When my wife and I got married at a judge’s house in Utah eight years ago, she just took on my last name without much fuss. And to be honest, it really wasn’t anything we ever discussed too much.
She was a Butler, I was a Bielanko.
We tied the knot and just like that there was one less Butler and one more Bielanko.
Nowadays though, probably more than any other time in the history of marriage, there are a lot of people who keep their own last names when they get married. You see it with couples who wish to preserve their already established business identity and with people who simply want to maintain their family name regardless of what tradition might dictate.
So here lately I’m starting to think that perhaps I didn’t actually handle the whole thing right.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled that she wanted my name. I was proud to know that we would form a little army under one proverbial flag instead of two. But still, I think maybe it would have been kind of graceful (something I fear that I am not…at all) or chivalrous (me=not) to have at least approached the subject with Monica and picked her pretty brain just a bit to see if there was any inkling of hesitation in there regarding the whole last name game.
Part of the reason why I can understand why so many people either keep their own last name after the vows or even adopt that sort of hyphenated double whammy surname, is that each and every family is a massive history book unto itself. And every single family name is the most glowing neon connection to all the Smiths or Jones or Woleshefsky’s that have ever come before you.
And, let’s face it, a lot of our time on Earth here is spent foraging and digging for connections to other people, to places, to simple moments in time that help define us and what we stand for.
Monica’s surname Butler is actually directly connected to some incredibly interesting past. She has great great great uncles and aunts and grandfathers (I dunno how many greats actually) who were immigrants who came to America on slow ships from Europe and who set out across the harrowing landscape to help settle the American West. They were pioneers pure and simple. Mormon ones who suffered extreme hardships and losses seeking a better life for their loved ones.
To me, that is pretty damn impressive and heavy stuff.
And I don’t even know all that much about my surname, although I’m certain that somewhere back there along the lineage train tracks there must’ve been some cool stuff that happened.
So sitting here writing this today, I ask myself would I be sad or resentful or bothered if Monica, or even if our Violet or Henry, were all called Butler instead of Bielanko? The answer is a hard one to come by, I suppose, especially since I don’t actually have to truly face that reality. But, knowing what I know about my wife and her family and the bits and pieces of a hard-fought existence and history that they each call their own, I’d have to say that I would have probably totally understood had she wanted to keep her last name in any way, shape or form.
Of course, I never even bothered to ask, and there’s yet another lesson for me buried down in all that somewhere.
Get a mom’s perspective on the last name situation over at Babble Kids!
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