Good Riddance Mrs. (2.11.18)
When I was getting married back in 1993, I did not want to take my husband’s last name. I had been Debra Louise Young for 29 years. I did not want to lose my identity. But I was raised in a cultural system through my family, my educational systems, my church, my friends, and my associates that when a couple got married, the wife assumed the man’s name. I wanted to kick and scream and fight the system, but I had no role model, no other way, no guidance as to how to do this, therefore I acquiesced, reluctantly, and resigned myself to the cultural norms that I grew up with.
Even though I was 29 years old, I had not been able to define myself outside of my family system and my cultural norms. My family system and cultural norms were not wrong, they just were not right for me. I have a strong independent streak in me, I have a strong sense of self, and there is a part of me that wants to break free from traditions when everyone else is following the pack. I wish I had listened to that part of myself more clearly, but I did the best that I could given the circumstances.
I have always had a strong feeling about people and their names. I feel like people need to have their own identity, their own name. Three out of 4 guys that I dated, one of whom I married, were all named after their fathers. The 4th guy, who was my first boyfriend when I was 15, came from an conservative Richmond family, therefore he was probably tied in to the “Jr.” system somehow, I just don’t remember the details of his name.
Names are great and they are powerful. Names have energy. Names have legacies – good and bad. People either have to live up to a legacy or overcome a legacy. It’s a burden. Who wants to enter this lifetime branded at birth with a name and energy that is not your own? We are connected by family, but we are also individuals.
I am forever grateful that my parents named me as they did. I was named after the movie star Debbie Reynolds. I don’t know what prompted the unique spelling of my first name Debra or how I got my middle name Louise, however I was given a huge gift and invitation at birth to be my unique self. My older brother Doug was given parts of both of our grandfather’s names which to me have potentially weighted him down some ways in his life.
As a mother raising three daughters, I am keenly aware of needing to equip my daughters with how to take care of themselves emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually, and financially. I want my daughters to have a clear understanding of being full and complete as one human being. People naively say that someone else “completes them” in a marriage. That may be true for some folks, but the reality is many people lose themselves in relationships and marriages. We gain some things in relationships and we lose some things in relationships. That’s the nature and risk of engaging ourselves in relationships with other people.
But for a woman to give her identity away to be married to a man rubs me the wrong way on every level of my being. This patriarchal system totally benefits the man. The woman gets absorbed into the man’s name, his identity, his family system, etc. Essentially, marriage is created to benefit the man legally, not the woman.
Women get shafted on so many levels in male-female relationships. It’s ludicrous. In the past 15 years, I have worked with women who got pregnant in high school (unplanned pregnancies), kept the babies, raised the babies, and are no longer in relationships with the father of that child; women who’s husbands have cheated on them; and, women who got screwed in divorces, because their husbands had the upper hand – more money, better attorneys, and laws created to support men.
So, I am totally rethinking this whole marriage thing. Who does a marriage benefit in 2018? The man. Who did marriage benefit in 1200 A.D.? The man. Marriage for women has not evolved to create true equal partnerships which is what I have been seeking my entire life since I got married. And the irony is gay people are seeking to be legally married today. Obviously, I do not know the pros and cons of marriage benefits, but from where I’m sitting today, marriage is not worth it.
I’ve been reflecting on the two media giants Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. Both women have kept their original names, as far as I know. They didn’t marry into a culture that took their original identity away. That’s empowering. Oprah has never married, yet she has maintained a steady relationship with a man for years. It works for them. Ellen got married, however she is gay, therefore I am not certain how marriage laws affect her, however she kept her original name. Both of these women have overcome life’s obstacles, kept their original names, and thrived in spite of our cultural norms.
Marriage is supposed to be about love, but in our world, marriage is really about property and material wealth. You can get married in a heartbeat, but a divorce takes time and energy to dissolve depending on what state you live in, the laws (again created to benefit the man), and how much property, material wealth, and things that you have. It’s absurd. Realistically, it’s the same thing with death. It takes 2 seconds to create a life and potentially years to clean up a death on this planet depending on how many things are attached to an estate. Wow. Estate. That’s a word for rich people – again, attachments to things and material wealth. Hmm…food for thought.
Imagine if I had been exposed to female role models throughout my life or education that accomplished great things and made their own way in life. Hmph. I may have made significantly more progress to date. The good news is, I’m “educating” my daughters about options and encouraging them to do what’s right and best for them. If they want to marry a man. Fine. If they want to take on their husband’s names. Fine. The point is they get to choose who they want to be and define how they want to present themselves to others. And that’s empowering.