It seems a small thing, and really it is, but it’s at once very traditional as well. My grandmother is one of my best pen pals, and we always write one another. It’s one of those nostalgic traditions we share with one another, and it means a great deal to me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been very surprised, then, after I married when a letter arrived addressed, not to me, but to Mrs. Daren Criswell.
Well, it was, in fact, addressed to me. Shockingly so. Why hadn’t I expected such a title after I had taken my husband’s last name? I puzzled over the envelope for what seemed like an excruciating amount of time, even still as my husband playfully remarked, “Your grandma loves me. You don’t even exist anymore!” We laughed over this, but at the same time, I felt there was an air of truth in this jest.
There is was, in plain black and white, the disappearance of my entire being replaced by a Mrs. and a man’s name. Funny how much we take for granted things like our name and identity being attached to one another, isn’t it?
Taking my husband’s last name, for me, was an easy decision. As I have discussed before, my last name growing up was a farce; a made-up name made to make me like other Americans rather than a unique entity of 4th generation Italian- American. Ever since learning about the true origin of my last name (a court-room creation) I came to resent it. It represented nothing more to me than the cover-up of a heritage that I was previously proud of.
When I decided to take my husband’s last name, I felt it meant something... I was taking his name out of love, but also to have a name that represented family heritage. Sure, it was his family’s heritage, but it’s mine now too, and it means a great deal to me. Many women don’t change their names anymore. Or they keep their last names and add on their spouse’s name. This all fine too. But the truth is, they will never know the feeling of seeing their husband’s name as their own, written inconspicuously, without even much thought put behind it, in their grandmother’s cursive script.
I have never received a letter from my grandmother addressed in my name since I married. Once I asked my husband’s grandmother about this. She remarked that it is just a matter of respect and tradition, and this much I had already suspected. But perhaps I am a bit flattered by it, after all.