Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mr. and Mr. __________

Having a sort of family makeup just emerging in this culture, a person has to reason out why they want everything from marriage to joint checking, more so than the average person. They have much less of the cultural, and traditional guidance of expectation (but, on the plus side, without the stain and error of such either, as I've written before).

Another such item that came to mind, though relatively minor, is the surname. I've just kind of come to taking it for granted, but many gay couples we know do debate on this to some lengths, and they come to different ends.

A lot of the choices we've made that could be seen as taking a traditional rout had many practical aspects for us, but strong emotional reasons as well. They make absolute sense, but last names didn’t strike us as important on either level for a long while. In fact, this was not a thought for about our first decade together. But once we knew we would be parents it suddenly became another one of those important issues. What last name would our children have? Would it be okay for them to not have one of our names? It really would be far best, at school, at the hospital, and so on, if we all had the same, to avoid hassle and make our situation clearer.

So we decided we had to do it, but how do two men decide who gives up their family name?

It wasn’t as difficult as it sounds, at least between us.

We first thought about hyphenating… and then thought of our great grandchildren ending up with hand cramps for their possible total of eight hyphenated last names :-). No, we narrowed it down to having one last name.

We then thought to merge our names into something new for us both. We came up with a reasonable mix, one that was already extant and didn’t sound too dorky, and we were set to go ahead with that, a new family name for us both.

After of day or so after that conclusion, and looking at what needed to be done to effect this change for us, R came to me. He decided to take my family name instead. I was surprised and tried to talk him back into the new name plan, but he insisted (and I know I didn’t try too hard or long to change his mind :-)). Such a decision really had to be his though.

And I do feel he graciously let me off easy, but, objectively, he was right for many reasons. To change my name meant far more of a bureaucratic struggle, from business documents to various other records he did not have. There were also other fears regarding the heated marriage debate at the time that made us all having my family name seem best. Still, I know it wasn’t an easy decision, and I love him for it every time he’s hassled at the airport for his name change; they just don’t anticipate such :-).

Fortunately, we’re pragmatic in such areas (though, sure, easy for me to say ;-)), and we were off to court. I expected a battle; again, this is Utah. It turns out anyone can change their name as long as it’s not for nefarious purposes, but, to that end, on the form it asked why we wanted to change his name and we, of course, were completely honest with the court. We explained the whole thing. The judge simply read, listened, gave a quick approval and that was it. No fight. Utah deserves my apology, in places :-).

If only that were the end of it, though. About a month later our exact words, our explanation for why we wanted a name change appeared in the paper, in an article about why people change their names. Oh yeah, that’s public record…


Paul said...

I've never actually met any Mr. and Mr. Doe. But if I was anywhere where you had to present your IDs (like the airport) I'd just assume that you were related. Brothers perhaps? All of a sudden, that seems really creepy for the kids.

You're definitely in new territory here, boys!

A couple of questions. (Yes, I'm nosey.) How close are you two in age? What did R's parents think about this?

Scot said...

Hey Paul,

How close are you two in age?

Rounding the months up, he would be 5 years older than me. But most folks assume we’re the same age by sight, as he does enjoy noting. I tell him they just assume I’m older than I am by my mature disposition ;-).

What did R's parents think about this?

I’ve written about them, and their general reaction, a long while ago (here it is). They don’t have any problems nowadays, that we can gleam; heck, they stay with us about once a month :-). They just left.

But I know it was a worry at the time we did it. You know… The family name, passed down from father to son, to live on in chronicles of human history… but then given up for another guy’s family name.

I think it would have been too much if we did it on the day of our vows, and I’m glad we weren’t considering it then (I was more than grateful for R’s dad’s mere presence that day). But after so much time building the relationship we share with them, I never saw any indication of even a flinch at the time of the name change. Maybe it was easier as both of our family names had already been passed on by siblings? Or maybe it was because the news was combined with the news that we’d soon make them grandparents again? Grandparents melt in the face of grandkids, I’ve come to learn :-).

JB said...

My husband and I have had similar concerns and thoughts. We were going to have him take my name, but that would have been complicated, as he'd been published under his name several times and went to BYU, so nobody would think to look for him with a new last name.

We've thought about both getting a new last name, too, but I think, in the end, we'll probably do the traditional thing some day (if/when we have kids) and I'll take his name. It will be interesting to explain to people that I've been married for X number of years but am only now changing my name because I'm having a kid and I think it'd be good for us all to have the same last name. . . oh well!