Over at Marginal Utility, Tom and Nina are haggling over a bet regarding the next Presidential Election. I will leave it to you to decide the extent to which, when it comes to negotiating, an economist can hold his own with a wily lawyer.
In their discussion, an incidental reference is made to "the future Mrs. Freese." As devoted JFW readers presumably know or have surmised, I am not married, nor have I ever been. At various times in my life, I have encountered women who were sufficiently confused and poor judges of character as to allow themselves to become Involved with me, but the upshot of all such entanglements has been uniform doom.
Once, when I was in college, I was over at the apartment of a woman I was dating, and I saw a sheet of paper on her desk on which she had written "[her first name] Freese" over and over again. This was a source of discomfort on all kinds of levels. But the one I took up with her then was the idea that the future wife of Jeremy Freese would be The Future Mrs. Freese. It's also been the subject of a hypothetical dispute that I've had with several women--involved with me at the time or otherwise--in the years since.
In a nutshell: should I ever get married, I don't want the woman I marry to take my last name. And I feel like, seeing as it is my name, I should have a right to some say in the matter. However, my proposing such a right has driven otherwise-reasonably-sane woman into low-to-mid-levels of rage. Women who have no intention of actually changing their last name upon marriage still assert adamantly that it should be, wholly unilaterally, their decision whether they adopt my name.
Sure, everyone has heard the story about the traditional man who wants his wife-to-be to change her name to his and the woman of progressive ideals who refuses. It's a pretty easy moral argument to make that somebody should not be compelled to change their name if they don't want to. But what about the situation where a woman wants to change her surname to her husband's but he doesn't want her to? You could argue, I suppose, that the future Mrs. Freese has a right to change her name to any name she wishes, but, then again, the whole reason she is choosing "Freese" as her new shiny surname in the first place is because it is my name.
I mean, if it was the case that she was just so enamored of the last name "Freese" that she would want to change her last name to "Freese", regardless of our being together, that would be one thing. But, if she's taking the name because we are getting married, then it seems like she is appropriating something of mine, and, if she wants to get all patrilineally-cozy-with-me like that, I should be on board with the idea rather than treated as merely an advisory party.
Of course, the easy counter-threat is that a woman could change her name to my name, but that I would respond by changing my name to her name or to any other name (e.g., "Five") of my choosing. At the same time, even though I do not have any especial aesthetic affection for "Freese", I'm now so accustomed to it that I would rather not change it anything else, no matter how dashing Jeremy Five might seem.
(As a postscriptural aside, I hate the argument that people sometimes make for married couples synching their last names so as to prevent disorder regarding the last name of their children. More precisely, I hate it when the argument is pitched that it is in any way harmful to children to have a last name different from that of one of their parents. I would love for social science to do a study of this and determine whether familial surnominal asynchrony is in any way detrimental to child's welfare or ultimate well-being. Until such evidence exists, I'm not buying the idea. But, beyond this, it particularly amazes me whenever you have people who, e.g., allow their children unlimited access to television--allowing them to witness tens of thousands of acts of mortal violence by the time their kids reach puberty--wax piously about how couples who keep their own names are somehow shortshrifting their children.)