On names, marriage, and books

My dad often sends mail to this house addressed to “George and Elisabeth Murray“. Actually, “Elizabeth”, because, you know: my dad. On the other hand, I often answer without hesitation to “Mr. de Mariaffi” when I’m her +1 at an event or taking a telemarketing call, because, let’s face it, hers a classier name. Thinking of myself as Mr. de Mariaffi makes me feel like I’m in Casablanca trying to find a particular arcane book in a forgotten library. That said, everyone in this house has their own name, which is as it should be.

While I am now surprised at the number of people in my generation (X) who either chose (or in the case of men, asked their fiancées) to change their names on getting married, at the time, it seemed not wholly unreasonable, if a little backward thinking.

A woman keeping her birth name was very rare in my parent’s generation. But it never even crossed mind my mind that my future wife would change their name. Especially not from something as glorious as “de Mariaffi”.

But I imagine things are even more complicated when you’re a writer. I know some authors who have changed their name on paper, but still publish under their “maiden” name. And I know others who have changed their name on the fly. And I know some who changed their names, published books under the new name, then got divorced. Ouch.

I don’t know, man. I can barely find my deodorant on the shelf if they rebrand the package. The chances of me finding a favourite author in the 1/2 of the floor space dedicated to books in a Chapters once they’ve changed their name? Low.

But I digress; read this article on the whole thing and tell me what you think.

The expectation that a woman should take her husband’s name—and the startling fact that despite a recent uptick in “maiden” names, the majority of women still take their husband’s name—is a continual negotiation of women’s identity, and of their visibility in public life. Every time I see that other woman’s name in reference to myself I am reminded of all the women whose names are missing or have been erased from history—of what it does to one’s sense of identity when you cannot attach your own name to what you write or create. Women have had to conceal and contort their identities in order to be visible in public since the advent of printed text.

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