Every semester I have three or four students get married halfway through the semester. I'm not Sally Swearingen anymore, they will giggle, now I'm Sally Benton.
I sigh and mark the roll book appropriately. I do not give them my Feminist Lecture 112B, no matter how much it burns at the base of my gullet. (I do not burst out with my rant about how they will be coming to me in two semesters giggling how they are Sally Weston now, either; oh no, I restrain myself.)
But seriously: wtf? I long to say. Is this not 2010? Why are you "taking his name"? Beyond the fact that it is extremely annoying for me, the professor, to keep track of just who the shit you are if you are changing your name every semester and a half, do you not understand the meaning behind this tradition? Do you not understand what you are doing when you "take" his name?
I actually did go off on this once, when a sweet little lamb in one of my literature classes asked me why I was Dr. Delagar rather than Dr. My Husband's Name.
"Why would I do that?" I demanded of not just her but of the entire class. "Don't you know what it means when a woman is given her husband's name upon marriage?"
The woman who asked the question stated, very boldly, "It means she's committed to the marriage."
Committed. Interesting choice of words.
"It means she becomes part of her husband's clan," I corrected, as patiently as I could. "It means she becomes part of his chattel. Like his cattle, or his pigs, or his kids."
"Why doesn't he take your name when you marry him?" I asked. "Wouldn't that mean he was committed to the marriage?"
"Because that's not how it's done," she said.
"Right. But why?"
She folded her arms over her chest.
"Maybe because he's not property and you are?" I said.
"It's just your father's name anyway," said one of my smarter male students from the back row. "Right? So what difference does it make?"
"So it's just your father's name anyway," I said to him. "So why don't you give it up and take your wife's when you marry her?"
Which I didn't mean to make the class laugh at him (really, I didn't, I'm just seriously sick of guys thinking they're SCORING with that stupid question) but they all did.
I waved them quiet. "It's my name," I said. "Your name is who you are. No one should ask you to give it up. No one should want to take it away from you, for any reason. Anyone who wants to, seriously. You should seriously think twice about a relationship with that person." I took a breath. "And this isn't Tennyson, so we should move on."