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Open letter on... keeping my name

Was it my career, the snarling feminism or just because I didn’t love the new husband enough?


YOUNG LOVE: Róisín and Donal tied the knot over 20 years ago

YOUNG LOVE: Róisín and Donal tied the knot over 20 years ago

YOUNG LOVE: Róisín and Donal tied the knot over 20 years ago

A wedding anniversary is imminent with happy memories of the nearly fainting husband, a beautiful satin gown, being unexpectedly pregnant - but that's another story - and having to explain that I had no plans to change my name.

Women I barely knew would ask about my married name, tut in horror that there wasn't one and then interrogate me for the reason.

Was it because of my career, the snarling feminism or just because I didn't love the new husband enough to do the decent thing? They might not have said it, but I could feel them thinking it.

No one would stop you on the street and begin a grilling about your preference for skimmed milk, quilted loo roll or organic carrots - but give them something even more personal and even less of their business and watch the hackles rise.

My choice to become a Ms was made over 20 blissfully happy years ago (just in case he's reading this), but surely things have changed? Apparently not.

A friend who's hoping to marry when the world goes back to normal is in agonies of indecision about whether to become Mrs Husband's Name or Ms Own Name.

Like any good mate I've assured her the decision is entirely hers and we will respect her choice. But think really hard about double-barrelling because it sounds like you should own a castle and have servants.

When another friend told me she was taking her future husband's name with the kind of emotion that comes with confessing to running over your cat, I resolved to watch the judgement levels, and possibly keep that opinion about double-barrelling to myself.

But the tradition of taking a husband's name, and it's largely a tradition, is one that's stuck. There's no legal obligation in Ireland or the UK for a woman to change her name on marriage, but the process is straightforward, and most women do it.

In the US it's around 70 per cent, and even higher this side of the Atlantic, so Hailey Bieber has changed from Baldwin and Jessica Biel says she was stoked to become a Timberlake.

Channing Tatum's former wife Jenna Dewan admitted before their 2019 split that her actor husband just wanted her to be a straight Tatum instead of double-barrelling. Can't think why it didn't last.

He may have felt the sting of research which suggests that the husbands of wives who keep their birth names are viewed as more feminine.

Some countries take it very seriously. In Japan a married couple must have the same surname and in almost every home it's the husband's. Moreover the female minister for gender equality recently opposed any change to the law. Not sure she's in the right job.

Greece has gone in the opposite direction and since 1983 married women have had to keep their birth name, because someone misunderstood the concept of choice. Thankfully it doesn't insist on 'maiden name' which suggests we're making daisy chains in wild meadows until we meet a husband.

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In Spain and Iceland women hang on to their own name or use a combination.

The options for everyone else are at least improving. In most of Europe, couples can take one name, both names or come up with a meshing of both.

My choice left me with a different name from my children, which has led to some interesting assumptions that I'm a single mother, and more mental tutting from strangers.

But the truth about why I kept my name is simple - I just couldn't be bothered with the admin.

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