My best friend and college roommate was the one we all assumed would marry first—not because she was desperate, mind you, it’s just that she was that good of a catch. But instead of getting her Mrs. degree, girlfriend became a gallerina. Most of her Friday nights were spent setting up wine and cheese tables at art openings, not getting her freak on at cheesy nightclubs. She toured Europe and made the obligatory art historian's pilgrimage to The Louvre. She obtained her Master's in Arts Administration, eventually landing a coveted curator position at a prestigious institution. All that hard work left very little time for play, much less meeting The One. But just when she thought she'd be kissing frogs forever, Ms. Right met her match. And apparently, he's the Magnolia Bakery-worthy icing on her cake; after a magical, eight-month courtship, the happy couple plans to wed next month. The professionally accomplished, thirty something bride has no intentions of keeping her name. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
A handful of feministas might assume that my dear friend thinks her new place is in the kitchen. But even with the granite counter tops and a shiny Sub-Zero, I'm pretty sure she doesn't plan on getting knocked up, kicking her mules off and slaving over Le Creuset just yet. In fact, I'm fairly certain that given her track record, the future wife will be just as goal-oriented as a "Mrs." as she was before jumping the broom. I say this mostly because even among my most ambitious married friends (meaning all of them), I have yet to see a clear-cut trend indicating how a married woman's last name influences her success. More than anything, the prenuptial name game seems like a matter of personal discretion and taste over anything else. For some, the choice to become Mrs. Hislastname is a no-brainer, prompted by a desire to establish a public cohesiveness with their partner and the family they hope to have. Others opt to leave well enough alone. And then there's always the Toyota Prius version of a bride's married name: the practical, politically correct, hyphen.
Before I got engaged, my husband told me that he didn't care if I kept my last name or changed it to his. He even told me that my last name sounded much better with my first name than his did. Once he proposed, however, all indifference flew out the window: "Take my name with a hyphen, baby...please??" All of the sudden it mattered to him that kids we planned to have would share a name that belonged to both of us. I loved this man; there was no point in breaking his heart over something so trivial (at least not to me). So I decided to use a hyphen not only because it would make him happiest, but also because it suited my needs at the time. For one, I was at the beginning of my publishing career: my maiden name had already made its way onto the masthead of a national magazine for an issue or two. I was proud of the accomplishment, and wanted that my title to reflect both my past and my present. Besides, there were so many high-powered, intelligent and successful African American women I'd admired who used hyphens: politician Carol Moseley-Braun, my Spelman College professor/author Dr. Gloria Wade-Gayles and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, just to name a few. I knew I'd be in good company.
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On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.