What’s in a name?

In the office today we had some wedding related chat prompted by an invitation from HR to get our business cards replenished. They order 1000 business cards per person at a time. I swear no one ever gets through that many before they either leave, change job titles, or get married.

Needless to say, I got nowhere near distributing my 1000 before my job title changed over a year ago. I didn’t bother to order more and I’m still no closer to getting rid of the huge pile of cards cluttering up my drawer. And now my name’s about to change. At least, I think it’s about to change.

The wedding’s just over 8 weeks away now and we’re en route to having a very happy ceremony where we will become… What? This is the tricky part.

I believe I should be saying we’ll become Mr and Mrs Boakye. Since way back when women became their husband’s property they would change their surname to their husband’s surname. This is what we humans like to call ‘tradition’.

Apparently, according to weddingguideuk.com, this is the “simplest option”, but I’m not quite sure how that can be the case. It’s also the “preferred option of today’s brides”, or so we’re told. And apparently “life is made considerably easier and less confusing  to others when making joint financial, legal and social arrangements”. OK. So I guess that makes sense if you’re living in the 1950s where cohabitation was an anomaly. But Jeffrey and I already have our mortgage, joint account, credit cards, utilities, et al in our separate names. This leads me to believe that for us what would actually be simplest is for me to keep Hostick. Who cares what’s easiest for the financial and legal institutions we deal with? They make my life hard enough and I wouldn’t mind something that’s easiest for me for a change thanks.

Now I understand why any wife-to-be would like to take her husband-to-be’s surname. But I admit I am a little surprised that it’s the majority. I know a fair few people who have got/are getting married this year or next – 8 or so – and of those, that I know of, only one has decided not to take her husband’s surname. The rest have given up their surname to take on their husband’s. The reason many of them give? “It’s tradition” or “[insert fiance’s name here] wants me to”. And when it’s the latter it feels slightly more like it’s the man’s call – with the woman succumbing to the ingrained tradition of paternalism, discrimination and the female as property.

I haven’t got a problem with people making this choice. But I just don’t think it’s for me. I can see how it might be symbolic, and how it can immediately create a sense of family. But I’ve been Sophie Hostick for 27 years. I’m not about to become Jeffrey’s property. We don’t need a name to make Jeffrey and me feel like a family. I’m my own person. I have an identity. It’s suited me for 27 years and it’ll suit me for the rest of my life ta.

I don’t need tradition to tell me to become Sophie Boakye, or lose my identity completely and be formally addressed as Mrs Jeffrey Boakye of Mr and Mrs Jeffrey Boakye. (Apparently, again according to weddingguideuk.com, I could find myself commonly addressed Mrs Sophie Boakye which, we are told, is incorrect and is in fact how a divorced woman would address herself. Heaven forbid I should make that error).

But then, to me Mr Boakye and Mrs Hostick sounds weird. I guess this is where I’d become Ms Hostick. But the title Ms just doesn’t appeal either.

So I floated the idea of Jeffrey taking my surname – if it’s symbolic and creates a greater sense of family than having separate surnames, surely that could be an option? Jeffrey could become Mr Jeffrey Hostick. But, as it goes, while a woman has two automatic legal options (continue to use her maiden name or change her surname to her husband’s) a man has no legal right to change his name and has to go over more hurdles to change his name than a woman might. But this aside, it seems I have found Mr Boakye, not Mr Right. Jeffrey told me in no uncertain terms that he will not be changing his name to Hostick.

So what’s the option? Well, I think there are a few:

  • combine our names – Hostick meets Boakye. Our marvelous choice of surnames include – Bostick (yeah yeah. I know. Like the glue. I never heard that in school), Hoakye, Tickbo, Hosbo. But surely creating a completely new name hugely eradicates a sense of self. If I don’t want to lose my identity I can’t expect Jeffrey does either, and Tickbo just means nothing to us or to anyone else.
  • use my surname as a middle name – Sophie Hostick Boakye – meaning I can use my full name or the common married name at my leisure. Also leaving others to just drop Hostick as they please.
  • hyphenate/double barrel – stick Jeffrey’s name at the end of mine with a hyphen in the middle, forcing Hostick to remain a part of my name.
My choice? I’ve decided on the latter. I would like to take Jeffrey’s name. I really want to marry him and be a unit. I like the symbolism. But I want to keep my identity and thus hyphenating our names feels right. But Jeffrey will be keeping Boakye. So we’ll be Mr Jeffrey Boakye and Mrs Sophie Hostick-Boakye. And it works reasonably well I think. Despite the fact that instead of just having one surname to spell I’ll now have two.


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7 responses to “What’s in a name?

  1. I actually really love the sound of Hostick-Boakye..it has class and I think you’re making the right choice. Your article has made me re-think what I would do in this situation (hopefully not TOO far down the line!), I’ve always been a tradionalist in the fact that I always intended to take my husband’s surname…but now I realise that I’d give it a good deal more thought when the time actually comes.

  2. Mr Tickbo is almost too tempting to resist.

  3. Hey- I randomly found your blog- what’s funny is that I have had the same issue with deciding what to do about my last name. I had to show my fiance your post, since he didn’t believe that anyone truly hyphenated their last name anymore. Thanks for helping me back up my argument 🙂

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