Back in my early 20s, one by one, all of my straight friends started to get married. For the most part, I was happy for them. I loved discussing the details of their big days, probably more than they did. I could tolerate spending Sunday afternoons at wedding showers making small talk with grandmothers (at least it gave me a socially-acceptable excuse to drink during the day). I even came to terms with the fact that I’d be shelling out a grand every time someone asked me to be a bridesmaid.
What I absolutely, positively could not tolerate was when one of my friends sheepishly told me she was considering the unthinkable – taking her husband’s last name. What!?! We were feminists. We took care of ourselves. We had careers and ambitions. These were strong and independent women who had no problem bucking convention in millions of other ways, so it was impossible for me to understand their decisions at the time.
The first time one of my feisty feminist pals was introduced at her wedding as “Mrs. Susie [LAST NAME OF SOME STUPID BOY],” I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from screaming, “Do you remember all of the Take Back the Night and pro-choice rallies we marched in? Have you forgotten all of the Ani DiFranco concerts we went to? Did none of that mean anything to you?”
And then I fell in love.
Of course, I didn’t fall in love with a man; I fell in love with a woman (a few of them over the years, actually). Marrying one of these women wasn’t really of an option a decade ago, but even if it had been, the notion of changing my name never would have entered my consciousness. That was something silly straight people did. Nevertheless, the experience of being in love softened me a bit, and if I didn’t completely understand my hetero friends’ decisions to change their names, I was at least able to accept that their brains had not been taken over by misogynist Martians.
Fast forward to today, and marriage is a realistic option for lesbians. And unbelievably, I’ve found the one who I want to marry (and who claims she is willing to tolerate me for the rest of her life!). Maybe it’s because we still have to jump through all kinds of legal and cultural hoops to get our lesbian unions recognized, but I feel the need to let the world know my relationship is real and that we are in this for the long haul – just like every straight couple who strolls down to city hall and seals the deal with one piece of paper.