On World Magazine, Sexism, and Name Changing

Because of The Last Name Project, I’ve been doing some thinking on everything that goes into women’s decisions on whether or not to change their last names. My entry in this project and Sierra’s entry reveal that two women with similar backgrounds and similar current beliefs can answer this question very differently – I changed my last name, but Sierra has chosen not to. I don’t think that one choice is right or that the other is wrong. I think they’re just different.

The important thing is that Sierra and I both made our choices knowing our options and seeing ourselves as the equals of our partners. Not so, it would seem, with World Magazine’s Andree Seu. You see, it seems that Andree, who has for years written a devotional column for World Magazine, a conservative evangelical news magazine, and has even published devotional books, is getting married. Andree is in her middle age and has spent her entire professional life under the name “Andree Seu,” so it seems that the name change question was giving her a bit of trouble. Until, of course, her soon-to-be husband pulled out a line of misogynist bullshit. 

When nothing else was working my true love said to me, “Andrée, ultimately I’m not that important to you.” It was the last resort in a drawn out drama and it did the trick. Stunned like a wailing child by a well-placed swat, I straightened up and surveyed the new terrain.

I am going to ignore her comparison of her fiance’s comment to the giving a child a “well-placed swat” because if I tried to deal with both issues here I think I’d blow a blood vessel.

Basically, Andree’s fiance told her that if he was actually important to her, she’d change her name to his. She, a middle aged professional woman with a respectable career. And you know what? She bought it completely, and decided to change her name. There are so many problems with this I don’t even know where to start.

First of all, of course, is the glaring double standard. If changing her name to his is necessary to show that he is “important” to her, then why is the reverse not true? Why should Andree’s fiance expect her to change her name to his without ever considering changing his name to hers? How is her refusing to change her name a sign that she is uncaring while his not even considering changing his name means nothing of the sort?

We know the answer, of course, and that stems from the heirarchical and unegalitarian nature of conservative evangelical teachings on marriage. The woman becomes the appendage of the man, not vice versa. The woman is subsumed into the man, to support his vision and follow his lead, not vice versa. The woman changes her last name to her husband’s to show that she, in some sense, now belongs to him and fits herself to him. The assumption underlying this all is a notion of marriage that is not at all egalitarian but rather patriarchal – the man leads, the woman follows.

Second, I am struck by the absolute absurdity of Andree’s fiance pulling the “if you really loved me, you would ___” line. Does she not know that that line is highly problematic to say the least? It makes it sound as though the fiance is only thinking of himself, and not putting himself in Andree’s shoes or considering her own needs. Andree knows she won’t be having children with him so that whole it would be confusing to have a different name from my children thing won’t come into play. Similarly, she knows she has years and years of articles and books in her name, and that changing her name mid-career would be complicated and confusing. But does her fiance think of all this? No. Instead, he just pulls the “if you really loved me” line. And I’m sorry, but that’s distinctly unloving.

Third - and I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about this but I’m sorry I really have to – does Andree even realize what all is implied with her comparison of her fiance’s comment to giving a child a “well-placed” smack? I know that comparisons like that have their limits and Andree probably didn’t even see what I’m taking issue with here, but I have to say, the power differential implied by making that particular comparison is huge. She makes herself the child and her fiance the parent delivering her a smack – and one she does not condemn but rather calls “well-placed.” Personally, starting a marriage out with comparisons like that – even if she didn’t mean it like that – seems troubling. And, of course, indicative once again of the sort of patriarchal view of marriage that conservative evangelicals espouse.

Coming on the heels of thinking about my decision to change my name and reading about Sierra’s decision not to, Andree’s account, published in a leading conservative evangelical publication no less, of her own decision came as a jolt to me. It reminded me of everything I used to believe, and everything I am so glad I no longer believe. It reminded me of how glad I am that my decision to change my name was really my decision – and one made without pressure. And it made me feel sorry for women like Andree, who even while having a career continues to view her married life through a patriarchal lens.

***Update (9/12/12)***

Andrée Sue Peterson’s new husband, David Peterson, has left several comments suggesting that I misunderstood what was said. I will post his comments here.

Dear Libby (and commentors),

My name is David Peterson. I am the proud husband of Andree Sue and subject of this, your unfortunate, miguided blog. I’m only sorry that I happened upon it today–3 months after its publication.

As some of your readers/commentors had the discernment to note, you entirely misconstrued Andree’s meaning in the sited article. My statement–to the effect that ultimately I am not that important to her–had nothing whatsoever to do with whether she took my name or not. That decision was left to her.

Since nothing contextually in the essay suggests such an interpretation (that “Basically, Andree’s fiance told her that if he was actually important to her, she’d change her name to to his”), I can only assume this thought was suggested to your mind by the byline (inserted by the editor) which mentions a name change after the title: Altar Calling.

But, as anyone who reads the essay can see, she says nothing about changing her name in connection with my statement to her. (It’s always good to have the facts right before before documenting the fact that you don’t know whatof you speak.)

Sorry to disappoint your attempt to demonstrate heirachical “misogynist bullshit” in the “evangelical” community, but your desire to appear better–or more enlightened–than those whom you unfairly criticize speaks for itself. One need not be a Christian to benefit from the teaching of Jesus who said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When asked for further clarification by another reader, David added the following:

The subject of the conversation this quote was extracted from pertained to eternal verses temporal priorities. There is a larger, divine reality which must inform one’s decisions in this fleeting, earthly exsistence. I was thus saying, in the grand divine scheme of things, I was really not that important to her. God must be first and foremost since her relationship with me is temporal, her relationship with God, eternal. The careful reader will find that when the entire essay is read–rather than a single paragraph lifted from it–this theme is developed throughout.

And:

After reading numerous unfouded cruel criticisms about my wife and/or me–in both this and the Happy Atheist blog of the same date–I was perturbed.

… my comment to Andree contrasted temporal realities (relationship) to eternal ones. You have misunderstood to suppose I was saying, “We really aren’t that important to each other.” My wife is deeply important to me, and, I believe, me to her. “Ultimately”, I said. It was a statement about ultimate priorities in our life, i. e., God has to come first. But I’ve said this already.

… You (and some others) seem to think my statement was some type of emotional manipulation, whether to take my last or, perhaps, even to marry me. It was not, no manipulation, and had nothing to do with either of these. We’d been engaged for five years at that point, and long ago, Andree, of her own accord, had expressed her desire to take my name. Indeed it was I who first raised issue of the possible conflict that may cause for her known professional name, and I who suggested the retention of Seu in it.

All I will say further about the context of my statement is that it was said to snap her out of a state of unhealthy self pity, hence her “it did the trick” statement. It was a private conversation so I don’t feel at liberty to reveal more than she chose to in her essay. I trust you can respect that.

I replied to David as follows:

David,

Thank you for taking the time to explain. Let me quote two things you said and then double check that I understand you and explain why I wrote what I did.

The subject of the conversation this quote was extracted from pertained to eternal verses temporal priorities. There is a larger, divine reality which must inform one’s decisions in this fleeting, earthly exsistence. I was thus saying, in the grand divine scheme of things, I was really not that important to her. God must be first and foremost since her relationship with me is temporal, her relationship with God, eternal.

You (and some others) seem to think my statement was some type of emotional manipulation, whether to take my last or, perhaps, even to marry me. It was not, no manipulation, and had nothing to do with either of these. We’d been engaged for five years at that point, and long ago, Andree, of her own accord, had expressed her desire to take my name. Indeed it was I who first raised issue of the possible conflict that may cause for her known professional name, and I who suggested the retention of Seu in it.

It sounds to me like you are saying that when you said “Andrée, ultimately I’m not that important to you,” what you meant was “remember, Andrée, in the grand scheme of things ultimately I’m not that important to you, and that’s how it should be” rather than “Andrée, if you’re not willing to take my last name, ultimately I’m not that important to you,” which is how I interpreted the statement.

Now obviously, only a short part of your conversation was quoted in her essay and I can’t speak for what you or she meant or how either of you interpreted what the other was saying or doing. But I can say that I don’t think it’s strange that I understood the comment the way I did. Let me explain.

Growing up, I was constantly told things like “if you’re not willing to spend twenty minutes reading the Bible each morning before breakfast, God must not be that important to you.” I heard siblings told “if you’re not willing to sit with us through a family dinner, your family must not be that important to you. This sort of language is also extremely common in relationships characterized by manipulation: “If you won’t do XYZ, I must not be that important to you.” And that paragraph of the essay appears to fit this sort of pattern perfectly – Andrée was trying to decide if she should or should not take your name, and you pulled the “I’m not that important to you” line, and that comment “did the trick.” I don’t think it’s surprising, then, that that’s how I understood the comment.

And yes, I did read the rest of the article, but it was a while back and it’s now behind a pay wall. My impression from the rest of the article was that Andrée realized that even though she might be with you for only a time, she should take your name to signify this new stage in her life and new part of her journey, because you did matter to her and she wanted to symbolize that you and she were together at least for the time. None of this was inconsistent with my understanding of that first paragraph.

Anyway, I’m sorry my article upset you. Perhaps I should have asked Andrée for clarification of that first paragraph before posting it. I apologize. The point of this comment is not to tell you what you or your wife really meant (that would be silly, only the two of you can know that!) but rather to explain why I, and many others, understood it the way we did. I’m leaving the article as is but am adding all of your comments here as a correction to the bottom of the article. I will also email the Friendly Atheist and let him know in case he wants to make a correction there.

With the best of intentions,

Libby Anne

And David replied as follows:

Libby,

Thanks for the response. Yes! Your understanding of my intended meaning: “And that’s the way it should be” is precisely correct. My comment was a corrective measure intended to encourage her out of a self-pity funk of long standing concerning the reative brevity of time we have together at this stage of our lives by reminding her of a larger perspective.

I do understand that without that bit of “inside information” her meaning is less than clear, even though certain thoughts in the rest of the essay allude to it. Perhaps it would have been more lucid had Andree quoted my statement near the end of the essay. But my wife is a gifted essayist and wordsmith so I tend to trust her instincts in these things.

Thank you for sharing from your personal familial experience. It helps to understand how you thus interpreted my statement to Andree. We all, each one of us–to greater or less extents–process the external world around us through the filter of our subject experiences. So I totally get that.

I wouldn’t be too hard on your parents (not to suggest that you are). While psychological or emotional manipulation is never a valid means to an end (at least one wherein a person attempts to exert his/her will over that of another), it is an unfortunate reality that we are seemingly hardwired with this tendancy. I thus appreciate an insight my wife occasionally repeats: We are either manipulating or ministering (in the broad, not clerical, sense of the word).

Finally, on that note–as it pertains to things spiritual–I don’t believe one can ever legitimately be compelled to “religious” behavior or genuine faith through emotional manipulation. It is a sad reality that this method is oft employed not only in family systems but in all too many churches. As I understand God, He has great regard for the faculty of volition He put within us whereby we may freely choose relationship with Him, or not. He graciously invites us to know Him, but no man or woman can manipulate another to that end.

Thank you, Libby, for your gesture with regard to the Happy Atheist. Since you are leaving your column as is, I wonder if you might consider at least inserting a note below it referencing this conversation. That seems fair enough since many/most readers wouldn’t otherwise read this far into the comments.

Thanks again for your thoughtful response.

Peace to you

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Kevin Alexander

    I’m not familiar with Andree Seu so I don’t know if she had any self respect before she found this prize of a fiancé. She doesn’t seem to have any now.

  • http://phoenixandolivebranch.wordpress.com Sierra

    I totally overlooked the spanking comment when I read the article. Good grief.
    Emotional manipulation central.

    • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

      How is this now seen for what it is — the same type of emotional coercion that goes with the “well if you loved me you’d have sex with me / have another baby / give up your job / etc.”?

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

    I am right there raging alongside you. This is ridiculous.

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    “Basically, Andree’s fiance told her that if he was actually important to her, she’d change her name to his.’

    I guess that’s what happened, but it’s not exactly clear from this very weird piece she wrote. After the part you quote, she says, “The corollary was immediately apparent, of course—that I was not ultimately that important to him either. This partnership we were embarking on was for a little while.” This seems to imply that “not that important to you” was a statement of fact, not an accusation.

    Oh, but then she adds, “David takes me by the hand and says that we can have a thing much better. Sick dependency is darkness that appears as light. Come into the truth with me, he says; the first step is the hardest one, but no one who has ventured into the land of light wants to return from whence he came. You will love me better when you love God more. Choose God over me and you will have us both; choose me over God and you’ll be left with neither.”

    What does that mean in the context of a name change?

    • minuteye

      Maybe it’s a question of not having the right cultural context, but that whole paragraph of Andree’s makes no sense to me. What did I just read?

  • ER

    I’m so confused by this article. So she’s changing her name on earth because they’ll both be with their first spouses in heaven? Or because God commands her (and she has to “choose God first”) to take her husband’s name/follow his lead/whatever. and he (the husband) wants her to change his name?

    My interest was piqued with the second paragraph (“The corollary was immediately apparent, of course”), but the rest might as well be Greek to me; I can’t follow her thinking at all in this article.

  • http://incongruouscircumspection.blogspot.com Incongruous Circumspection

    A very well written piece. Thank you for your insight.

  • Alexis

    I suggest that a couple create a new name that they will each adopt that reflects their common interests and life together. I like the custom in some Native American cultures where a person adopts a new name when a life altering event has occurred.

  • Karen

    Back in 1980, when I married, I actually thought long and hard about changing my last name. In the end, I chose to change it, because I was tired of people misspelling my maiden last name. Turns out people want to misspell my married last name, too!

    There’ve been only two men in my life who have accepted my adult self unconditionally: my husband and my father. In the unlikely event my marriage were to fail (we’re coming up on anniversary #32, and all seems very well) I would not take my maiden last name, but my father’s first name + -dotter. That would celebrate my Norwegian-American heritage, and honor my late father, who after my husband was my best friend in his later years. Is this a patriarchal decision? I really don’t think so. It’s one of love. Alas, my mother and I were never that close.

  • http://banana-slug.blogspot.com round guy

    That is some serious garbage that guy is hanging on her. “I’m not that important to you’?” How would anyone get to there from someone in Andree’s position deciding to keep her own name? This guy sounds like an insecure piece of work.

    When my wife and I married 14 years ago she was on the fence with the name change. I told her to make her own decision, that it didn’t matter a bit to me. Frankly, I probably would have preferred she keep her own name as I don’t want people thinking I am somehow trying to prove ownership or something equally stupid.
    Ultimately she decided to take my name. Given the same decision now she probably wouldn’t, but the paperwork is too much work to unwind.

  • smrnda

    Something that I think anybody should take into account when getting into a relationship are the things the other person says “you would do this if you really loved me!” I mean, you have to make a judgment call as to whether or not the person is being reasonable (sometimes they are), or whether or not they’re possessive, insecure and unreasonably demanding and will be pulling the “if you loved me you would” on a whole lot more down the line.

    The ‘well placed smack’ comparison doesn’t really seem to sit so well for people who think that when adults hit kids, it’s just because the adult wants to get their way or because the adult has power and the child does not, or that the adult doesn’t feel like taking the feelings or needs of the child seriously. Then again, I wonder what the relational dynamic is like – even if the person has written a lot a writer’s public persona and actual personality can be pretty different.

    I also wonder how relationships play out in a culture where men have careers and women are homemakers when you have a woman like this who sort of does have a career. It seems like in cases like this the couple have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to pretend they’re just as patriarchal as everyone else.

  • Paula

    That double standard thing is everywhere, and people are so blind to it. Her not changing her name means something awful, his not changing it doesn’t mean a thing.

    My husband actually changed his name to mine. It was his idea, his decision, he just doesn’t think names are such a big deal but he knew I liked mine and wanted to do something simple and straightforward. His parents accepted it, it was my dad who gave me a rant. He said that it was an insult, to a father, to have a son choose not to keep his name. A few minutes later, as he ranted, he told me “I don’t want you to have my name.” I’ve never forgotten it. But I don’t wish it hadn’t happened. It gave me a sort of freedom, it was like cutting an umbilical cord. It’s not his name. It’s my name.

    • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

      Thanks for sharing your story, Paula. If you’re ever interested in sharing your story as part of The Last Name Project, do let me know! As of now, we just have one other couple in which the man took the woman’s last name, but I know there are others out there.

      • Jenora Feuer

        My understanding is that for all the patriarchal issues in Japanese society, it is hardly unheard of for the husband to take the wife’s surname. Of course, that’s because it tends to be more of a class issue: if the wife is the only possible inheritor of a family property or business, the husband will marry into the wife’s family and take their name so the property can stay in the family.

  • Erica Erkkila

    I took my husband’s name because ‘Erica Erkkila’ is way funnier than ‘Erica Palmer’. It would have been funnier yet if he’d also taken mine (‘Paul Palmer’). Sticking with my maiden name would have been just as patriarchal, really, so it wasn’t that big a deal to me either way. I do like the idea about both picking a new one, but not now that we’ve both been settled in careers for so long.

    I once had a male co-worker that eventually took his wife’s last name (she had a nice matching first/last combination too; would’ve been a shame to split it up. ;)

    • http://very-important-blog.blogspot.com Rilian

      I don’t think it’s just as.
      It at least makes sense that you have a name of one of your parents, rather than your husband.
      One of my cousins has her mom’s last name… so I guess she can’t use the same reason as you to justify changing her last name if she gets married?

      • Erica Erkkila

        I’m just saying the family name wasn’t even remotely important to me. It’s not like it’s something to be proud of; you’re (usually) just stuck with whatever your father’s surname happened to be. Not to mention the fact that I have no intention of having children, so it’s not like I’m passing any names down. :)

    • Caitlin

      While I support your right to use whatever name you darn well please, I passionately disagree that keeping your name upon marriage is “just as patriarchal.” The idea came from a property transfer–you dad got to put his name on you, and then whenhe “transferred” you to your husband, husband got to slap his name on you instead. If you leave your father’s family but keep the name, you become independent of that “property” tradition. You might have gotten the name from your father, but it’s YOURS. To stop a patriarchal/patrilineal naming system is to stop the status quo…after a generation, there would be a new system.

  • Jason Dick

    Well, Andree Seu, have a good time with your abusive relationship!

    • Arky

      I saw it on Sullivan’s blog, so didn’t have the context of the writer being a conservative evangelical- just the same “wow, you’re marrying a guy who’s pissing on you and you’re trying to tell us it’s raining, good luck with that!” reaction. Crazy.

  • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

    Wow “if you really loved me, you would ___” is classic emotional abuse. That’s about all I have to say on the subject, anything more and I’ll start raging.

    If my boyfriend and I ever get married I’m keeping my maiden name, I’ve never even considered changing it. I’m from a big tight knit family (my dad’s parents had 15 children, not quiverfull or even religious just what farm families did at the time) and I’m very invested in my identity as a Westleigh as well as the fact I’ve built my career as an artist under that name. I see keeping my name as a tribute to my family and in particular to my grandfather who was a huge part of my life (no offense to my dad, he’s great, but my grandfather was an amazing craftsman who I learned a lot about being an artist from).

  • http://very-important-blog.blogspot.com Rilian

    I don’t think hitting someone (regardless of their age) causes them to suddenly see reason. Violence isn’t an argument.

  • http://terelatimer.blogspot.com.au/ Tere

    I was right with you on this – until I actually read Andree’s article. And I think perhaps you have misunderstood her, or rather her fiance David. The way I read Andree’s article I understand David’s words of “I’m not important to you” to mean this life (this earthly life) isn’t what really matters and it’s God who matters. I think he was saying that no matter what choice she made would be okay with him and it’s “not important”.

  • pandurata

    When my parents-to-be got married, my dad took my mom’s last name, simply because he was sick of his. It wasn’t a horrible one but his was the name of a day of the week and he just didn’t want to deal with the comments, remarks and oh-so-funny little jokes anymore. No big deal to him…

    But as an adult I started to realize how much it means to me to have grown up in a family where deciding on the last name as a married couple was a simple matter of personal preference and not of letting yourself being forced by society’s expectations.

  • teaweed

    This is kind of nitpick, because I mostly agree with you, but you’ve misquoted Ms. Seu-Peterson. She does not say “well-deserved” and in fact doesn’t speak of appropriateness at all; she says “well-placed”. Having read in full “Altar Calling – A name change is God’s gift for the remains of the day,” I believe your citation is out of context. Out of context, I agree with you (apart from the Freudian misquote) that Ms. Seu-Peterson is sadly oblivious of the (1) double-standard, (2) abusive emotional manipulation, and (3) infantilizing disregard for women that Christian patriarcy breeds toward women.

    In context, I believe the article is about celebrating this phase of her life with a name change. In context, the paragraph you cited is an attention catching introduction, which is a common literary technique. In context, the next paragraph begins, “The corollary was immediately apparent, of course—that I was not ultimately that important to him either,” which makes the “ultimately, I’m not that important to you” remark sound more measured and less distressing. I recall once seeing a parent at the library checking out books while holding a toddler that was screeching to be let down. After a couple of attempts to quiet the tot with ineffectual words, she blew a puff of air into the child’s face. Startled, the child stopped yelling for a moment. I think this is the sort of stunned Ms. Seu-Peterson has in mind with the “well-placed swat”.

    Ultimately, I agree with you that Ms. Seu-Peterson is caught in a culture that is fundamentally demeaning to her as a woman thus a person. However, I think this blog post says more about your views than her article. I am reminded of movie reviewers and advice columnists whose work I used to admire but which often strike me as glib or judgemental lately. Perhaps they get empathy overload or just burned out. I’ve admired your capacity to continue to engage in sympathetic and honest disagreement with a seemingly endless supply of bogus rhetoric. Though it will still be entertaining if your posts become Crossfire-style, I will miss the responsive tone that has characterized so much of your blog.

    This blog, your voice, is so powerful and valuable to others struggling with the internalized ethos of patriarchy. There’ve been so many instances where you’ve written something that resonated with me, whether it was a snippet of Christian supperstition, a pinch of body shame, a moment of homeschooled social paralysis, or a recognition of something that used to bother me but I’d never untangled why. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • AnotherOne

    I agree with others who didn’t really understand Andree Seu’s article. If she did change her name because her husband pulled out an emotionally manipulative “you don’t love me enough” card, then I agree with you, but as the article stands, it’s not clear at all what she’s talking about. I feel like she leaves out pretty key details that would help the article make sense, and the details she does give are obscured by noxious levels of Christianese (I usually have a pitch-perfect ear for that stuff, given my background, but maybe I’m losing my touch, since I found most of the article incomprehensible).

    Regardless, as you point out and others have said, she’s inhabiting a pretty misogynistic world and seems to have little awareness of that, and her comparison of her interactions with her fiance to a parent smacking a child are pretty disturbing.

  • Rebecca

    Haha, my stepfather used to get so frustrated at the blatant feminism my mother demonstrated in keeping her middle initial “M,” for Morgan, her maiden name. She was practically up there in the ranks of such transgressors as Hillary RODHAM Clinton. “Honey, I come from SOMEWHERE!” Mama would defend herself rebelliously. To this day he blames her for his unfaithfulness, her with the core of feminism, and the consequential messy divorce on my mother.

    But they were bizarrely conservative Christians. I’m so disturbed that even self-professed “moderate” Christians, World-readers and their type, would buy into this misogynist crap. How DEMEANING that Andree’s fiance would treat her, a successful middle-aged woman, like one of the children! Oh, I want to castrate such men… It is so refreshing that more than one of my friends at the Presbyterian college I went to keep their maiden names or hyphenate, and some have even combined the two last names into one – amazing! But then there were the others whose fiancees I wanted to yank them from. One such friend was such a fan of the sitcom Friends and had all the seasons and every show memorized. We always said that there is a Friends quote for everything! But after we graduated and she got engaged, she began giving away the seasons, and when I indignantly asked why, she said it was because the fiance didn’t approve, that he didn’t think Friends was a good influence on his wife-to-be. What the hell! Now this particular friend is the meekest, shyest, most modest girl EVER and she had been watching Friends for years without it turning her into a fan of casual sex and inappropriate remarks. It made me SO angry that this guy was treating his 23-year-old fiancee like a child and telling her what was and was not appropriate for her to watch! But when I vented to a mutual friend, she disagreed and said, “He’s just trying to protect her.” I said that would fine and dandy if this girl was his child, but she’s a grown woman and supposed to be his partner! Why would any woman willingly put herself in such a disrespectful marriage?

  • Pingback: Bad Reasons to Change Your Last Name After Marriage

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    I had a college degree and professional certification under my birth name – Tsu Dho Nimh – as well as a social security card, bank accounts, driver’s license, credit cards, etc. changing would have been a serious hassle and expense. Also, I resisted losing my identity. He met me as TDN, so what was the need to become Mrs. HisFirstName Whoever? I even convinced a stockbroker that they should be able to handle married couples with different names.
    My spouse bitched and moaned for a while until a wedding invitation from a co-worker arrived addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName Nimh”. He finally got it.

  • Matunos

    Since I’m not willing to pay $5 to subscribe to an online Evangelical site, any chance we could get more context? I first read that the fiancée’s comment as you did, a passive aggressive emotional manipulation that I wouldn’t wish even on an Evangelical.

    But then she says he was right, and that the converse was true as well, and then quotes Steve Jobs saying the equivalent of Richard Carlson’s “don’t sweat te small stuff… and it’s all small stuff”.

    So now I’m curiously intrigued to understand her real logic here (but not intrigued enough to subscribe to find out). Is she really acquiescing because her fiancée implied that if she didn’t, it meant he wasn’t important to her; or was her logic that taking his name was something important to him and keeping her surname was not (after reflection) that important to her? Cause the latter makes more sense, even if we remain a little skeptical of the ultimate advice.

  • Matunos

    Lemme also add that, IMO, the only controversy with surnames in modern relationships should be the childrens’.

    • Christine

      Ah, but that is why I wanted to change my name. It saved us having to choose which of us got to share names with the kids later on. (That and getting married right out of undergrad means that changing one’s name isn’t a huge problem.)

  • Leni

    My mother changed her name back to her maiden name after she divorced my father, and kept it when she later remarried. The kids kept my dad’s name, but it was never confusing for us. I don’t understand why people think that kids would be confused by that. I knew my mom had a family, I knew my dad had a family, and I knew they had different names. It wasn’t any more confusing that knowing my aunts and uncles had different last names. Of all the things I found confusing as a child, last names didn’t even rank.

    She also made my middle name her mother’s maiden name. It’s a weird name and a bit awkward, but I’ve always thought that was a nice tribute to her mother. I like having the reminder of who they were right there in my name even if I’m not crazy about the name itself.

  • Pingback: Link Love « Becky's Kaleidoscope

  • David Peterson

    Dear Libby (and commentors),

    My name is David Peterson. I am the proud husband of Andree Sue and subject of this, your unfortunate, miguided blog. I’m only sorry that I happened upon it today–3 months after its publication.

    As some of your readers/commentors had the discernment to note, you entirely misconstrued Andree’s meaning in the sited article. My statement–to the effect that ultimately I am not that important to her–had nothing whatsoever to do with whether she took my name or not. That decision was left to her.

    Since nothing contextually in the essay suggests such an interpretation (that “Basically, Andree’s fiance told her that if he was actually important to her, she’d change her name to to his”), I can only assume this thought was suggested to your mind by the byline (inserted by the editor) which mentions a name change after the title: Altar Calling.

    But, as anyone who reads the essay can see, she says nothing about changing her name in connection with my statement to her. (It’s always good to have the facts right before before documenting the fact that you don’t know whatof you speak.)

    Sorry to disappoint your attempt to demonstrate heirachical “misogynist bullshit” in the “evangelical” community, but your desire to appear better–or more enlightened–than those whom you unfairly criticize speaks for itself. One need not be a Christian to benefit from the teaching of Jesus who said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    • machintelligence

      @ David Peterson:

      When nothing else was working my true love said to me, “Andrée, ultimately I’m not that important to you.” It was the last resort in a drawn out drama and it did the trick.

      Well, enlighten us. What was the context of the quote?

      My name is David Peterson. I am the proud husband of Andree Sue and subject of this, your unfortunate, miguided blog.

      And you might try spelling your wife’s name correctly.

  • David Peterson

    Machintelligence,

    The subject of the conversation this quote was extracted from pertained to eternal verses temporal priorities. There is a larger, divine reality which must inform one’s decisions in this fleeting, earthly exsistence. I was thus saying, in the grand divine scheme of things, I was really not that important to her. God must be first and foremost since her relationship with me is temporal, her relationship with God, eternal. The careful reader will find that when the entire essay is read–rather than a single paragraph lifted from it–this theme is developed throughout.

    You will pardon, I’m sure, my typo.

    • machintelligence

      To deal with the trivial first, I agree it was a typo. I just felt that the snarky tenor of your comment deserved a reply in kind.
      OK, I have re-read the article twice more and can see ( I think) , what you are talking about. Still, “we aren’t very important to each other” seems to be a pretty thin reason to get married. Why this would change her mind is a puzzle to me. On first through third readings it appeared that you were playing the “hurt feelings card” , a tactic much beloved by salesmen and con men (Don’t you trust me?). I would be very interested to hear her explain her take on it.

  • David Peterson

    Machintelligence,
    I appreciate the response (I comment via cell phone so typos/misspells are common: big fingers, tiny keys!).

    If my comment seemed “snarky” to you, it wasn’t my intention but, fair enough. After reading numerous unfouded cruel criticisms about my wife and/or me–in both this and the Happy Atheist blog of the same date–I was perturbed.

    As already explained,

    “Hurt feeellngs card”?

  • David Peterson

    Oops–hit the Publish button inadvertently.

    As already explained, my comment to Andree contrasted temporal realities (relationship) to eternal ones. You have misunderstood to suppose I was saying, “We really aren’t that important to each other.” My wife is deeply important to me, and, I believe, me to her. “Ultimately”, I said. It was a statement about ultimate priorities in our life, i. e., God has to come first. But I’ve said this already.

    “Hurt feelings card?” I don’t know that I follow you. You (and some others) seem to think my statement was some type of emotional manipulation, whether to take my last or, perhaps, even to marry me. It was not, no manipulation, and had nothing to do with either of these. We’d been engaged for five years at that point, and long ago, Andree, of her own accord, had expressed her desire to take my name. Indeed it was I who first raised issue of the possible conflict that may cause for her known professional name, and I who suggested the retention of Seu in it.

    All I will say further about the context of my statement is that it was said to snap her out of a state of unhealthy self pity, hence her “it did the trick” statement. It was a private conversation so I don’t feel at liberty to reveal more than she chose to in her essay. I trust you can repect that.

    Why anyone would be “very interested” to hear her take on it (or even read this that I’m writing) I can’t imagine. It was a small thing, a grab the reader’s attention opening line. But I’ll take your word for it and thank you for your interest. If you really care to “hear her take on it”, Andree’s email address can be found at the bottom of her essays.

    Peace to you

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      David,

      Thank you for taking the time to explain. Let me quote two things you said and then double check that I understand you and explain why I wrote what I did.

      The subject of the conversation this quote was extracted from pertained to eternal verses temporal priorities. There is a larger, divine reality which must inform one’s decisions in this fleeting, earthly exsistence. I was thus saying, in the grand divine scheme of things, I was really not that important to her. God must be first and foremost since her relationship with me is temporal, her relationship with God, eternal.

      You (and some others) seem to think my statement was some type of emotional manipulation, whether to take my last or, perhaps, even to marry me. It was not, no manipulation, and had nothing to do with either of these. We’d been engaged for five years at that point, and long ago, Andree, of her own accord, had expressed her desire to take my name. Indeed it was I who first raised issue of the possible conflict that may cause for her known professional name, and I who suggested the retention of Seu in it.

      It sounds to me like you are saying that when you said “Andrée, ultimately I’m not that important to you,” what you meant was “remember, Andrée, in the grand scheme of things ultimately I’m not that important to you, and that’s how it should be” rather than “Andrée, if you’re not willing to take my last name, ultimately I’m not that important to you,” which is how I interpreted the statement.

      Now obviously, only a short part of your conversation was quoted in her essay and I can’t speak for what you or she meant or how either of you interpreted what the other was saying or doing. But I can say that I don’t think it’s strange that I understood the comment the way I did. Let me explain.

      Growing up, I was constantly told things like “if you’re not willing to spend twenty minutes reading the Bible each morning before breakfast, God must not be that important to you.” I heard siblings told “if you’re not willing to sit with us through a family dinner, your family must not be that important to you. This sort of language is also extremely common in relationships characterized by manipulation: “If you won’t do XYZ, I must not be that important to you.” And that paragraph of the essay appears to fit this sort of pattern perfectly – Andrée was trying to decide if she should or should not take your name, and you pulled the “I’m not that important to you” line, and that comment “did the trick.” I don’t think it’s surprising, then, that that’s how I understood the comment.

      And yes, I did read the rest of the article, but it was a while back and it’s now behind a pay wall. My impression from the rest of the article was that Andrée realized that even though she might be with you for only a time, she should take your name to signify this new stage in her life and new part of her journey, because you did matter to her and she wanted to symbolize that you and she were together at least for the time. None of this was inconsistent with my understanding of that first paragraph.

      Anyway, I’m sorry my article upset you. Perhaps I should have asked Andrée for clarification of that first paragraph before posting it. I apologize. The point of this comment is not to tell you what you or your wife really meant (that would be silly, only the two of you can know that!) but rather to explain why I, and many others, understood it the way we did. I’m leaving the article as is but am adding all of your comments here as a correction to the bottom of the article. I will also email the Friendly Atheist and let him know in case he wants to make a correction there.

      With the best of intentions,

      Libby Anne

  • David Peterson

    Libby,
    Thanks for the response. Yes! Your understanding of my intended meaning: “And that’s the way it should be” is precisely correct. My comment was a corrective measure intended to encourage her out of a self-pity funk of long standing concerning the reative brevity of time we have together at this stage of our lives by reminding her of a larger perspective.

    I do understand that without that bit of “inside information” her meaning is less than clear, even though certain thoughts in the rest of the essay allude to it. Perhaps it would have been more lucid had Andree quoted my statement near the end of the essay. But my wife is a gifted essayist and wordsmith so I tend to trust her instincts in these things.

    Thank you for sharing from your personal familial experience. It helps to understand how you thus interpreted my statement to Andree. We all, each one of us–to greater or less extents–process the external world around us through the filter of our subject experiences. So I totally get that.

    I wouldn’t be too hard on your parents (not to suggest that you are). While psychological or emotional manipulation is never a valid means to an end (at least one wherein a person attempts to exert his/her will over that of another), it is an unfortunate reality that we are seemingly hardwired with this tendancy. I thus appreciate an insight my wife occasionally repeats: We are either manipulating or ministering (in the broad, not clerical, sense of the word).

    Finally, on that note–as it pertains to things spiritual–I don’t believe one can ever legitimately be compelled to “religious” behavior or genuine faith through emotional manipulation. It is a sad reality that this method is oft employed not only in family systems but in all too many churches. As I understand God, He has great regard for the faculty of volition He put within us whereby we may freely choose relationship with Him, or not. He graciously invites us to know Him, but no man or woman can manipulate another to that end.

    Thank you, Libby, for your gesture with regard to the Happy Atheist. Since you are leaving your column as is, I wonder if you might consider at least inserting a note below it referencing this conversation. That seems fair enough since many/most readers wouldn’t otherwise read this far into the comments.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful response.
    Peace to you

  • David Peterson

    Libby,
    I just reread your above to me and see you indicate that you will add my comments at the bottom. (On first read I thought you meant you’d add my comments “here” at the bottom, not at the bottom of your article). So that’s fine instead of my suggestion above. Either way will be great. Thanks

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I’ve added an update at the bottom of the post, with your comments and our exchange. The Friendly Atheist has, at my request, added an update to the bottom of his post pointing readers to your comments at the end of my post.

      • machintelligence

        Thanks for getting involved with this Libby Anne. I’m glad to see it resolved amiably.

  • David Peterson

    Thanks much. I do appreciate it.
    Peace to all

  • David Peterson

    CORRECTION
    In my statement above I meant to say that we process the external world around us through the filter of our “subjective” experience, not “subject”.

  • Pingback: From “Legal” Coverture to “Visionary” Coverture


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X