For the one year and a couple of months I’ve been married, I’ve been getting all kinds of reactions to the fact that I have retained my maiden name. In some cases it’s become such a big deal - like my grandmom who thought I was doing something illegal by not changing my name. The same granny also thought to tell me of all the problems that can arise in a marriage by ‘small’ things like these (this she told me in hushed whispers and concerned tones). I tried explaining to her about how my identity is my own, and that getting married does not mean I change a name I’ve lived with and been associated with for 25 yrs of my life. I also had to tell her (hoping it would make her comfortable with the idea) that I had the Fellow’s support in this decision and that it wasn’t something he really bothered or even thought about.
But of course we had to think about it. In the organisation we are in, change is slow. Formality is abundant. And so if I’m married, I’m automatically Mrs. Last-name-of-the-chap-I’m-married-to. In the beginning, it irked me to no end, to be constantly referred to as Mrs. XYZ. Then I decided to not waste time getting annoyed since these people obviously hadn’t heard of retaining your own identity (and Women’s Lib, but that was asking for too much). But the more I saw around me, the more amazed I was. It was like the women didn’t want to think on their own really. They were mouthpieces for their husbands; their image depended on the rank their husband was at and his position in the larger hierarchical group. Everything they did was keeping their husbands future (and present) in mind, even if it meant not having a brain of their own (or using it). I don’t mean that anyone should go out of their way to prove a point, at the risk of someone’s career. But at least be sure of who you are, outside of your spouse.
Today I just got more proof of how the women around me have somehow lost themselves in their relationship, so much so that who they were or can be is pretty much forgotten - I was sitting in a school Principal’s office, and she was going through files full of CV’s of women applying for a teaching post. However, apart from the sheer number of applicants, the one thing that struck me was that along with their name, each and every one of these women had added “Wife of So and So”.
And I was left wondering - when applying for a job, unless you’re Rabri Devi, how does it matter whom you’re married to?