I remember the moment vividly. Husband and I sit at the bar in a restaurant downtown. It is Saturday and we indulge in an afternoon cocktail. (Oh, the good old days of weekend wandering sans wee ones.) I turn to him and say something.
"You do know that when we get married I'm not taking your name."
A bit provocative, huh? And also more than a bit presumptuous because we are not even engaged. In fact, we won't be for over a year, but we lovebirds started talking about forever only a few months into our romance, so I figure this name topic is fair game. Fine.
And so. I say this. And I wait for not-yet-Husband's response. He sips from his tall glass of beer, pins me with his blue eyes, and asks me why. Why do I want to keep my name? At once shocked and encouraged that this will be a conversation instead of a confrontation, I do my best to answer him. I want to keep my name because it's my name and always will be. I will not suddenly morph into a new person on my wedding day, so why must I change my name? I think it's a bit sexist to assume that we women should drop such a pivotal part of our identity just because we marry. My sisters aren't changing their names, so why should I? Clumsily, I go on and on and on and on and then it occurs to me to ask whether he would want me to take his name. And, if so, why.
And Husband says that he always assumed that whomever he married would take his last name. That this was what he had seen go on around him and that he liked the idea of parents having the same name as their kids. And then he says something amazing. He says that if I don't want to change my name, he would be okay with that. He would respect my decision even if he didn't fully understand it.
Good man. Marriage-worthy man.
Fast forward a fair bit of time. Husband and I are happily engaged. We are a week out from our wedding. We are in line at City Hall waiting to get our wedding license. When it is our turn, we walk up to the glass. The young lady asks us some questions. She wants to know our names. And then she asks what my married name will be. And I do something that to this day surprises me and makes me smile.
"My married name is Rowley."
I say these words, startling myself and look over at my beaming and befuddled man. "Really?" he asks. "Really," I say. He asks me why and I tell him because it feels right. Because it makes sense. Suddenly, all of those reasons, those crisp reasons carefully culled, have evaporated and I am a Rowley. And happily so.
I always told myself that if I ever did anything professionally noteworthy, I would stick to my maiden name. And when the time came when I had to decide on my publishing name, I had a very hard time. Up until the very last minute my authorial name was to be Aidan Donnelley. But at the last second, I switched things up and made what I think was the right decision. Aidan Donnelley Rowley. Given. Maiden. Married. Why? Because that's who I am. Part Donnelley girl. Part Rowley woman. My husband's wife. My girls' mother.
My own person.
And so. Because of my own experience playing the name game, I am very interested in this question. This question of whether, upon marriage, women change their names. Whether they do so willingly and without thought. Or whether they do so begrudgingly because it is expected. I am interested in how things are changing in the way this game is played. How couples are combining and hyphenating names. I am interested in how all of this affects children whose names are the same as, or different than, their parents. I am interested in what happens upon divorce when someone is left with a name they no longer feel is theirs. I am interested in how all of these name questions affect human identity because I think they do. And significantly.
Patently, I am interested in many things here. Interested enough to use the word 'interested' eight times in the last several sentences. The editor in me is tempted to go back and swap a few of these out. Replace 'interested' with 'curious' or 'intrigued,' but that would take time and I would rather get this conversation started.
And so I will.
- Did you (or your partner) change your name when you married? Do you plan to change your name when you marry?
- Why did you (or your partner) change your name or not change it? Do you have any regrets about this decision? Would you do things differently now?
- Do you think it makes sense to maintain different identities in professional and personal spheres or is this confusing?
- Do you think it affects kids when they have names that are different than one of their parents?
- If you changed your name, and ultimately divorced, would you change your name back?
- How early in your relationship did you talk to your partner about getting married?
Please check out bits and pieces of some more recent (and very positive!) reviews of Life After Yes. I encourage you to click the links to read the full reviews.
"Quinns losses became mine. Her fears became mine. Her mistakes caused me to feel shame and her success caused me to feel pride. Aidan lifts the outer layers of external perfection from her heroine and carefully reveals a creature who is initially less but ultimately more enviable than you thought she was based on her exterior." Ten Dollar Thoughts
"I will admit, rather shamefacedly, that I was anticipating more girlishness in the book than there was. And while I enjoyed the day at the beach those years ago when I read Bridget Jones' Diary, I don't traditionally pick those books off the shelf. Aidan's book was touching and feminine without trying too hard to land the chick-lit vote, which for someone who doesn't vote that way, was terrific. Her protagonist was aware of her flaws and her lapses toward cliche and that made her so much more human and easy to relate to, even as she was rich and pretty I now feel confident, nepotismessness aside, in recommending Life After Yes as excellent summer reading that even snobbish bitches like me who look at the girlbook table with disdain can guiltlessly enjoy." Did I Really Move to Greenwich?
"Deeply philosophical, sharp and witty, without a doubt Aidan Donnelley Rowley's book, Life After Yes, will be one of my top picks for the year." Rundpinne
"I tend to avoid books about 9/11. It is still hard to read about. I think it always will be. As a New Yorker, I dont need a reminder. However, I really loved how it was incorporated into Life After Yes. It was always a spectre in the background of Quinns thought and actions. It affects her relationships and emotions. Not only because she lost her father in the attacks but because it was a trauma for her as well. It was very well done." Books Like Breathing
"... Rowley is very knowledgeable in philosophy and it is apparent in this novel. I absolutely fell in love with her passages on Plato and true love and marriage. Ever since finishing this novel, I have pondered those paragraphs and shared them with friends. This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy intelligent womens literature." Luxury Reading
If you click and order my book, I will marry you. If you order several, I will also take your name :)