So, I had lunch with a couple of ladies last week and in the middle of the conversation, one of them mentioned that she hadn't officially changed her last name to that of her husband. This was followed by a "Neither have I" by Lady 2. If you read my post on botched travel plans to Dubai, you'll know I haven't come around to officially changing mine. What was going on here. We had all been married for an average of 2.5 years, so why did we still have our maiden names? Is this a new trend among newly married Nigerian women?
I recall a post on Facebook where someone mentioned “Don't be a social media Mrs....Contact me to change your last name officially". This cracked me up so bad. Maybe because I was guilty. I see many people who get married on Saturday and by Sunday have changed their names on Facebook to their husband's last name - surely you couldn't have changed your passport in one day. Social Media Mrs.
I'm definitely a Social Media Mrs. I've changed my names on some social media accounts and not on some. I still use my old emails and while my identity cards have my maiden name, my less serious cards like bonus point cards and online store accounts have Kachi T. To be honest, I think for me it's sort of the administrative nightmare. Official Passport, Emails, Bank Cards, Drivers License, Social Media, Office documentation. Phew. More importantly, do I have to come up with a new signature? Because my last name is such an obvious part of my old signature - which I basically stole from my mum because I couldn't think up a signature.
I recall when a former office colleague in Nigeria told me how the HR department sent her an email a few days after her wedding asking why she hadn't changed her email signature, and then proceeded to create a new email address for her using her husband's last name! God knows I was livid. Like, such interference. On two other occasions, I was in talks with female partners of very successful law firms in Nigeria and they both alluded to the fact that I had to change my name quickly - as I was African. Not meaning to be all Chimamanda ish but I seem to agree that the whole name change is a western thing.
But, don't worry peeps (and my in-laws), I will. Don't want my kids wondering why we have different surnames.
A couple of months ago, someone also pointed out something interesting to me. You see, she's married to Mr B HisLastName, and they recently purchased a piece of land. The title documents arrived and had ‘Mr and Mrs HisLastName'. She refuted this and said it had to be changed because anybody could be Mrs HisLastName. What if he had a wife before or gets married again. We don't hope for these, but hey facts of life so she insisted that it be Mr B and Mrs HerFirstName HisLastName. From a law perspective, I remember a case from Family Law where the courts held that you couldn't ban a person from using a name! So, I could decide to change my name to Kachi Dangote* tomorrow.
I'm all for changing your last name. I like the unity it gives to the new family, and there are legal and logistic reasons why you should have the same last name as your kids. Also if you're in a marriage with someone who sees you as an equal, ain't no biggie really.
But I'll also be the first to admit that there are no hard and fast rules. More women are opting to keep their fathers' names and others are choosing to hyphenate with their own last name or with their husband's first name. Interestingly, I know a few people who have chosen new surnames entirely. The guys didn't have such a great relationship with their dads and wanted to break away.
Some of us are somewhere in the middle. Social Media Mrs!
I haven't heard of any Nigerian man take his wife's last name. But there was this joke on social media which asked Nigerian men if they will take their wife's last name, if the said wife was Dangote's daughter and he offered millions of dollars for that. The responses were hilarious and many said they wouldn't think about it twice! In other words, "Yes Sir... a boy has no name!"
Here's 10 reasons why women want to keep their own last name:
1. Husband's last name just doesn't sound nice or is too long and hard to pronounce.
2. Laziness: I just cannot deal with the administrative paper work.
3. I would have hyphenated with his, but my surname is already hyphenated!
4. It's sexist - Why won't he change his?
5. My Career, My brand, My Family History.
6. We are all girls in my family, so the name ends with us and I'll like to keep it.
7. I'm a whole person without my husband. The name represents who I am.
8. I've been unable to get used to this new surname. It doesn't feel like me.
9. My husband didn't want me to.
10. What if we go our separate ways - I'll have to change it back again?
What do you girls think? Much ado about nothing or is there a real issue here. Where do you fall? Social Media Mrs? What's on your official passport? Guys, must your wife change her name?
*Dangote - A Nigerian business man and the richest man in Africa (Forbes, 2015)