When I was a little girl, I was in love with the idea of being in love. Love to me was pure happiness, a grand wedding, and a beautiful marriage. I used to think about how my future husband would have the perfect last name to complement my first name. My full, married name would simply roll off my tongue, or maybe it would rhyme with my first name.
I carried this notion throughout my teen years, although I never dated anyone with that perfect last name. By my mid-20s, I was in a relationship with my now-husband. Fun fact: my wonderful husband's last name surprisingly does rhyme with my first. It wouldn't have mattered, though, because I would have married him regardless, of course. But a couple years into our relationship, life happened.
The year we got engaged, my father passed away. My life turned upside down in a matter of seconds. Among every feeling of depression, grief, and confusion I went through, I'd have faint moments of happiness when thoughts of marrying the man of my dreams would come into my mind.
The first time he sent me a link to show me how easy it was to change my last name after we were married, I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. Not because he wanted me to change it (honestly, to this day, he has never made me feel anything but 100 percent comfortable with my decision), but because I thought about how my dad only had two daughters and my sister had already taken her husband's last name. I still need that connection to him, even if it's in the form of a last name. It's the last name attached to everything he gave up to give us a wonderful life after immigrating to America. How could I just let that go?
Then I thought about the strong girls my father raised us to be, with our own minds and the ability to make and trust our own decisions. I thought about why all men don't take their wives' last names (and, yes, I know men who have). Why must women give up the identity associated with their full name just because they're married?
I've had a variety of successful careers since I graduated college, and my email address along with my résumés all had my name on them. Why should I have to change those?
I see nothing wrong with taking or not taking your partner's last name, nor do I see anything wrong with hyphenating your last name with theirs. But here's the thing: it's a choice. And despite the way things have been in the past for women, we do have that choice.