I Am Not the Surrogate for My Gay Husband

I’m an advice column junkie, though I have to admit, I’ve never had a problem that rose to the level that needed advice from a stranger.  I’m not sure if that bit of information about me makes me sad or happy.

My wikipedia page says I am the All Star starting shortshop for the Boston Red Sox.

My wikipedia page says I am the starting shortshop for the 2013 Boston Red Sox.

Anyway, I’m a regular reader of  Carolyn Hax’s column over on washingtonpost.com and I almost always agree with the advice she offers.  I decided I loved Hax even more when I learned of her own sordid relationship history, which you can read about on Wikipedia, for what that’s worth.  It’s like she’s one of the advice letters, come to life!

On Thursday, Hax’s column featured the following letter.

Dear Carolyn:

I would like to take my husband’s last name after we marry. I will probably use my maiden name professionally since I’m in academia and have published with that name.

However, friends have given me a lot of grief about it. I’ve been told it is “outdated,” and why doesn’t he take my name, or hyphenate, or whatever.

I want to do this, and it is right for us. How can I explain that to friends who talk about setting women’s lib back decades or giving up my own identity?

I’m one of those women who kept my maiden name after marriage, though it was more of a way of honoring my parents, who had both passed away before I married, than to give a big “Fuck you” to the patriarchy (though it was a bit of that, too).  It was also a cost saving measure, as I didn’t have to throw away boxes and boxes of business cards, as I am cheap frugal.

I never encountered any problems, other than brief puzzlement on a face when my husband introduced me as “my wife, Karen Different-Last-Name.” Sometimes there have been awkward moments when we were mistaken for brother and sister (we’re both tall) rather than husband and wife, but that was about it.

Frusilla? Nicandro?  Can you hear me?

Frusilla? Nicandro? Can you hear me?

Until I got pregnant.

Once I got pregnant, my easy going, taking it all one day at a time, don’t sweat the small stuff husband started to display signs of anxiety whenever we got to fighting talking about baby names.

Pregnant Me: (deranged from pregnancy hormones) I’m thinking Nicandro for a boy and Frusilla for a girl.  What do you think?

Him:  (sweating, tugging at his shirt collar) I’m thinking we’ve still got plenty of time to decide on a first name.  But I was wondering, what are your thoughts about the last name?

Pregnant Me: (bursting into tears) You hate me, and you hate little Nicandro/Frusilla!

Him:  That’s not true! I couldn’t love you and little Nicandro/Frusilla more!

Given my emotional state, it took a while for my husband to come right out and say he wanted our child to have his last name. I think he expected the worst response from me: a feminist tirade insisting the child be called Frusilla My-Last-Name or, worse, the hyphenated abomination of Frusilla My-Last-Name-His-Last-Name.  (Frusilla is starting to grow on you, isn’t it?)  But I was fine with the baby having his last name.  My problem was only with me having his last name.

Mike Greco ran like a girl.

I could throw farther and run faster than Mike Greco.

Still today, the decision to keep my own name has continued to cause awkwardness.  I can see the gears turning in the heads of elementary school teachers who, too polite to come out and ask, wonder about the relationship that produced the young student in their class.  Are my husband and I divorced?  Maybe we never married.  Maybe I am the step-Mom.  Maybe I’m a lesbian and my husband is the surrogate hired to impregnate me?  Or maybe I’m the surrogate and my husband is the gay one . . .

If I’m feeling like torturing them, I let them go on wondering the entire academic year.  If not, I’ll offer a too long explanation that includes the details of my parents’ deaths, my introduction to feminism when Mike Greco told me “Girls don’t play baseball” in second grade, and I may even quote Shakespeare (What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet) if I’m in a good mood, and Gertrude Stein (A rose is a rose is a rose) if I am not.

You can find Carolyn Hax chatting live on line every Friday at noon Eastern at this link.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG.

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11 thoughts on “I Am Not the Surrogate for My Gay Husband

  1. Karen says:

    I wrote this post earlier today, and just saw on a newsfeed that Pauline Phillips, who wrote the advice column “Dear Abby” for many years, passed away yesterday.

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  2. slepsnor says:

    My wife kept her last name and she was pounced on by family and friends. Oddest thing was that it was from her side that the criticism was coming from. My family just shrugged and said “as long as she knows what she’s doing”. Some of the people who had issues still try to call her by my last name or mockingly call me by her last name, which seems strange considering they aren’t in our relationship.

    We still have issues when it comes to joint things like insurance and bills. People get confused if I call in to pay something that is in her name or vice versa. We actually have copies of our marriage certificate to send out to these places if we get too annoyed with them.

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    • Karen says:

      Yeah. You would think here, in the 21st century, this would not cause so much consternation, but it absolutely still throws people for a loop.

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  3. mindymwm says:

    This is something I have definitely been thinking about since my husband and I got married on December 31 last year. I have decided to go with “first-name my-last-name his-last-name” because my dad and I have done so much family tree research and I am not ready to give up that part of me. Since we are currently living out of the country and it is really difficult to get the paperwork done, so I haven’t changed my name legally yet.

    We decided when we have children, that they will take my family of origin’s last name as a second middle name and their last name will be my husband’s last name. Since my brother is very career minded and doesn’t have any interest in children, I figure I have to keep the name going in some way.

    I don’t know if this arrangement would work for everyone, but it works well for us. 🙂

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    • Karen says:

      I thought I had replied to this yesterday, but it looks like WordPress ate my comment.

      Congratulations on your wedding. Looks like you and your husband have put a lot of thought into this and worked out your plan.

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  4. Brianna's Happy Life says:

    What a great post!! I’ve put a lot of thought of what I’ll do when I get married. I love my last name, what it means to me, and the deep connection I have with my family. I want my future children, whose names don’t even compare to Frusilla!, to have that connection with my family too. Ahhhh the conflicts of being a woman!

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    • Karen says:

      I also love my unusual (and a bit peculiar) last name and I could not have imagined giving it up when I married. My sister, on the other hand, always disliked our last name, and I remember her saying to me when she was pretty young–maybe 12 or so–that she could not wait to get married so she could change her last name, and I thought at the time how different she and I are.

      Fast forward to 2012, my sister got married this summer and I was really, really pleased (and proud, and got a bit emotional about it) to see she kept our last name, after all. 🙂

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