Monday, February 14, 2005

(valentine's day special!) i [heart] huckafreese

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.)

27 comments:

Tonya said...

I don't think that I've ever heard a man say that he did not want his wife to take his last name. While I agree that these days it's not a big deal for women (in most parts of the US) to keep their surname, I wonder why you don't want to share your last name with your future spouse. And what else don't you want to share?

Anonymous said...

Refreshing simplicity! I haven't seen that movie yet. Is it any good?

Anonymous said...

This just in, folks, from Saudi Arabia, and for those who love statistics, bend an ear. The call for progression and reform and modernization in the Kingdom of Saud has not gone unheeded. Men in large numbers turned out for the election and the pollsters got busy making their rounds and making their calls. The Saudi Ministry of Public Relations is proud to announce that 26.8% of the men that voted discussed the elections with their wives! To quote the Minister of Public Relations, Farak Al-Dhoudi, " This clearly demonstrates to the whole world that Saudi Arabia is genuinely interested in Democracy and serves only to enhance our standing on the United Nations Human Rights commission." Atta' boy, Farak! Shoot for a 40% discussion rate in the next election in 2035! Congrats and keep that crude pumping. You've come a long ways, baby! Who knows, with the way Women's rights are advancing on the planet, Jeremy Freese may have to take the woman's surname when he decides to marry. You heard it second, folks, here at JFW.
The Massabi Ranger

jeremy said...

Tonya: I'm all for sharing. All my possessions and at least half of my future earnings. I've proclaimed that couples who are truly in love should have only one toothbrush. Where I draw the line at sharing: my name, my e-mail password, and too many details about my bodily functions.

Tom Bozzo said...

Tonya, I'll give you a twofer. While Suzanne (my spouse, for the rest of you all) was pretty happy to retain her surname on her own, I in no way discouraged her from that course. Older relatives still send her stuff addressed to "Mrs. Bozzo" anyway, though most of them know the deal and chalk it up to the eccentricities of modern youth.

If Suzanne had a really exciting surname like "Castronova," and I'd seen Prof. Castronova's CV before I got married, there's little chance that I'd be posting as Tom Bozzo today.

If you want to head on to what few people apparently understand, try giving your children their mother's surname. My son (the older one) got mine in large part because I couldn't convince Suzanne otherwise at the time. By the time we chose my daughter's name, Suzanne had changed her mind and I hadn't, so she has her mother's surname. For that one, I pretty much had to tell a few family members that I would tolerate no discussion of the decision. You'd think I was shooting heroin while voting Republican for the reaction from some quarters.

It will be up to the children to decide if they want to hate us more than usual for our actions by the time they're teenagers.

BTW, I actually wrote "a Mrs. Freese," [emphasis added] deliberately using the indefinite article, and I considered, though evidently not hard enough, putting "Mrs. Freese" in quotes lest I get a worse reaction from the sociologists than I got from the creationists.

Tonya said...

Well, I'm dismayed to hear Jeremy's news in part because I already placed an order with Crane's for personalized stationary bearing the name "Mrs. Tonya Freese." It may have been wishful thinking on my part -- guess I'll have to cancel that order. And, while I'm happy to take half your earnings, there's no way I'm sharing anyone's toothbrush.

Tonya said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that when I got engaged, there was no question that I would keep my surname. My husband-to-be never even hinted that he wanted me to take his name. And I have two female friends who changed their names and never could get used to the new name, so they changed it back to the original. This name changing thing is much harder to adapt to when you marry in your 30s.

Anonymous said...

Try'th ye not my ploy with sweets
Love's end it only defeats
and keep'th thee from betwixt the sheets
verily, to gorge alone upon the treats-
LDM

jeremy said...

Tom:

You're right! I misquoted you! I apologize for overestimating your assessment of my ultimate lifetime prospects for marriage.

Related to your post, I have something I call the Castronova/Brito Rule, where all statements I have made about not changing my name upon marriage become moot should the names Castronova or Brito become available. Indeed, I might just change my name to one or the other anyway. I have so much work to do this morning, and yet all I've been able to do is write "Jeremy Brito" over and over again on my notepad. Using a little heart to dot the 'i'!

Anonymous said...

It does seem to be the trend amongst independent women who marry in their 30s. I've had my last name for so long that I doubt I would change it just because I got married.

Anonymous said...

oky, forgot to sign - that was jnsys in the previous post, re: women in their 30s -jnsys

Anonymous said...

Jynsys: " It does seem to be the trend amongst independent women who marry in their 30s. "

I believe I read somewhere, probably the Wall Street Journal, that the tide is turning back the other way: more (professional) women are taking their husbands' last names.

The interesting question is whether this trend will hit academia. Academic search engines still aren't sophisticated enough to list all publications by a person, rather than by a specific combination of first and last names. (Though it seems like this wouldn't be too hard to do, if you were willing to assume that academics (a) keep their first names; (b) remain in the same discipline and topical area; and perhaps (c) stay in the same or similar types of institutions. The engine could rank articles by some likelihood function that the article was in fact written by the searched-for author, even if said author changed her or his last name.)

Granted, the increasingly common practice of posting a CV on the web would seem to eliminate the "lost article" problem. Still, posting CVs doesn't eliminate the consequences of the signal that name-changing sends (or that women think it sends) about commitment to work. Kim.

Tonya said...

Jeremy: On the way into work this morning, I stopped by the circuit court to have my name legally changed to "Mrs. Dave Matthews." Initially, I thought about going with "Mrs. Blender Spitter" but that name seemed to require too much explanation. But, you should feel free to use "Brito" if you'd like. Good luck getting people to pronounce it correctly.

Tom: If I had had a second child, I planned to do exactly as your wife did and give the second child my last name. I haven't met Suzanne, but I like her already.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy, what if your wife had an absolutely horrible last name, like Moron, Dumass, or Bush? Would you "let" her take your last name then?

Anonymous said...

it's a choice between husband's and father's last name. both are males. to change the gendered nature of the system would require new last names for mothers, and then a pattern where daughters took their mother's last name and son's took their father's.

jeremy said...

Anon 11:04: This is a matter I have some familiarity with, from my long and tortured romance with Vicky Hitler. If a last name is so odious, why wait until a marriage to change it? But, if a person truly loathes their surname and sees marriage as her only chance for escaping, then, I suppose, why not?

Tom Bozzo said...

Jeremy: I apologize for not having closely read your postscript before firing off my initial comment. I'd totally want in on that study, even though my asynchronously surnamed children give me a stake in the outcome. Your post did spark a lively breakfast table debate as to whether my children should remain a natural experiment or both share their mother's name.

Also, the indefinite article was not a statement on your ultimate prospects; it was just that I don't actually know any suitable candidates -- or any unsuitable ones, for that matter. The question is whether you can resist the combined wills of La Femme Nina and/or the Greater Nakoma Playgroup moms (should the latter be set on your case).

BTW, Edward Castronova must have the best job in the world -- professor of computer games, with tenure!

Tonya: Now that you mention it, I really have no idea how to pronounce "Brito" correctly. And I will try to get Suzanne to come out for the next blogger get-together.

jeremy said...

You can see the problem with Brito, as it isn't phonemically obvious whether the first syllable should rhyme with "wit" or "white" or "wheat" or "why" or "wee" or just "whih", and whether the last should rhyme with "whoa" or "woo."

Anonymous said...

Couldn't kids just be given the name of a parent's discipline. You know, like Bobby Biology or Mary Math? oh HA HA HA I am just too clever for my shoes this afternoon.

jnsys said...

anon@12:22 - there is a book about such a thing: Jennifer Government. Your current occupation is your surname. Could make for some interesting combinations. Who'd want Joe Deadbeat?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a stinky book that only a Proctologist would read. Get it?? Oh HA HA now I'm just too clever for my shorts this afternoon.

dorotha said...

do you really need to worry, jeremy? your last name is kinda lame. it isn't like it has lots of x's and z's. that would rule the fricking school!

jeremy said...

Dorotha: I know, I know. I learned the hard way just how much some women value a cool surname when Vicky dumped me for Andrew Zaxxon-Xanax.

Tonya said...

The only circumstance where I could see a man having legitimate concerns about his wife having his last name is upon divorce (but at the time of marrying no one expects that they will later divorce their spouse -- well maybe Trump expects too, but normal people don't). When a man remarries and his second wife also takes his name, it can seem awkward to have two "Mrs. Jeremy Freeses" in the same community. Indeed, the prospect of divorce throws the whole name-taking practice into question. If a woman has taken the surname of spouse #1, what should she do when she marries spouse #2? Both divorce and remarriage are common in American society.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jnsys said...

Tonya is right on the confusion factor that would come with two Mrs. Freeses. It is incredibly tiring trying to keep up with the musical marriages in my hometown. So many people get married, then divorced, then remarried and divorced... It is to the point in our town where nearly everyone is related by marriage, or was at one point. Call the wrong woman Mrs. Whatever, and prepare to be scorned for the rest of your mortal life. I mean, really, I hadn't seen this person in a couple of years - how was I supposed to know?

I'm keeping my name. Saves on confusion. Plus, there aren't many jnsyses out there :)

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

My mother did not change her name when she married my father for the insurance benefits six months after my birth; then they moved from Tucson to the hometown of Rush Limbaugh, and she's been sharply correcting strangers ever since. As children my sisters and I used to get a big kick out of telling telemarketers and other unidentified callers that "Mrs. G." was dead--this was true; my father's mother died when he was still in high school.

I have my father's surname, but my sisters and I all have my mother's surname as our second middle name, similar to the Spanish style. Korean women apparently don't take their husband's surname, either, although I don't know if children in the marriage get both. My parents considered hyphenating but decided that the combination of both names would never fit on any form anywhere. They did not foresee the difficulties in having FOUR names, however, for which forms are never designed either.