78

As a female in the UK, I'm expected to drop my last name and take my (male) partners' name when we get married - there's no law against me keeping my last name, though it's generally frowned upon.

Ever since I asked my Mum from a young age "Why does the girl have to take the guys last name?" and she informed me that we don't, and in fact her Aunt kept her name when she married, I never wanted to drop my last name.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm expecting my partner to take my last name and drop theirs (though in this case, when it comes to it, he's willing to), I've always been willing to compromise and double barrel or we just keep our own names.

I find that it's generally males who have a problem with me wanting to keep my last name, females sometimes start of a little confused but soon accept my decision, whereas guys generally don't. As a result, I get asked "Why?". I have my reasons (which my partner knows and understands), though I don't see why they matter since guys never have to explain themselves. I was recently asked to explain myself, and I did, and he then belittled my reasons after saying he wouldn't judge me, which made me regret explaining my position.

Goal

When I get asked

Why won't you drop your last name?

or questions of a similar nature, by someone I'm not too friendly with or don't trust to not judge/belittle my reasons, I'd like to explain how it's my decision without having to explain myself, the ways guys aren't expected to explain theirselves.

Edit

  • For clarification, I do not have children, nor am I planning to anytime soon.
  • I'm aware that not all males feel as if the women should take the last name.
  • It's not always people who I don't know or aren't that friendly with who think that I should take the guys name, for example a (female) family friend heavily criticised my decision to keep my last name when it was brought up in conversation by my Mum, and even proceeded to say "I don't see the point in marriage if you don't take the guys last name". In this case my Mum defended my position and tried quickly to shut the conversation down before it became a heated debate.
  • I don't actively bring up this fact, it generally arises organically in conversation, and can be brought up by friends and family members who are aware (see my above point).
  • 5
    Comments are not for extended discussion, answering, expressing opinions. Such comments will be deleted without notice. Please use this feature only to request clarification or suggest improvements. And once these comments have served their purpose, they will also be removed. – A J May 11 '18 at 9:14
  • 5
    Y'all, we aren't here to argue whether the OP's choice is valid or not. We're here to answer this question. If you have need for clarity as it relates to the question, go for it. It doesn't matter what the OP's reasons are because they specifically don't want to explain the reasons.. – Catija May 14 '18 at 1:55
  • @AndreaLazzarotto I only mentioned children in my question after I was receiving answers which referred to children themselves, even though I this wasn't of a concern. So I added it to my question in an attempt to show that children are not of a concern and to try and discourage any answers referring to this, perhaps I have achieved the opposite of what I intended? – Violet Flare May 14 '18 at 10:20
  • 1
    @AndreaLazzarotto sorry, I believe I miss-understood your original comment. I don't need answers tailored towards responses asking "but what about the children", as it's currently a non-issue since we don't have children nor are we planning to currently (maybe in the future). Hence I mentioned I don't have kids, since we don't need to worry about the child's' last name until there is a child to be concerned about, as some answers have pointed out. Does mentioning this in my question confuse the issue? – Violet Flare May 14 '18 at 10:34
  • 2
    What exactly do you mean by "guys never have to explain themselves"? Explain what exactly? (And for the record, I agree with Edmund Reed, it's not frowned upon, it's just uncommon/unusual.) – Pharap May 15 '18 at 10:04

20 Answers 20

91

My solution (if I am in a bad mood) was to simply ask back

Why should I?

the only answer "because it is tradition", to which I respond "SO?"

I have been married 25 years now, it is amazing how well this works, as long as you have the attitude to go with it.

We have given the kids my surname as a middle name like I thought they did in Spain but turns out i misunderstood.

but the best answer is

We will think about naming kids when I am pregnant, not even thinking about it yet.

Which really doesn't have any suitable comeback.

Nicked From comments: I think this works even if you're not in a bad mood. All you have to do is smile, shrug, and ask, "Why should I?" As long as your tone is light and not confrontational, and you can simply follow up to whatever they say next with,

"Yeah, that's just not a good enough reason for me."

It is only when I am in a bad mood because I LOVE TALKING ABOUT MYSELF normally (yes I know this is a major flaw but I am being honest here)

Edit, oops i was wrong on spain.

  • 1
    I think giving a last name as a middle name is a nice idea, which I hadn't thought about before. Though, with our last names, I doubt they would work. – Violet Flare May 10 '18 at 13:08
  • 3
    I think this works even if you're not in a bad mood. All you have to do is smile, shrug, and ask, "Why should I?" As long as your tone is light and not confrontational, and you can simply follow up to whatever they say next with, "Yeah, that's just not a good enough reason for me." – sudowoodo May 10 '18 at 13:12
  • @VioletFlare it doesn't have to "work" just make sure the initials don't make a rude word and you are off. – WendyG May 10 '18 at 13:27
  • My last name is similar to a profession or sport, whereas my partners sounds like a country, so I wouldn't feel it fair on a child to have that as a middle name, though I do like the concept. Your first statement of "Why should I?" is a good response as @sudowoodo has said. – Violet Flare May 10 '18 at 13:31
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – WendyG May 14 '18 at 12:44
56

I see there are several answers already, but I feel mine takes a slightly different approach to answering, which is to not explain why at all. If you want to do something and you are free to do it and you plan to do it, that's really all of the story anyone needs.

Why are you planning on keeping your name when you marry/shaving your head?

Because I want to.

You aren't really saying anything new here. Obviously you are doing it because you want to. But they don't need any more than that.

But it's tradition/common/expected etc

That's true, but I don't want to.

Really, anyone who understands that you want something that is free, legal, and of no consequence to them and still argues that you shouldn't have it is not motivated by your best interests and they do not require more of your time or energy.

Why is this a good answer? Because you don't really need to explain why or convince people that it's ok for you to want that. They can respect your wishes or not, but it's their problem, not yours.

  • 9
    Couldn't agree more. This is the answer I was about to post had it not already been posted. No explanation is needed or required or owed to anyone (well, except for the partner, and that has been taken care of, and not what this question is about). – Solomon Rutzky May 10 '18 at 17:12
  • 8
    Works also also when I (male) am asked why I dropped my name. Because I wanted it. Simple fact and no space for arguing. – Daniel Jour May 11 '18 at 6:51
  • 1
    I like this answer but it does seem a bit stand-offish and evasive to repeat yourself "what I want" twice. If they are still curious, I would give a similar reason, which is effectively the same answer but may satisfy their curiosity: "It just wasn't important for us to have the same last name." – Patrick Parker May 11 '18 at 17:50
  • 4
    @PatrickParker It is reinforcing that the decision is completely based on the fact that it is "what I want" and is not in any way informed by other factors. The repetition is quite deliberate. The goal of my answer is not to satisfy the random asker's curiosity but to satisfy the OP's request "I'd like to explain how it's my decision without having to explain myself." – Forklift May 11 '18 at 17:54
  • 4
    There's a difference between genuine curiosity and a demand for a justification, which is what OP seems largely to face. This answer is perfect for the latter case. – G. Ann - SonarSource Team May 11 '18 at 19:06
39

If you get asked the question why, then you have to give some kind of answer, otherwise you're just ignoring them, which isn't your goal. Your answer needs to be succinct, truthful, and not leave the door open for any further questioning.

Most people do not like their own values challenged, so if your answer manages to give them something new to think about whilst avoiding taking "high ground" there is the greatest chance they will just back down. In a way, you yourself are looking for a way to avoid being challenged, although I don't mean that negatively in your case - you have decided to go against the norm, whereas the reason many don't like to be challenged is because alternate decisions show them up to be crowd follower. People often challenge the decisions of others because they are insecure about the decision they made themselves.

Some possible answers:

I don't have any good reason to change it.

Most people will not be able to give you a good reason, especially if they haven't thought about it. The exception to this might be "what about your children's names" but I'll get to that in a moment.

I'm already known professionally by my own name.

Only use this if it is true, of course. But again this could be a silencer if your questioner does not have a particularly professional career themselves. They won't want to talk about anything that compares your "success" to their own.

My husband and I don't think I need to.

This shows unity between your husband and yourself. Many insecure people are lacking that unity themselves so again this could be the question stopper you are looking for. Don't say "my husband and I agree.." because that can be misinterpreted as "I made my husband agree...".

It seems that the most popular argument used by women in favour of women changing their name is that you should have the same name as your children, for the sake of your children. You haven't stated whether or not you have any, or if you intend to, but that doesn't mean you won't hear this argument.

A possible answer to this may be:

I wonder how unmarried parents deal with that?

This both gives them something to think about and deflects the discussion away from you.

  • 1
    For what it's worth I don't have children currently, though I still think your answer is valid as it's still a concern that people could raise. Might it be worth adding my own reasons why I don't want to drop my name? Even though I'd like to avoid using them as answers if possible, just to give more context? – Violet Flare May 10 '18 at 9:26
  • 2
    @VioletFlare If you add your reasons to your question I may tweak my answer, although I included as much reasoning as I did so that you could theoretically come up with your own phrase! – Astralbee May 10 '18 at 9:53
  • 3
    From the OP's tone I took away that they'd prefer this not to be a drawn-out topic of discussion, and they would prefer a quick resolution when it comes up. Your answer seems to presume that the OP wants to facilitate a discussion about the reasons. – Bryan Krause May 10 '18 at 16:20
  • 1
    I really like this answer the best. Unlike the other posts, the main topic is NOT about naming kids in the future which OP only brought up in an edit later on after probably seeing so much about naming kids. This is really the main answer that doesn't snap back at the question and creating a hostile debate while also being clear and not leaving much room for a response. – ggiaquin16 May 10 '18 at 20:53
  • 1
    Bringing up unmarried parents seems like it would fuel the fire, or possibly just use them as scapegoats. (In the U.S., there's a huge stigma about them, and lot of political smears. Anyone in the U.S. who is giving grief to a woman that she should change her last name is probably going to condemn people who have children out of wedlock.) – cactus_pardner May 10 '18 at 21:48
18

...the ways guys aren't expected to explain theirselves.

So make them do it. You said it's mostly men giving you a hard time about this, so when they ask, ask them:

  • if they are married, why they didn't change their last name to their spouse's.
  • if they're not married, if they're planning to change their last name when they get married.

By doing this, you eliminate all possible arguments they can have for doing it except blatant sexism (common last name, convenience for children, whatever) and make them experience the awkwardness and unfairness of being asked what they're asking. If they don't immediately get the point and try to push it with sexist reasons, now you're in a position to immediately call them on it and shut that down. By "shut it down", I mean something like:

Excuse me. That's blatantly sexist and I don't want to have this conversation with you.

This is a special case of the general problem of responding to inappropriate questions that try to establish a power dynamic of forcing you to explain something the asker has no business asking you to explain, and "turn the question around on them" is a general-purpose solution pattern.

  • 2
    Hello! Could you perhaps back up some of the claims in your answer with references (either external sources or personal experience? There was some concern in the comments I just purged about this escalating the questions into a conflict, maybe you can take away some of the concerns by explaining e.g. how you've used this approach and what the outcome was? – Tinkeringbell May 16 '18 at 9:36
  • 4
    I'm sure there are times when this approach is warranted but your answer doesn't consider all cases. There's certainly one example in the question that seems very problematic but the quoted example "Why won't you drop your last name?" seems neutral to me (without any other context). Expanding your answer to address this may help. It's good to keep in mind that we often learn best by understanding why an answer is correct. Why is this situation inherently "blatantly sexist"? Are there times when "why" can be a matter of curiosity, not sexism? – Catija May 17 '18 at 15:48
  • @Tinkeringbell: This approach has worked well for friends I've seen use it and for similar invasive questions I've received. I'll try to find some sources when I get a chance, but it did not feel good being suddenly asked for sources right after a long string of interested/supportive comments followed by a few late-arriving-together concern trolls got deleted. – R.. May 17 '18 at 16:31
  • @Catija: OP is asking about the problem case when people don't accept her decision: "I find that it's generally males who have a problem with me wanting to keep my last name, females sometimes start of a little confused but soon accept my decision, whereas guys generally don't. As a result, I get asked "Why?"." As such, that's what my answer focuses on. – R.. May 17 '18 at 16:38
12

I am a married woman who didn't take my husband's name, and I get this question regularly. My answer has always been "I like my last name. Why should I change my name when we both agree my name is cooler?" This response seems simple, but it has a few important characteristics that make it work (and it always has):

  • It must be said as if the question is rhetorical, and not as a dare for them to give you a contrary answer.

  • It's entirely based on a subjective opinion (a name being "cool"), which doesn't at all threaten their opinions. If your current surname is "McFartmeister" and you don't think that reason will be believable, use another subjective word like "historical" or "memorable", or something silly like the length or how early it is in the alphabet.

  • Don't even acknowledge that the tradition of women taking a man's name exists. If it comes up, act like you are genuinely confused why the two of you would be expected to take a name that neither of you prefer.

Don't say you are doing it to overthrow the patriarchy, or that the tradition is horrid because it's rooted in women being treated as property, or that you want your surname to live in through your kids, or anything like that if you don't want to start a fight.

If you stick to your non-threatening reasons and present it as a decision you are both happy with, then they are forced to drop it or attack your position despite not having any real justification for doing so. I have literally never had someone choose to argue the point when using this approach, although I can see them momentarily struggle to come up with a reason to object before dropping it. They probably won't outright agree with your thinking, but it'll be easy for them to live with it if you aren't outright disagreeing with theirs.

I suspect this will be even more effective for you, because my husband didn't actually change his last name to mine (which is why it comes up so much). You two will share the same name, so it gets rid of any potential objections based on that.

  • 1
    I think you should drop the last para. The OP indicated that her husband was prepared to change his name - not that he had. – Martin Bonner supports Monica May 11 '18 at 13:03
  • @MartinBonner it says they "will share" a name, not that they do. It'll avoid people saying things like "what will your kids' names be" or "what if people don't believe you're married because your names don't match" etc. – Kat May 11 '18 at 17:16
  • This is an awesome answer on so many levels. I especially like your list of "Don't"s, particularly "I'm doing it to overthrow the patriarchy". I can't imagine saying that to anyone without them busting out laughing. I'd definitely start with that, at least as the icebreaker. – Don Hatch May 15 '18 at 9:52
12

I'd like to explain how it's my decision without having to explain myself

Be aware you don't have to explain yourself like you were guilty.

by someone I'm not too friendly with or don't trust to not judge/belittle my reasons

Sounds like you can allow a more invasive mode? Then turn the tables!

Instead of being forced into details why you (don't) do something, explain you want it that way. Answering that multiple times makes it boring for them to ask again and again.
That means turn the "tell me in details why you do so" into a "tell me at least one acceptable reason why I shouldn't". This can be surprising if others realize they don't have suitable arguments.

This works expecially if your decision doesn't affect them in any way and you state between the lines that the whole thing seems to be only about who is right and who isn't.
It also helps to express that you accept their different opinion and it is no problem if they don't understand you at all. This keeps a door open to talk normally about something else.

Added on Tinkeringbell's comment

I experienced this with people who I like but sometimes show a "oh by default I am right and you aren't, are you?" attitude. There is no sense in throwing in new arguments all over. This only makes you appear unsure about yourself and they'll try to disprove them anyway.

Instead it's a clear statement to say you just want that, there is no other reason (this makes further questions for a reason pointless). Say that calm and not teaching, show you don't understand the problem and you also don't feel like you should.
They may keep asking the same question (why... I don't understand). If you keep answering the same (I want it... no problem if you don't understand) the discussion is close to it's end.

Of course this doesn't help with everybody but it may be worth a try.

10

This is also a tradition here in Russia.

My wife decided not to change her surname as it's unique (means only her relatives have it) - so, if this is your case, you can use it as an answer.

Also, changing ones surname leads to changing lots of documents, which is a waste of time - and this too can be a reason not to do the change

7

A possible answer:

It's too complicated!

Well-meaning people should leave it at that. Anyone who tries to probe further is being too nosy and should be met with another response (something like):

I told you it's too complicated. So complicated that I don't even feel like discussing about it... Thanks for asking, by the way. Fake (or genuine) smile.

I've been asked to elaborate this answer. It's indeed a complicated exercise to change one's name (even a part of it) as it needs to be changed in all places that matter like government records, work/school records, travel documents, subscriptions of various types, and so on unless it is acceptable to have both names coexist (and this creates more complications). That much effort (both physical and mental) and time is not everyone's cup of tea and in any case it is not a statutory requirement in many countries (including OP's country presumably, else this question would not exist).

  • Hello! Could you please try to back up your answer with references (either external sources or personal experience)? Have you ever tried this, did it work? Could you perhaps edit to improve this answer with something to back it up? – A J May 18 '18 at 12:00
  • 1
    @sgroves the issue isn't that it's not an answer, but that it lacks experience/references. Take a look at the link Tink posted^. As of now this answer is essentially "Do this, it will turn out like this." with no evidence for why that's so. I think it poses a good solution, but it needs to back it up. – scohe001 May 18 '18 at 17:20
7

though it's generally frowned upon.

Really? Or do you feel it's frowned upon? Personally as someone who lives in the UK I would not think any less of (or for that matter really care if) someone didn't take their partners name. I know of a man who took his wives name when they got married. Me and my partner discussed this when we got married, in the end we decided to stick to the convention. It is a convention though, conventions are not rules (social or otherwise). It's common in other cultures to arrange surnames in different ways, for example in Spain women do not take the mans name (mostly). So in Spain you would be conforming to the normal social norm and people would ask "Why are you taking you husbands name?" if you didn't.

I find that it's generally males who have a problem with me wanting to keep my last name

This seems a sweeping generalisation. As I male I would not think twice if this happened to someone I know.

As a result, I get asked "Why?

You're breaking a convention, people are curious. You seem to be seeing this as a negative. this may or may not be true. I'd ask yourself why are you seeing this, this way? Is it your preconceptions of what the question "why?" means to you?

I'd like to explain how it's my decision without having to explain myself

Simple, "I just decided that's what I wanted". It's your choice I don't see why you would need to clarify anymore than that.

Family members might be more difficult, especially older ones. But just remember these people grew up in a totally different world to you. They don't understand many things in the modern world, take it on the chin and move on. Just repeat the answer above, if you don't feel the need to explain yourself, then don't.

  • 7
    "It's always males" or "males think this" might be a sweeping generalization. "It's generally males" isn't; it's probably true, and doesn't imply that there are some males (like you) who don't think that. – Obie 2.0 May 11 '18 at 20:46
6

I wish I could comment, as it's not a full answer, but when the question of the (potential) children's name comes up, I find answering with:

My name, of course.

with a slightly confused look on your face as if you didn't understand the question, quite helpful, irrespective of how you actually plan to name the children.

  • This is basically the default answer for men, so it tends to throw the kind of people questioning your choice in the first place. And then change the topic.
  • This shows that you are not interested in discussing your personal choices and that you are confident enough in them that any discussion would be pointless anyway.
  • 1
    How does this answer the question of 'how to say I'm keeping my name but not explain why?' Could you please explain that, and also try to back up your answer with references (either external sources or personal experience)? Have you ever tried this, did it work? Could you perhaps edit to improve this answer with something to back it up? – Tinkeringbell May 18 '18 at 12:04
  • @Tinkeringbell As noted, I am aware it's not a full answer. The part I answered is from personal experience. My daughter is called Firstname Hislastname Herlastname. – Marianne013 May 21 '18 at 16:22
5

When I began using social media many years ago and tried to look up old classmates it hit me: finding males was easy, finding females was not. Why on Earth is that the case? Why are women expected to lose part of their identity when they enter into marriage? (Add to this that in the country where I was born, Hungary, it gets even worse: on official documents, my wife would be listed as "Tóth Viktorné", in an almost alarming similarity to what happens to the names of females in dystopian Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale.)

For what it's worth, this was never an issue between my wife and I when we married over 25 years ago. Neither of us would have had it any other way: she kept her name, I kept mine. As we never had any children, their last names never became an issue. We do have some cats, and the vet's office keeps them listed under my last name, but that's another story.

So our recommended answer to the "Why?" question is simply, "Why on Earth should I?" Why is my last name any less important than my husband's?"

It is 2018. You should not have to come up with any excuse not to be named, Gilead-style, after your male lord and master.

  • 3
    "why on earth is this the case" - Every person has their own name, and is the product of two other people, who each have their own names. At some point, you have to lose some fidelity when naming people, because nobody's going to have a name that accurately describes their bloodline more than a generation or two back - and an easy way to keep things straight is to look forward, not back, and give both parents the same family names as their children. It doesn't mean it's necessary for anything, it's just a tradition from back in the day when not everyone could even read. Makes things easy. – Knetic May 11 '18 at 19:59
  • 3
    @Knetic that explains why in many places you give a single surname to a child, not why a woman should drop her surname (for instance in Italy women keep their surnames and only a few think otherwise... and even if they do, they can only use it informally, it's not written on their IDs). – Andrea Lazzarotto May 13 '18 at 22:45
  • 2
    @AndreaLazzarotto Giving a single surname is how you lose fidelity, not retain it. But somewhere in the husband/wife/child equation, someone has to lose information. Either a parent changes their name, or the child get a name different than their parents. Even with hyphenated parent names it only works for one generation. There's no strategy that satisfies every requirement of a name. There's a conspiratorial note in the answer given that seems to ignore the reason why people have surnames at all, I'm just pointing out the problem underpinning naming a kid, showing why people change names. – Knetic May 14 '18 at 0:49
  • 3
    @Knetic again and for the last time, there is no objectively valid reason for a wife to drop her surname. Marriage does not imply any problem with surnames. If and when there will be children, one surname will be given to them. If somebody shows surprise to a woman because she should have dropped her surname for "reasons", the woman is entitled to ask what these supposed (and non-existing) valid reasons are. – Andrea Lazzarotto May 14 '18 at 10:10
  • 2
    @Gábor makes the critical point about why name fidelity is lost through generations. If brothers were able to take on their patrlineal name and sisters their matrilineal, and both keep them through marriage, the maximum fidelity would be preserved. – Tanaya May 14 '18 at 19:11
4

Many answers seem to leave too much space for the other party to retaliate and go on and on with arguments, but your question is all about preventing and/or diffusing arguments and explanations in the first place.
My answer aims to be more practical, there's a super wise saying that goes:

"If you don't like what's being said... change the conversation."

Escalation determent strategy

It is basically about discouraging the pursue of a topic by making friction and steering away, starting subtle and then more firm only if necessary.

1. Be swift

Being so different from my conservative family, I tend to use that all of the time, except when I really care about some issue and I think changing their minds would help anyone, such cases rarely present themselves, so I'm the favorite cordial pleasant relative in all events.

When they ask "why?", you can use the phrase you mentioned on your own question:

  • I have my reasons, how's your family?

  • It was the best choice for me, how was that movie you saw the other day?

  • It was easier, how's that baseball card collection going?

  • Because I wanted to, your shoes are cool, where did you find those?

with an amicably dismissive demeanor works fine most of the time.

2. Sustain the signal

If your original polite attempt to convey that you don't have to explain yourself is taken by anyone as a cue to insist and ask "What are those reasons?"...

This is exactly the reason for a very popular comeback to exist, having the stomach to use this line is an interpersonal skill so old, resilient and effective that many people hate when they are on the receiving end, but there's nothing they can do about it:

  • Just because (period, shrug it off, smile, change the topic, move on, whatever you want!)

This is your life, if you don't want to explain yourself, you don't have to.

Nice pleasant people at a party (or wherever) will take the cue of changing the topic, so, success, you didn't have to explain and you can move on.

3. Warn amicably about not crossing a line

In response to your edit elaborating on your goal to avoid explaining yourself like guys are not expected to explain themselves which means you want to give a similar statement with just a sniff of political righteousness, while keeping it cordial or even amicably with someone you don't fully trust:

  • Because I decided so, and we live in a free country, isn't that awesome? cheers to that.

That will make them feel good about their own lives too, 'Murica!... I mean... Freedom!.

4. Be firm and politically correct.

Hopefully, you didn't have to come to this, but if this person doesn't get all the initial clues and innuendos... put a stop, win the argument before there even is an argument.

  • I can keep my last name because it is my citizen right, and I think it is fantastic that in the process I didn't have to explain why to any judge.

Boom, you just shut their mouth, they don't want to be the judge of you, do they? Silently in their minds for sure, but not publicly after you said that. This way you are giving a reason no one can argue with, and you are not giving your specific reasons which someone nasty could judge.

To answer considerations of people on comments:
If you try that and by any chance doesn't work, you could comeback and ask an additional question about how to deal with a toxic environment where there is zero respect for people's privacy, or a question where one particular person doesn't respect your privacy and keeps digging not allowing you to change topic. That would be a whole different issue.

She's living in the UK, my strategy will work.

3

You can't stop people from asking "why". (Maybe you could have asked "How can I stop people asking me"). So the question is: How do you avoid having to explain your reasons when you're asked to explain your reasons.

You have to explain your reasons because you feel an obligation to explain when you are asked. (Hypothetically, in a country other than the UK a registry officer might ask you, and you might have a legal obligation to answer, but not in the UK). So the first step is that you remove that obligation from your mind. My curiosity about your decision doesn't create an obligation for you to satisfy my curiousity. You are allowed to not give your reasons.

What's the best way to answer? A polite refusal, or a polite answer without any information would be asked for. The polite answer without any information seems better to me. Examples: "Because that's what I wanted". "Because that's what my husband and I agreed on". "I had my reasons". "I had good reasons".

If they insist, which would be a bit rude, you can answer for example "Because that's what I wanted, and that is all you need to know". Which is still reasonably friendly, and indicates clearly that you are not going to give your reasons, and that you don't want a repeat of the question.

I wouldn't suggest "Why not" because that will start a discussion, which you don't want. And I wouldn't suggest lying, because you don't want to give any explanation, whether true or untrue.

PS. It's interesting how many people agree that it's perfectly fine and that you can have good reasons to keep your name, when you asked how to not have to explain those reasons. PPS. I knew one young lady, whose first name combined with the future husbands last name formed a ridiculous combination. Imagine Mr Jonathan Lee marrying Miss Lee Miller. You wouldn't want to be called Mrs. Lee Lee. Or Mr. Sam Smith marrying Miss Sam Jones.

  • 1
    Hello! Could you please try to back up your answer with references (either external sources or personal experience)? Have you ever tried this, did it work? Could you perhaps edit to improve this answer with something to back it up? – Tinkeringbell May 18 '18 at 12:01
3

While I've never been in this sort of situation myself, here's what worked well for a friend of mine who was in the same situation as you are:

Make a clear statement that shows you've thought things through, without inviting discussion.

For example:

"Why I'm not taking his name? I've considered all the advantages and disadvantages of taking his name and in the end I decided against it.

If this is too subtle for the other party and they keep prying, follow up with:

Honestly, I'm not really up for discussing this. It's a personal choice and I'm confident that I've made it with all the necessary knowledge required to make a good decision.

This approach seems to work well because the people who ask about this are generally well-meaning, they have your best interests at heart. By making it explicit that you're not making the decision lightly, they should generally be placated, since most often they're just worried you didn't consider one or more of the reasons that makes them think it's a bad idea.

I think the trick is not to become defensive. You've done your homework and thought things through and besides, it's a very personal choice. People are entitled to their opinions on the matter but in the end, you're not looking for those opinions. If people continue to try starting a discussion, I would suggest you keep a firm stance and try to change the subject, or simply extract yourself from the interaction if possible.

1

One good way to handle this is to ask "Does it matter?".

Hopefully in most cases people will respond with "no, not really" and you'll be able to redirect conversation onto something else.

Sometimes people will say "no, not really, but I'd like to know", in which case simply say "I quite like my name and changing it would be a hassle anyway".

Thereafter, any argument regarding tradition can be dismissed with "I don't want to change my name" and/or "why follow tradition when it causes so much upheaval?", and on the off-chance that someone asks about how you'd name your children you can dismiss that with "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it" and/or "we won't be having any children for a while yet"/"we might not even have children".

I'd advise caution with the "we might not even have children" answer though, as that could lead to an argument in itself. Unfortunately there are people out there who think that getting married and having children are the only possible goals in life and they cannot comprehend the idea of someone not wanting to be married or have children. To some people, family is everything, especially older generations.


Ultimately though, whatever reasons you give and whatever arguments the other party gives, don't stress too much over it.

You've made your decision, the rest of the world has to live with it whether they like it or not. If they want to go on believing that you've made the wrong decision, that's their problem - not yours. Don't hate them for it though, just live and let live.

(I am English, so hopefully my answer is somewhat culturally in tune, though I admit marriage isn't a topic that I have to deal with (or even contemplate) very often.)

0

Everyone keeps focusing on the kids which were not a part of the OP's initial post until she had to edit. Several posts took on a more aggressive approach which could work depending on the situation. I would think though that being more aggressive could only lead to elevated aggressiveness from the other person.

No one should have to explain why, and maybe someday, people will live and let live. Being that this topic though is something that has been ingrained in the culture for thousands of years, it does strike odd on the rare occasion you see someone not. A female friend of mine is a very firm feminist (not the militant kind but someone who believes a woman should be able to be non-traditional if she so chooses) and even she took her husband's last name.

With that being said, the best way to provide a reply without having to explain it and without coming off like a jerk, is to be honest and straight to the point.

"It was a choice I/we made due to something personal and I don't feel very comfortable talking about the subject so I would appreciate it if we moved on to a new topic."

What that does is provide them a reason without diving into the issue, and also cuts off further discussion by telling them that it's not something you feel comfortable talking about. 90% of the population will respect and understand that it's something really personal/serious to you and move on.

At this point, if someone continues to bring it up, then you know they are not someone who respects you and you can walk away from the conversation (especially if it's a stranger).

This answer also does not provide a high and mighty reply that is combative which would cause the questioner to also get defensive or snap back.

Good luck and remember that no one can belittle you without your consent ;)

EDIT: Edited the quote to also include "we" to make it also sound more inclusive that your husband was aware of this and is okay with it.

  • 1
    Hello! Could you please try to back up your answer with references (either external sources or personal experience)? Have you ever tried this, did it work? Could you perhaps edit to improve this answer with something to back it up? – Tinkeringbell May 18 '18 at 11:59
0

Here's an Interpersonal Skill that rarely seems to be brought up here:

Lie.

You don't owe people the truth and you have no plans to get married soon, so you can't be proven to have lied.

You're looking to avoid the conversation, avoid explaining your reasons why, and you're not looking to change the world's opinion on traditional last name marriage conventions.

Someone asks you if you're going to change your last name, just say, "Yeah, probably". You can add "haven't given it much thought" to make them think that you don't really care about the subject and don't want to be bored with a conversation about it.

Done. Simple as that.

After you're married, according to what you've written, you'll both have your last name, not your partners. If they ask if you took his last name just say yes you did. Again, you don't owe anyone the truth.

If you get caught out after marriage as having lied, or people who know your last name from before and after the marriage bring it up, just tell them the very reason you lied is to avoid conversations about not wanting to pick his last name. That should leave them in no doubt that now they know you didn't take his last name, it still isn't a matter up for discussion. They'll either understand and drop it, or if they try to engage you on the matter, you can be a little more blunt and explain that they're doing the one thing you were looking to avoid, and so to drop it.

  • 1
    Hello! Could you please try to back up your answer with references (either external sources or personal experience)? Have you ever tried this, did it work? Could you perhaps edit to improve this answer with something to back it up? – Tinkeringbell May 18 '18 at 11:58
0

As always, it would depend on the person asking and the situation you find yourself in (one where you can easily change the subject or move onto someone else, or one where they can keep going on at you). I would simply say, matter-of-factly and not defensively or in a way that sounds like justification,

because I didn't have to/need to

or

because I decided/wanted to keep my own/family name

and then move on physically or conversationally.

Do not look as if you're interested by their question or pleased that they're that interested in you. Keep it short and avoid the impression you want to get chatty.

If I was stuck with someone who persists, I would try the "turn it around" method and ask them why they did when they didn't have to and keep asking them something about them, moving on to something else if and when you can. You might want to find out about the customs of other nationalities (it's amazing how many countries around the world do not expect a woman to take her husband's name on marriage) and simply tell them about other ways of doing things, in an informative way, not by way of explaining yourself, just in a tone of discussing the subject in general.

Whether they find it interesting or boring, I doubt the same person would question you again, and if others are overhearing the conversation, I believe it would make them think twice, not only about asking you about your decision, but about the name-changing situation in general, and I'm fairly sure some of the women will think about their unquestioning name change (I doubt very much if it is a decision most of them made, just something they went along with).

I wouldn't be surprised if some people ask because they expect to have to ask or feel they are being polite by showing interest. Perhaps some of them can't think of anything else to say so it's an obvious question for them to pick up on. Give whatever brief reply you choose in an off-hand manner the way many exchanges occur socially and at work. I'm sure you've overheard or been involved in brief and disinterested exchanges of questions and answers between people. I don't know how many times I've heard

Person 1: "good morning!"
Person 2: "yes thanks!"

and various other pretences of interest in how someone's time off was, etc. Try not to get annoyed by it. You don't know why all of them are asking, don't feel defensive or the need to justify, maybe they're all really not all that interested and will be glad you don't want to explain.

  • 1
    Hello! Could you please try to back up your answer with references (either external sources or personal experience)? Have you ever tried this, did it work? Could you perhaps edit to improve this answer with something to back it up? – Tinkeringbell May 18 '18 at 12:01
0

Mind Your Business

New Approach: Counter the source of the question (unwelcome and perhaps inappropriate curiosity), rather trying to answer it.

Most of the proposed answers here revolve around excuses and explanations. I'd like to offer a polite but firm counter.

Here's the core of your question as I understand it:

"I'd like to explain how it's my decision without having to explain myself"

So at this point your interlocutor should already know the fact that you intend to keep your maiden name, and has pressed to know why. Avoid anything that begins with "because" and then proceeds to not answer the question by simply stating a refusal to answer.

The core of the answer is "Mind your business." You can say exactly this with anything from a firm, friendly grin to a menacing snarl.

You can certainly soften this for social purposes, "I don't wish to seem rude, but it's really not up for discussion. There's a lively debate on this sort of thing online, but I'm not interested in debating it here, or there. This is a boundary of mine, and I hope you will respect it." Follow up with a genuine, warm thanks, and immediately pivot to something else friendly and interesting. "Thank you. Hey, is that a new jacket?" You'll have delivered the actual message, and helped get over the awkward moment where your counterparty would struggle to respond. The pivot will be obvious -- it's a tactic, and one which will probably be well-received.

-1

I'm expected to drop my last name

I'm sorry to hear you're finding that's still an issue. I don't think I could even "expect" you to marry at all (because I know people who don't or haven't); and if you do marry then the details of that relationship are yours to negotiate with your partner (and not my business).

Still, you're saying that your mum at least doesn't expect you to, nor your aunt, nor your partner ... but that "general males" do?

And that you want to explain without explaining the real reason. And you don't want an argument, I suppose. And it's for anyone you're unfriendly with. So I propose: "Yeah, shut up: I like my name!"

You could also (which might appeal to their "what's important is what the man wants" attitude) try: "My fiance doesn't want (or need) me to change my name -- likes me the way I am, he does!" That way you get to play the "good girl" (who makes her fiance happy), if that's what you want (maybe untrue but it was you who said you didn't want to explain a real reason, so I'm playing a stereotype here instead). A follow-up question could be met by "Well it's not your place to question the details of my intimate relationship, is it."

You could try saying that name-changing is an old-fashioned custom, that a modern marriage is better as a partnership of equals.

People also give practical reasons (e.g. you have a professional reputation or publications using your current name) -- it might be (emotionally) brighter to depict the future than to show an attachment to the present or past.

Something else you could say, "I see marriage as being given a new family: but not as losing my original family." -- that subverts the trope of the bride's dad saying, "I think of it as gaining a son-in-law rather than losing a daughter", so that may be possible for general males to understand.

  • I have come across many people (mainly men, but some women) who do expect women to drop their last name. As @Brondahl, it's more excepted than it was 10 or more years ago, but it's definitely not the norm. You are right that my Mum doesn't expect me to drop my last name, and she fully supports my decision, but it's because of her that I feel comfortable to go against societal norms. There have been both men and women who don't question me, but they're few and far between. – Violet Flare May 10 '18 at 11:52

protected by Community May 11 '18 at 20:06

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.