

Others will have better suggestions. I just wanted to catalog these different strands.
posted by salvia at 5:38 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm gonna say that a lot of women who say they aren't succumbing to the patriarchy are doing just that when they cave into in-laws bugging them. Also a lot of women secretly just want that little girl ideal of being Mrs. So-and-so, and it's very backwards, but then again, I'm a jaded bitch who will never change my name because my name is awesome and why should I have to just because I'm the woman? (I do think it's "okay" for a woman to change her name if her last name is weird, or because she doesn't have a close relationship with her own family/her dad sucked for some reason or another and she wants to ditch the name).

Point is, I get why it bugs you. She's not betraying you, though. She doesn't owe you anything as far as her life choices, but maybe it does mean she's a different person than she used to be or that you thought she was.
posted by elpea at 5:40 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

Holy hell, if people tried to hold me to the stupid stuff I said two years ago, man...get a list and a chair because it's going to take a while. Am I betraying my former self? Heck no.

You say you don't want to think about about how you're "betraying" your own history - why is growing, evolving, and changing a betrayal? This one little issue is truly odd to me. When you were little you probably thought boys were icky. When you were in high school I bet you thought the music you listened to was the best music ever made. When you were in college you probably thought you'd figure out a way to never have to work or pay rent.

It sounds to me like her minor decision is bothering you so much because you don't accept that change can be good....but more likely you're right, you might just be obsessing over this issue because you're jealous of the husband and that you might become a third wheel (which is scary! but it's okay to be scared!) - in that case the name is just a symbol and you will have to deal with the relationship as a whole, not just this microscopic issue.
posted by carlh at 5:41 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, on hacking your brain, I think finding a way to talk to her about mourning the passage of one phase would help. Processing and disclosure works better for me than suppression. (though yes, suppress until you can process in a loving way, but your question shows you could probably deal quite well with a conversation)
posted by salvia at 5:43 PM on March 21, 2011

as a clarification - his grandfather never once brought up my last name or taking my husband's name. there was no discussion with my family or his family about my last name until after we were married and i changed it. and really, the only opinions i heard were from my feminist friends who felt i had betrayed them. my only response to that is, well - lucky for you it's my name not yours.
posted by nadawi at 5:45 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everyone's piling on the name thing, but Jenlovesponies (what a great handle to match a "how can I deal with everyone growing up") is asking about the reversal.

Here's some examples from my own life:

"I don't understand people who do drugs. What a waste." --> Stoner who followed Phish for two years
"I hate the way he talks to my mom. I'd never put up with that." --> Girl with the loser, abusive, mooch husband
"There's too many kids already. I'd never make more. I'm going to adopt." --> Girl with multiple children and fertility treatments

In the scheme of things, name changing is a pretty small reversal of stance. But maybe he's got a sexy last name. Maybe it means a lot to him. Maybe she wanted to distance herself from her parents. Maybe she realized she can still be herself personally without keeping the maiden. Maybe she thinks she'll be less likely to have a firey divorce if she has the hassle of his name. Even if you ask her and she tells you, she might not even be AWARE of the real reason.

Everyone betrays their 16-year-old selves. And their 18-year-old selves. And their 22-year-old selves. Which is why it's best not to get married at 20 (I say from experience).

As you grow up (and I don't mean age), you get more true to yourself. Youth has a black-and-white, us-and-them, all-or-nothing dichotomous view of the world. As you get older, you do "sell out" that vision of the world to something more ambiguous and fuzzy and harder to navigate. You also often let yourself off the hook on high standards you once held just because. But you have to trust a person's actions, not their words, especially if their words start will "I will never..." or "I will always..." Once you say you know, you know nothing.

So how do you deal with it? You love her. That's it. You focus on the friend you have and the fact that she's excited. Just like you wouldn't hold her to the 4th grade "I'm never gonna kiss a boy. ick!", you have to realize that all those never/always statements are prone to error.

It's also possible that the reason this feels so weird and awkward is that you're trying to hold true to your ideals--and on this one, you might hold. But you acknowledge you're likely compromising others in a way that makes me think you feel it's like cheating on your friends or your younger self. But seriously, don't let some 14 year old, 16 year old, 18 year old, 20 year old or whatever dictate the life you want to lead--even if they're you. They don't have all the knowledge, wisdom, kindness and everything else you have. Plus, they're clueless in so many areas that I'm sure you'd cop to that you have to admit they likely didn't have many of the answers anyway.

So, yes, love your friend. Accept yourself. And give your inner teenage a timeout so you can get ready for all the compromises you and all your friends are about to be making.
posted by Gucky at 5:45 PM on March 21, 2011 [15 favorites]

You seem to have answered your own question about as well as anyone here could do (and most haven't even tried to, but that's a whole nother question...). You've accepted what's hers (changing her mind) and what yours (it makes you a little sad, mourning the loss of childhood, coming to grips with growing up/older). Like any mourning, we can't make it go away - it just does (sort of). When the time comes. Not that you necessarily will, or should, come to change your beliefs, but you will probably eventually make peace with the choices other people make for themselves and that they will sometimes be different choices than the ones you will make, or have made, for yourself.
But for now? We can accept our feelings about someone else's choices as ours, the choices as theirs, and the differences as, well... "that's life". It sounds like you're most of the way there. Own that, and the rest (of making peace with it) will happen in its own time.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 5:47 PM on March 21, 2011

I changed my name because my birth last name was a pain to spell. Husband's last name was a joy to spell and pronounce and everyone comments on my cool name. Maybe she just like the sound of it. Not everything has to have huge significant symbolic meaning behind it.
Really, her last name, choice of flavor of wedding cake frosting, and all this other stuff has nothing to do with your or your friendship. You can talk to her, but have a couple of cocktails first and phrase it in a "just for the helluva it" way or be prepared for some blank looks.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:47 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oops. "... their choices as theirs, ..."
posted by TruncatedTiller at 5:51 PM on March 21, 2011

I agree with the OP that people bear responsibility for these kinds of choices in that they do signal certain values judgements - for those observers who choose to judge.

Which means some people are going to think the friend is a sell out. Just like some people view interracial daters as sell outs. Just like some people view their homosexual children as disappointments. Etc. The judgers are entitled to their opinions.

What they're not entitled to is control. The bride can do what she wants. The difficulty here is the bride and her friend had an understanding, which is now in bold letters secondary to the understanding between the bride and her future husband.

I'd instead think of it this way: she's found someone to accompany her on future journeys. It was the OP for a while. Now it's not. That's ok. Be happy for her, and be happy you shared her path, for a time.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 5:54 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with you on the name changing -- not that I think it's a betrayal of you, but I think it's a sexist tradition, and women who choose to do it are not making feminist choices. We all make non-feminist choices regularly, of course, and I think you need to figure out how come changing a name at marriage seems worse than, say, shaving your legs.

It's not about you, which you know, but it's still upsetting when you find out a friend of yours doesn't hold some of your deeply held beliefs.

But everyone makes compromises to live in this world.
posted by jeather at 6:05 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

For a few more generations at least, in almost all cases, the name any woman has is the name of her father. If her name is her mother's maiden name? It was the name of her mother's father. It is always some guy's name.

I always railed against changing my name to any future husband's name -- but when it came down to it (sans ANY PRESSURE from my family or his, btw), it turned out to be a pretty easy choice. I had to have SOME man's name...it might as well be the name of the man I had chosen to be with -- not the name of my biological father, who had taken off 2 years after I was born; not the name of my stepfather, whose name was not mine or my mother's; not the name of my mother, who hadn't changed my name back upon the divorce though she'd changed her own, and who had inherited the name from an angry alcoholic who was verbally abusive and cheated on his wife repeatedly. The man I was marrying was a good man, and I decided I'd rather take that name and express that new partnership than keep the name I had, which had come from a man I didn't even speak to.

I am very outspoken feminist, and I get very, very angry when I hear other women getting all self-righteous about what I decided to do with MY OWN NAME. You don't get the right to tell me what to do or get right of approval over my personal choices any more than any man would just because we both have ovaries.

The real issue here is as what NoRelationtoLea says: this situation is particularly upsetting to you because it highlights the fact that the understanding that you had with your friend can be superseded by another understanding, that of a marriage. I think you need to explore your feelings of loss and your fear that you will be replaced or shunted aside, and work with your friend on preserving the unique nature of your friendship, rather than worrying for 5 more minutes about the red herring of what arrangement of letters your dear friend chooses to call herself by.
posted by tigerbelly at 6:14 PM on March 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

Wow. There are certainly a lot of opinions about this. I am the only person in my group of friends that chose not to change her name when getting married. I just fail to see the point of doing so. It's inconvenient, and allows people to track your marital history, which is none of their business. It has no effect on whether I care about my spouse or not.

I don't give my friends a hard time about it, because my feelings about them are not about whether they changed their name or not. I love them for other qualities, and they don't harass me either. It's mutual respect and love, so maybe you should think about the name change as something not relevant to your relationship.

Here is an anecdote about the subject. I had a friend in college who changed her name when she got married, but so did her husband. They combined their last names, which I think was awesome!
posted by annsunny at 6:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

People have all kinds of reasons for changing their names. For example, I happened to fall madly in love with a man whose first name was the exact same as my last name. I had generally planned on keeping my last name, but over the time of our dating and engagement humanity demonstrated to me that as a whole, humans are unable to see two people who give their name as "Hi, I'm Bob Bobton and this is my girlfriend, Jane Bob," without making some kind of fucking smart remark. After we got engaged, it got even worse. I changed my name so that every time we introduced ourselves I wouldn't have to live through the same five bad jokes for the 5,000th time.

All of this to say - you have no idea what fed into this. It could be anything. It could be the pressure of the patriarchy, but it could also be the pressure of the stupid, or the idea of living with 10,000 little annoyances related to your name every day of your life henceforward. Whatever the reason, whether it's something you think of as "romantic bullshit" or whether it's something like the choices myself or others have laid out in this thread - her choice is about her, not about you.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

My question, therefore, is how to hack my brain to make this not bother me?

You are probably currently doing things that you will change your mind about in a few years. People change. Do you want people to be judging you for changing your mind about something? No? Then you go first and stop judging your friend.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:27 PM on March 21, 2011

how disturbing she found her sister’s loss of identity that came with it.

She probably said something like, "I can't believe she'd just give up her identity like that!"--right? (Rather than her sister turning into a zombie and your friend commenting on the change in her personality.) Because probably, unless her sister was in an abusive relationship, her sister changed her name, and perhaps some of the ways she socialized (spending more time with fellow married couples, etc.), but she didn't actually lose her identity. She did something your friend couldn't imagine doing (at that time), and now your friend is in a place in her life where she can imagine doing it.

Please don't feel sad for me, or any of the women in this thread who chose to change their names when they married, or for your friend. I had my own reasons for making my particular choice, but none of those reasons was that I was duped by the patriarchy into thinking that I needed to brand myself as my husband's possession. I suspect that your friend, likewise, may have reasons that might not persuade you to do it but which are not a deep betrayal of her independence and feminism. Feel sad for women who are actually oppressed or abused or brainwashed into thinking they're less worthy of rights than their male peers.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:27 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am not necessarily going to ask her about her name change, if only because I don’t want to sound like I am judging her. I may wait for her to bring it up. I agree that it is none of my business, though I am sure she would share her reasons if I brought them up. I am not even thinking about trying to change her mind, because of course not.

“Betrayal” is hyperbole. “Sad” is not, although I entirely understand that it is not a logical response to the situation.

I am sorry if people feel that this is a judgmental question; that was not my intention. I appreciate all the personal stories. I am truly shocked, though, by the number of women I know who have gotten married who have changed their last name. I always thought my generation wasn’t so concerned about that; these past few years have been a shock. This is the first person who ever shifted their perspective on it that I was aware of, which brought out the question.

From my own perspective, and (I thought, or it used to be) her perspective, my problem with the married last name stems from familial divorce and difficulty adjusting to life post- divorce with someone else’s last name. We both watched this happen to women who probably would have had a difficult time regardless, but the name problem made it so much worse.

This has been a tough thread to read (I have tissues). Which is not to say I don’t appreciate the tough love. I feel I may be overthinking the name because it is easier to think about than the shifting nature of our friendship. I asked a coworker how to be a great bridesmaid, and she talked about her maid of honor and how fantastic she was. Then she told me they don’t really talk anymore, and warned me that I needed to give her space for three to six months after the wedding. It was the first time that it really occurred to me how profoundly my friend’s life was about to change.

My question is not really about the name change.
posted by jenlovesponies at 6:35 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

From my own perspective, and (I thought, or it used to be) her perspective, my problem with the married last name stems from familial divorce and difficulty adjusting to life post- divorce with someone else’s last name. We both watched this happen to women who probably would have had a difficult time regardless, but the name problem made it so much worse.

I can't even imagine making a decision based on how easy it would make my divorce. To even consider that... Wow. That is not how people who are vowing to spend their lives together think. At all. Ever. Unless they actually don't like each other all that much.

Honestly, it just sounds like you have your own problems with marriage that you need to deal with. I really am sorry that you experienced marriage in such a negative way.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:23 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Eh, I think your co-worker never had much of a friendship in the first place. There's no reason to think that her marriage will ruin your relationship with her - but if you view her marriage skeptically or dislike her husband, that could definitely do the job. I wonder why you aren't already friends with her fiancee? Life carries on and things change and it's ok to sometimes have a weep about how it'll never be the same again ever but you're going to change too and if you prioritize your friendships with women (something a lot of women fail to do, which is why they end up like your co-worker) then you don't have to lose them just because everyone grew up.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:35 PM on March 21, 2011

Her engagement isn't about you. How do you tell your brain to get over it? Simple; you're not getting married, there's nothing to get over.
posted by spaltavian at 7:42 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

two lights above the sea: I can't even imagine making a decision based on how easy it would make my divorce. To even consider that... Wow. That is not how people who are vowing to spend their lives together think. At all. Ever. Unless they actually don't like each other all that much.

To the contrary. I love my husband, and like him hugely, and we are annoyingly happily married seven years in. I consider myself to be vehemently committed to my marriage. But we also live in the real world. In this world, virtually nobody gets married thinking they will get divorced, and yet 40 - 50% of married people do. You bet your ass we talked about that, and made decisions with the awareness that it could happen. We are not alone in this; the entire prenuptial industry is devoted to determining what will happen if you should divorce before you even get married.

While I did not base my choice not to change my name on how much easier it would make getting divorced, I won't pretend that didn't occur to me. I'm pretty sure lining up at the DMV, telling my bank my marriage had failed and a having to forward all of my email to a new firstname.lastname address would be headaches I could live without on top of heartache.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:48 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Wow, there is a lot of hostility. The name change thing really touches a raw nerve.

I agree with you that this isn't really about your friend's name change or your co-worker's disintegrated relationship with a former bride. Recognize the major life changes that your friend is making, and embrace them, and celebrate them.

But allow yourself time to grieve what you're losing also. There is something to grieve, much as married ladies like to disagree. It happens all the time. It happened to me! When I was married, most of my friends were married couples. And then I got divorced and now I'm single again, and most of my friends are single. This is not a coincidence. I think it's great that you can see what is happening- it will make you less unhappy when you look around in a couple of months to see that things have, in fact, changed.

Don't give up on your friend, of course! And don't express this stuff to her, because it is unlikely that she will be able to see it from where she is. Just be ready to take your own path, which is a scary choice all its own. Celebrate your own path. You have choices and freedoms that you may take for granted, but are really quite special. Your friend is not the only one changing; you are, too. Your changes may not (yet) involve one expensive day with a big floaty white dress, but they are just as valid and just as important. Figure out the best way to process all of this (I like to write bloated diary entries, but that's just me) and use that as a way to move through your emotions. It is okay for you to feel them.

To be clear, I did not change my name when I got married, and neither did my ex-wife. But I know women who didn't change their names and it doesn't matter now, 10+ years later, when everyone just calls them by their husbands' and children's last name anyway. And I swore to my sister that I would not get married. And I swore I would not get married in a church. I did both. I had lots of reasons, but I am grateful that she has not rubbed this in my face, especially since the divorce!
posted by aabbbiee at 8:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is maybe a little crazy, but in situations like these, where I must accept the things I cannot change, I think of this hokey old Chicken Soup for the Soul/Reader's Digest story called "Angel on Doorstep". In it, the storyteller's milkman complains of a woman who is $79 delinquent on her milk account, and the storyteller urges him to "give her the milk". The milkman resists and resists, but finally he does it- he "gives" her the milk, which wasn't difficult in the physical sense (the milk was already gone), but emotionally, it was more taxing and required time and forgiveness.

Growing up, and realizing everyone around you is growing up, is all sorts of crazy, and very humbling. I swore I would never be the kind of person that bought washing machine cleaner. I mean, the washing machine is always filled with soap and water- why do you need special cleaner?? And now, guess what, I am the kind of person who most definitely needs and buys washing machine cleaner. She left part of your shared past behind, and whether or not it is a true sin that warrants forgiveness, that stings. You can't change her mind, and you've indicated that you don't want to change her mind, so maybe all you can do is just know that things have changed, and are always changing, and just give her the milk.
posted by heyheylanagirl at 8:57 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I get this nebulous rage-on whenever I hear about someone changing their name because of marriage. This is due in part to all the loss-of-identity /patriarchal bullshit that, to me, goes with it and also due to my particular, individual experience. Specifically, my mother never changed her name. Many of my friends (and their parents)did not. Ask me about my hyphenated college friends! This, I thought, was a normal view of the world. And yet, I hear about people changing their names to this day! WTF?
My rage-on is entirely due to this instant bias, of having to ask "why would you?" because so many don't, in my limited experience. From this perspective, all the answers have to address the bullshit patriarchy nonsense and give some reason that, not marrying the name in question, you're not going to fully understand. None of these has been fully satisfactory, yet...
In my latter years, the only calm I've found is in acknowledging that many women have only to address "why wouldn't you?". Their experience makes the inherent bias towards changing their name. Unless they have a compelling reason i.e. publication record, professional reputation, they wouldn't second guess the changing of their name the way you would.
While this avoids the acknowledgement of patriarchal bullsihit, it is their choice, and you can't do anything about it. You can try to get over the rage-on. I admit that I still struggle with it, but my goal is to banish it before all my friends are married.
That, I'm sorry is the only solace I can provide on this. Issues with friends marrying/changing is a whole different set of affairs.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

The question is not about whether it's OK for women to change their name upon marriage.

The question is not about patriarchy.

The question is about how women weather friendships. The question is about how women weather change, especially women who said things against the cultural norm and then ended up acting according to it anyway.

OF COURSE women say dumb shit when they're 22. OF COURSE women espouse ideals that they change. I understand my 22 year old self. I'm not sure she would understand me. But I'd like to think we could have a conversation...

I am hugely sympathetic to the OP. It's a hard thing, and your friendship won't make it if you don't ask. That is not to say that your friend won't have a good answer -- there haven been many stories already posted involving good answers. But resentment builds, on both sides, and an honest conversation is the only fix. And it IS a legit question. Something changed, for her, and as a good friend you have as much a right to know as anyone.

Two relevant bits of backstory:

1. I recently got married, as a late 30something. I kept my name; I could not see changing my views about that. But I do see the importance of unity and family in a way that I wouldn't've when I was younger. (Can I just say that we are, since the wedding, dealing with 2 chronic illnesses, infertility, and serious illness for our parents? Real shiz, here.)

2. My best friend from college, and years thereafter, was crazy loud about such issues. Vehemently anti-marriage, let alone taking the husband's name. She eventually DID marry her college boyfriend because she needed health insurance. But she kept her last name, and, when they had a baby, gave it to their child. This was all fine with me. When she got pregnant, I was with her constantly. She frequently said I should be at the delivery, which I demurred; it didn't feel appropriate to me. Starting about 3 weeks before delivery, she entered a weird zone... Made it clear that I was over stepping bounds by merely arranging travel plans to see the infant at 1-2 weeks before I left the area for a year. I was floored - it was such a radical about face. Our friendship never recovered, and at this point I haven't spoken to her in years.

Because I DID NOT AND DO NOT UNDERSTAND. I guess maybe I could, if she had been willing to face the ways in which her priorities were changing, and had TALKED to me. But instead she lashed out, and got angry at me for the very existence of a set of generally hard issues about friendship and marriage and childbirth. I hope that doesn't happen to you. I wish you the very best.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:05 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Growing up, and realizing everyone around you is growing up, is all sorts of crazy, and very humbling.

This is especially true when people in your life are progressing differently or perhaps faster (in a stereotypical middle-class life course sort of way) than you are. I don't mean to be judgmental, but it's worth considering if that issue is central to how you're feeling.
posted by thisjax at 9:26 PM on March 21, 2011

I had the best bestest friend ever. I remember we talked about engagement rings one time and she swore she'd never have one. She thought it was a waste of money (she concluded she'd rather have a new guitar instead of a ring).

Time marched on and she got engaged. And she got a big ol' ring. And I felt a little bit how I think you're feeling. I was actually hurt.

I was hurt because she was someone I didn't know anymore - because at some point having a ring instead of a guitar was ideal - and I missed that moment when she changed. I realized we weren't as close anymore. I was sad.

Go ahead and be sad.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:54 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm going to ignore the name change issue and try to speak to the larger question, which is how we deal with change in friendships -- or, specifically, pivotal moments in friendships caused by external factors (marriages, kids, moves). I'm not sure I have anything very wise to say, but I've been there several times so at least I'm speaking from experience.

First, I sympathise -- it's a hard place to be. You want to be happy for your friend (and you are) but you are also genuinely uncertain about how this will affect the two of you.

I think the most important thing to remember is that feeling this ambivalence is natural. You probably want to mourn the end of the current friendship, because it is an end of a chapter at least. Even if you're ultimately embarking on something better, it's still an ending, and that's sad. And there is always a chance that you won't be embarking on something better, that this is the beginning of a slow slide away from your current closeness. I think that's why the name change is freaking you out a bit -- you worry that it means your friend is changing, or your friendship is changing, so much that you won't be able to retain the core of what you had. Recognise the validity of those feelings. They are probably not accurate, but neither I nor anyone else -- even your friend -- can tell you that for sure; only time will tell.

The thing I've done when I've felt this way is talk about it with my friend. Not in a heavy "we have to talk" sort of way, but in a "have a drink together meandering conversation" friends sometimes have. The sense I've generally gotten from such conversations is that they feel similarly -- probably with more excitement about the upcoming thing if they're the one embarking on it -- but often they too have similar fears and ambivalence. It is always really reassuring to hear that, and I think the conversation itself can help the friendship weather the change.

Other than that, what can you do? The potential for loss is, unfortunately, one of the prices we pay for close friendships. Recognising that, all you can do is cherish what you have, mourn for the passing of what you had, hug your friend, be excited for her, and hope that the next chapter is even better than the previous one was.
posted by forza at 10:00 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe try and understand the incredible soul-crushing pressure there is to change your name? It's funny so many of my friends were like you, "I'm never changing my name...It's silly" and then after thinking about it, almost all of them changed it. Because it's hard to have a different name then your future children. Because it was really important to the guy they were marrying. Because their mother/grandmother/mother-in-law put pressure on them.

Even my friend who is publishing a novel (and so therefore wanted to keep her maiden so all her fiction would be under one name) is now friggrin' considering changing her name.

I was lucky. My mother-in-law actually told me that it was a pain in the ass to change my name and told me she regretted changing her name. My husband doesn't give a wit and neither do my parents. And yet, it was still a touch decision. I don't like that my children will have a different name. I don't like constantly having to explain that I didn't change my name. And yeah, i don't like being different. And I don't like that people assume I'm some kind of non-shaving femi-nazi just because I didn't change my name. So every once in awhile even I sort of regret not changing.

Oh and marriage really doesn't have to change your friendship. Babies are kind of a different story. But marriage can be just one more buddy to hang out with if you approach it that way.

I don't think my marriage has really changed any of my friendships. It's just that now when I hang out with friends until 2 am my husband is there too.
posted by bananafish at 11:01 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Life becomes less black and white as you age. Feelings change. Learning to deal with that in yourself and other people is part of growing up.

Also, please stop judging women for taking their husband's names. There are many reasons one would want to take a different last name. I took my husband's name for two reasons - I love him and, at the time, hated my father (I've since become neutral on the subject). And isn't having your father's last name is patriarchal in itself?
posted by deborah at 11:01 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm imagining you thinking "well, this guy came along and poof! This thing both of us agreed on is suddenly nothing to her". And then you wonder how many other things you used to share will now be irrelevant, and what will be left of your friendship and your sense of togetherness.

It's really tough and people do change when they marry. I hope she will continue to make an effort to be your friend. And then if you make an effort to find a new footing with her, and accept that the quality of your friendship may change, maybe you will have a friendship that is just as strong, though different than before.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:24 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is really difficult and I feel for you. FWIW I'm married and kept my name, and if we have children I think they'll probably have their father's name. I have various married and lifelong-partnered friends and there is probably an even split between those who have changed their names and those who haven't.

For me the name thing is very much not a solved problem. There's the fact that most women considering marrying today have a surname that was probably their father's (the mother's name being "lost") and regardless of the connotations of the specific name, this may be a problem in itself. There's the fact that a marriage or partnership is a new family (whether or not there are children) and some like to recognise this by all having the same name. There's the fact that naming children may be problematic, or may be perceived as problematic, if the parents have different names.

I'm glad I had the choice about whether to change my name. But I wouldn't want to impose my choice on others. Your friend has made her choice, and it may or may not be a good one - just like all her other choices. She deserves your support anyway (in general; if you don't like her choice, that's fine, but you don't need to say so).
posted by altolinguistic at 5:24 AM on March 22, 2011

To actually answer your question: it's OK and natural to be sad, but you don't need to share your sadness with her, because it is probably temporary - and thinking about the complexity of the issues involved, and the multiple possible choices and the pros and cons of each, may help you come to terms with what she has chosen.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:26 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your question makes me think of the book Necessary Losses. As others have pointed out, you are right to mourn the sad things about the change on your own, and smile and congratulate her when you're together.

Sympathy - my best friend got married at age 20, and I was gutted at first - we'd been so close! Almost 20 years on, we're still close in ever-changing ways, and it's great - but that doesn't change that the sadness at the time was real, and deserved to be acknowledged.
posted by ldthomps at 5:47 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

[Couple comments removed. Folks, please do not drift from the actual question, this is not a general referendum on marriage.]
posted by cortex at 6:57 AM on March 22, 2011

I asked a coworker how to be a great bridesmaid, and she talked about her maid of honor and how fantastic she was. Then she told me they don’t really talk anymore, and warned me that I needed to give her space for three to six months after the wedding.

I think this is what you are really afraid of and I can assure you that it is not always the case. I went to a wedding of a couple 2 weeks ago. Before teh wedding I my boyfriend and I used to hang out at the couple's apartment and drink and play video games. The weekend after the wedding my boyfriend (I had work, elsewise I would have gone too) went over their apartment to drink and play videogames. Marriage, name changes, engagement rings vs. engagement guitars, all of it means more to the couple than it means to anyone else, so just fuggetaboudit.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:59 AM on March 22, 2011

You already realize that this is about a deeper sense of grief, so my main advice would be to let yourself feel that. The more you feel it, the less you'll need a proxy issue for it.

About the specific issue of women changing their names, here's an alternative perspective. I grew up around a lot of feminist women. My mother always told me not to even consider changing my name when I got married, and my friends' mothers were similar. When we got older, we started talking about what a bunch of patriarchal bullshit the whole institution of marriage was, how we were such liberal and confident women that we'd never want to be tied down that way, etc.

And you know what? I began to feel immense pressure to conform to those standards -- not to the standards of men, but to the standards of the women in my life. After a while I wasn't sure if I believed all those things, or if I just wanted to fit in. I ended up being the first of us to get married, and when I considered changing my name, I realized that I truly wanted to and the only thing giving me pause was the fear that my friends would think less of me. I'm divorced now (because it was a bad pairing, not because marriage sucks), and I still don't regret making that decision even though I ended up changing it back.

But that's all a tangent. I know the real issue here is painful and hard to talk about. Good luck in dealing with this transition.
posted by spinto at 12:57 PM on March 22, 2011

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