I’ve always been a very independently minded person, not likely to go along with a crowd (unless it was the crowd heading to the pub. I was ALWAYS in that crowd). My former boyfriend, now husband, has been known to describe me as being as stubborn as a mule. I prefer independently minded personally.
I never really liked the idea of being married at all. I thought it was an archaic, woman squashing tradition, forced upon people to make them monogamous out of guilt, or to treat woman as if they were property – passing them from one man to another. One man’s name to another.
Obviously I’ve changed my mind from that (see! Not a mule!) Marriage is what you make it. You can agree to be a chattel, should that float your boat, or you can choose to join in celebration of a meeting of equals agreeing to be true to each other, because you believe you can go the distance. And you know, not get bored and go knockin’ with the milkman.
When we had the boy, I didn’t really think too much about his surname. I hadn’t slept in six weeks, I certainly wasn’t at my feminist best. I wasn’t thinking about the branch of my family name dying out with the current generation. I just went along with putting his Dad’s surname on the birth certificate with barely a nod to my part in proceedings.
So this put me in an odd position. Now I had a different name to my family – my own flesh and blood. I got questioned at Doctors surgeries and when he started school. People were calling me Mrs C even though I was very much still Miss L. Annoying!
Fast forward anyway to the actual wedding. White dress, father insisting on walking me down the aisle. I wrote our ceremony, so at least I could get rid of any of that vowing to obey rubbish. But the rest of it was pretty traditional, even right down to a silver sixpence in my shoe.
Now the wedding is done, comes the question – do I give up my name? The name I’ve lived with and been known by for 35 years? I’ve grown rather attached to it. I still hate the idea that women don’t have their own names – they have the name of their fathers, or their mother’s fathers. Are we not worthy of our own name? Our own mark on the world? But by striking out, do we lose our connection with our family? I want my son to share a name with his mother. I’m as much a part of him as his father.
It’s not an easy choice to make. Lots of women keep their maiden name (another annoyance – who is a bloody maiden these days?!) for work, and have their husband’s for their family life. Which kind of works I guess, but doesn’t that make you two different people? One a partner, one alone? I do want my status as someone who has chosen to marry to be obvious. I wear my ring, as does my husband. But my name?
I’ll have both.
I worried almost as much as being seen as a pretentious double barrelled nincompoop as I did about being a rubbish feminist, but then I decided sod it. I’m Sarah Lawton still, but having married, and made that all important commitment I’ve agreed to become someone else too – so here’s to Sarah Lawton Coombs. Feminist, mother and wife. And mule.
(The lovely wedding photos in this piece are copyright of Jason Mark Harris.)