Well, as it turns out quite a lot given my recent experiences!
I’ve been married now for 5 years, with my now husband for 12 and I (so far) have yet to take his name.
People frequently ask me why not and I can’t deny I find this quite strange and intrusive. I would have thought that given the modern era of women’s rights, same-sex marriages and all manner of individual relationship arrangements the idea that I would want to keep the name I’ve had for the best part of 30 years wouldn’t seem so bizarre, but it appears it’s a bigger deal to some than I originally thought.
I would love to say I have some dramatic moral reasons for keeping my name but I really don’t…as a young girl dreaming of her wedding day I always assumed I would want to take my future husband’s name but as time went on I obviously spent more time developing an identity with that name and I’m rather fond of it now! When people quiz me (which is often) I don’t have one definitive answer for them. Some days I say it’s because my passport was in my old name and I couldn’t be bothered to change it, some days I can’t perfect the signature (which given some annoying moments in the past when HSBC refused to acknowledge that I was actually me when I collected a new bank card from them, because my signature did not match the one they had for me on file from when I was 13 I’m now rather wary to risk a similar situation!) and from time to time I just feel that my long-suffering Dad who has lots of daughters and no sons deserves to have his family name continued for as long as it can. I’ve always thought if I ever published a book I would want it to be under my maiden name, and funnily enough the more academics I meet the more I realise this isn’t quite such a strange concept among this circle of people!
I have no doubt that one day I will want to change my name; I may wake up and just decide it’s the right time. Certainly constantly having to justify my reasons and explain that it has nothing to do with a lack of commitment to my husband (which by the way my husband fully supports), or my marriage is rather tiresome to say the least. It has now almost become a battle of wills though, I almost don’t want to change my name because of the reaction I get from people who can’t get their heads around it. Even today my local post office refused my husband when he tried to collect a package on my behalf, he provided documentation showing we live together yet even he was met with the disbelief of a stranger that we were married and yet I hadn’t changed my name. I felt bad for him, why should he have to justify this to some ignorant stranger?
I don’t care whether people think it’s strange for me to have a different name to my husband; it has nothing to do with the nature of our relationship. I suppose I ultimately feel that this is a matter of ignorance in others and quite frankly I’ll keep the name I have on my birth certificate as long as I like thank you very much 😉
When you’re a kid anyone over the age of 18 seems old, when you’re 18 anyone over the age of 30 seems old and when you are approaching 30, like I am later in the year, you start to ponder on what it means to be old.
Having watched sisters, friends and my husband go through it I never thought I would freak out at the prospect of turning 30, after all it is just a number, I still feel fun and silly, am still learning a lot about the world around me and still make the odd bad decision. There does however seem to be a pressure to “grow up” which many of my friends have talked about. It makes me wonder therefore why so many people (myself included) suddenly see this transition from twenty-something (thanks F.R.I.E.N.D.S for coining that phrase!) to thirty-something as a wake up call in their life…to start putting down roots and creating stability all around them, to live for the longer term and not just for today and to be aware of the consequences of their actions on others; (anyone else notice that you check what time the council considers it acceptable to hoover the house on a Sunday or turn your music down after 9pm?).
You can search the internet very easily and find any number of random suggestions but it strikes me that the basics which come up time and time again as “should have’s” and “should do’s” before 30 are;
- get married (or be in a monogamous long-term relationship who you live with)
- decide if you want a family and if so start planning for one
- get a pension plan
- clear any debts
- buy a house
- pick a career path and aim for a promotion within a year
- have learned to drive
- be self-sufficient (can cook, pay bills etc)
- put down roots in one location (city, town, village etc)
I haven’t achieved all of these but I do consider myself in a period of transition at the moment whilst I work out who I want to be and what I want my life to be going forward. I’m definitely feeling the pressure to think about how I need to clear my debts (fast) so I can improve my house, pay off my mortgage and student loan, plan for kids (if I can have them) and also settle in a career path I like and want to remain in for the forseeable (this could be a long way off!).
Over the past few years various pockets of friends have bought houses, gotten married and had children and I couldn’t be happier for them but it has meant that the carefree time we were able to spend together in our younger years has had to fit into a new routine planned around work patterns, weekends set aside for family and other friends and babysitting opportunities. Perhaps the real transition which occurs around your 30th is the realisation that anything permanent in your life requires investment; houses, careers, friendships, relationships all necessitate regular input from all parties involved to keep them current, relevant and prevent them stagnating.
As I focus on my next chapter, and make plans for it to be the best years of my life, lacking in the drama and anxiety of my twenties and the naivety of my teens I can’t help but wonder why the carefree nature of youth seems to get overtaken by the demands and responsibilities of being an adult, can they not co-exist? No matter how hard we try it is inevitable that as we get older we will start questioning of lot of the aspects of our lives, what we should be doing with them and who should be sharing the journey with us…?