Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Who else forgot to get married?

177 Responses

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  • Emma Hart,

    I got married, and then had a child. Not with the guy I was technically still married to, of course, but nevertheless I did everything in the right order.

    also frankly bemused by the spectacle of women adopting their husband’s surname

    I don't understand this. That doesn't mean I condemn it, or that in the least I think women shouldn't be doing it, I just don't understand it. At least now it must be a conscious decision, and not something that's just "what you do". I never for an instant considered changing my name when I got married, and the only person to raise the idea was my mother-in-law. But then, my partner's surname was McGeechie.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4286 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Wain, in reply to Emma Hart,

    also frankly bemused by the spectacle of women adopting their husband’s surname

    I don't understand this.

    Me too. Where I work, in female-dominated newsrooms, it seems that every single woman who gets married takes their husband's surname.

    Of course, it's merely trading one man's last name (their father's) for another. But I kind of deplore the trend - whatever happened to the feminism my mother took up so vigorously when I was a kid?

    Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    There is (of course) more than one dashboard. The other stat not mentioned is the divorce rate among those who do get married.

    Looking around at my peers the children whose parents didn't get married or have divorced often get more attention then they might in the more conventional setup. This is because both parents are more aware that the mythology of happy families is broken and we all have to work a bit smarter /harder to nurture our loved ones.

    There are multiple family models out there now and the ones that work are those where the platitudes have been dropped in favour of caring and sharing regardless.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 208 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Emma Hart,

    At least now it must be a conscious decision, and not something that’s just “what you do”.

    I don't know about that. There's been a sudden outbreak of women who "just don't like their surname", totally independently of any wider societal factors, they swear.

    From Richard:

    Of course, it’s merely trading one man’s last name (their father’s) for another.

    I'm sorry, I was under the impression that the name people called me my whole life was my name, not somebody else's, regardless of who I inherited it from. By that logic nobody's name is anybody's.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 724 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    When my sister (Karen Brown) got married to her lovely Aussie bloke (Greg Brown), she went around telling people she was going to insist on being Mrs Karen Brown-Brown, so it was clear she wasn't taking her new husband's surname. She didn't, of course, but it was an excellent joke.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The following occurred to me and has been added to the post:

    The only real issue is what we call each other: "partner" can be an ambiguous word. Sometimes it is easier to acquiesce to the use of the word "wife" when dealing with tradespeople or call centres. I don't really mind doing that. It's less bother than correcting people.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    Russell, I think you need to look at the major crisis you are creating here.

    For teachers especially. What happens when your grand children get married and their full name is Chester Lowe-Smith-Higgins-Carter-Jones-Samuels-Matoto-Yin ???

    The relief teacher will take the whole bloody lesson to take the role!

    Does show the area I live in though. I can't think of a single kid off the top of my head with a double-barrelled surname. Our parents get married or they get separated. Old skool.

    Since Nov 2006 • 855 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I got engaged to my partner of sixteen years (and father of our two children) on Thursday.

    When we first got together there were a heap of practical reasons not to get married so we just didn’t bother. I did get a fair few comments questioning our commitment and there were times (like being listed as ‘single’ in midwifery notes) when it hurt. I protectively developed a principled stand against the whole institution.

    It was same sex marriage that got in the cracks. If this was so important to some people I needed to think about it again. Last week, in the middle of some difficult and frustrating circumstances, we decided to celebrate love and joy and hope. Getting married won’t make us better partners or more committed parents (we’re pretty good already), it’s just an idea that’s making us happy – which is all it needs to be.

    My partner is taking great delight in telling everyone that he plans on changing his name but I can do whatever I want (we shall almost certainly both hyphenate to match our double-barrelled kids.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 690 posts Report Reply

  • Nat,

    and also frankly bemused by the spectacle of women adopting their husband’s surname (is this practice staging a comeback?).

    Me too, and yes I think it is

    From http://www.livescience.com/16813-women-husband.html:

    Surname decisions are now a free choice, but statistics suggest that most couples still take the traditional road. A 2009 study published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality examined New York Times wedding announcements from 1971 to 2005, and found that the number of brides keeping their surname was about 1 percent in the 1980s, rising to 9 percent in the 1980s and 23 percent in the 1990s, before declining slightly to 18 percent in the 2000s. Brides with more education or a high-powered occupation were more likely to keep their names, as were older brides.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2011 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Isabel Hitchings,

    I got engaged to my partner of sixteen years (and father of our two children) on Thursday.

    Warmest congratulations!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Amongst my friends and acquaintances with children, there's every possible formal expression of relationship, from civil union to cohabiting but unmarried, to married young, to married after the kids were born, to divorced and remarried. Many of their kids would be captured within the "unmarried" group, but only a tiny fraction of these would be in the sort of unstable situations that might warrant some "won't somebody think of the children" handwringing. The metric is no longer a good indicator of family instability, and arguably it hasn't been in years.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 724 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to B Jones,

    The metric is no longer a good indicator of family instability, and arguably it hasn’t been in years.

    Nicely observed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Nicely observed.

    Comes from having grown up with parents who weren't married (well, they were originally, but not to each other), and having them separate just like about half of my friends with married parents. Thirty years ago.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 724 posts Report Reply

  • Alan Perrott, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Mate, dunno how your sister could get it so wrong.

    obviously she'd be Karen Double Brown.

    OK, I'll get me coat etc and so on...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 285 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Jason Kemp,

    There is (of course) more than one dashboard. The other stat not mentioned is the divorce rate among those who do get married.

    To thrash that idiom to death, the scariest thing about Bob McCoskrie's dashboard is you're in a clown car heading nowhere any rational person wants to go.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher, in reply to Yamis,

    For teachers especially. What happens when your grand children get married and their full name is Chester Lowe-Smith-Higgins-Carter-Jones-Samuels-Matoto-Yin ???

    Double-barrelling is a luxury for the first generation. After that it gets complicated, especially when the surnames are multi-syllabic. I've always been interested in how couples deal with this. Will double-barrelled couples faced with four surnames just think "to hell with it!" and go back to the paternal grandfather's surname? One married couple I know have brilliantly given their three kids three different surnames - mother's surname, father's surname and the double-barrel.

    As for women taking men's names, there's a bit of a mix amongst my friends. I know people who have taken their husband's name, hyphenators, those who have kept their birth name only for work, and those who never change. For the ones who change, sometimes it's done as a reflection of their beliefs, other times it's because the woman's name is something awkward like Pratt or Sidebottom that they're happy to be rid of. On the other hand, one newlywed I know of didn't change her exotic surname to her husband's plain Anglo-Saxon name.

    I've always thought if Dave Dobbyn married me, I'd never take his surname.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1823 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Bob McCoskrie’s dashboard [...] in a clown car

    Which also implies that the red light he sees is in fact attached to his nose with elastic.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 808 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I think McCoskrie wants to back to the days of my youth when people were tarred with the label "bastard", written on their birth certificates, that was snickered about, and that they could never escape

    Normalising being a bastard has been a good thing the stigma has gone, for most of us anyway, maybe not the family firsters.

    My partner and I married for a visa - 30 years ago, it stuck - we kept our names, gave the kids a hyphenated last name - they actually have unique names on internet searches, while there are thousands of me out there, so not a completely bad thing.

    But we kind of punted and told the kids that what they choose to do with their kids names is their decision - I do kind of like one solution to this dilemma - basically you both give your daughters the part of your name you got from your mother and sons the part you got from your father - it in effect creates a matrilineal line for women and a patrilineal line for men.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Hmmm, a funny old one this taking your husbands name business.

    Most of the women I know seem to regard keeping their own name as a bit naff and all together more trouble than it is worth, a remarkable turnaround in views from just twenty years ago. It is now completely shorn of any socio-political relevance as astatement. Taking your husband’s name is nowadays seen as a straightforward very romantic statement of commitment.

    Having said that, I know at least three married woman who have a bob each way, using whatever is most convenient in the circumstances. Thus, married name when booking a hotel, maiden name when in their professional context.

    I think the clue is in language.

    From most weddings I have been to:
    “…With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow…” – the Book of Common Prayer, 1662

    And from most funerals:
    “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19),
    And
    “I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee” (Ezekiel 28:18). –

    Both the Bible, specifically the King James version of 1611.

    We all know nobody talks like that anymore in their day to day lives.

    But besides the power of the sheer beauty of English prose at its “verie heighte” in the mid sixteenth to late seventeenth centuries at the moments of the most important religious ceremonies in our lives we are, on the whole, deeply conservative. People revert to the language of their ancestors for comfort and affirmation.

    And so it is the same for taking your husband’s name. It is a deeply held tradition in a ceremony that has proven to be largely resistant to change for five hundred years. It will, I predict, outlast feminism by a handsome margin.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    As a flatmate commented many years ago when I asked whether she intended to get married, "It would be rude to get married before my parents did."

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Jason Kemp,

    Attachment

    There is (of course) more than one dashboard. The other stat not mentioned is the divorce rate among those who do get married.

    And those calling for divorce to be restricted are utterly missing the point. Divorce can be hard on kids, but it’s by far the lesser of 2 evils, when one looks at what bad marriages can turn into if they can’t be broken up. There’s the very real possibility they can slump into domestic violence, or even domestic suicide or homicide. One of the more depressing cases in particular was that of child actress Judith Barsi.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3907 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    And so it is the same for taking your husband’s name. It is a deeply held tradition in a ceremony that has proven to be largely resistant to change for five hundred years.

    The concept of marriage has changed radically in the last hundred and fifty years and is still changing. The ceremony has changed radically - no two ceremonies I've been to have been quite the same. I don't recall a single one I've attended which included the old "obey" business, and I'd be very interested to see data on how many marriages are performed by religious versus secular celebrants.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 724 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to B Jones,

    The concept of marriage has changed radically in the last hundred and fifty years and is still changing.

    All about anecdotal sample groups, I suppose. But the stats seem to support my view that people are reverting to more traditional aspects of the marriage ceremony. Double-barrelling is regarded as rather out of fashion right now, so that could something as simple as the vagaries of fashion.

    I find it hilarious when people complain that it is to easy to get divorced. No one gets married planning on getting divorced, everyone wants to think they will live happily ever after with their handsome prince or beautiful princess. If you want less divorce, it seems to me that you should make it harder to get married.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • The Ruminator,

    When my (now) wife and I got engaged, we talked about the surname thing. For some family reasons she was keen to shed hers but also we just felt it was cool to be a collective unit so there'd be one name. Given the obvious awesomeness of my surname (inator) we took that.

    Actually I offered to take her name and said I'd be perfectly happy with that, but she wasn't keen.

    Since Apr 2013 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    But the stats seem to support my view that people are reverting to more traditional aspects of the marriage ceremony.

    I'd love to see them. Because the last 150 years of history points to a steady retreat from the traditional position that marriage was the transfer of the legal responsibility over a woman from her father to her husband. Married women first had the ability to own property, then had the ability to engage in the public world through voting and employment on the same terms as men, then had the ability to divorce at will. Marriage stopped being a legal defence to rape surprisingly recently, and property division following dissolution has changed. Now you don't even need to be a man and a woman. It's not expected you'll be a virgin on your wedding night, and kids from the marriage, or previous ones, are regular participants in ceremonies. Big churchy weddings with white dresses might be in vogue, but that doesn't paper over the structural changes underneath.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 724 posts Report Reply

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