I am writing to ask if I should voice my opinion to my 28-year-old niece Heidi. Her fiancé Dennis is adamant that she take his name when they get married because “that’s how it should be.”
Heidi is very conflicted about this because she flat-out does not want to “feel erased” or lose her identity. She was up front with her wishes but he thought she was kidding! His position is this is non-negotiable: she agrees to change her name or the wedding is off.
His family and hers are pressuring her to take his name and to produce a grandchild, although she wants to enjoy her freedom for a while longer.
I want to tell her how dangerous this demand is but we aren’t particularly close or even blood-related, I don’t want to spoil her wedding, and I don’t want her parents angry with me for interfering.
I would like to give her the language to engage Dennis in a conversation that helps her keep her self-respect. But I do not think she can cure a determined patriarchal young man. How do I reconcile my responsibility to help a young woman with the need for family harmony?
Wow! Is there going to be an examination of the laxity of vaginal muscles via the Two-Fingered Virginity Test too?
When I got your email I felt like I had gone to sleep in 2015 and woken up decades ago when women were only encouraged to “land” a husband as quickly as possible and start shooting babies out of their BABB (Bolt Action Baby Barrel) in a rat-a-tat-tat fashion.
Why would a woman back then want to keep their own name? Women didn’t really exist as fully-formed humans until they hitched their wagon to a fella and had some babies suckling on their swiftly-drooping titties, after all!
When we emailed I asked you if Heidi had an established career because if she did it could be a counterpoint to her fiancé’s caveman chest-thumping approach to the issue. That’s when another yet another red flag popped up: she had a successful career until she dropped it to join his family business.
Yikes. The assimilation into the Borg is almost complete and they haven’t even walked the aisle yet. Now she is financially dependent upon a controlling man and his family, making divorce an even more difficult option should she consider it at some point after making the mistake of marrying this man.
The problem I see is that your niece hasn’t asked your advice. That means you should stay out of it!
Screw family harmony. You need to be the voice of reason and help this young woman learn to stand up for herself, because clearly her parents didn’t teach her how.
Heidi is facing a miserable marriage to a controlling chauvinist pig. She’s probably feeling quite alone, especially since her own damn family (except you) is no help to her, so offer your support.
I sense you are an intelligent woman who doesn’t need me to draft a script for you but I need something to do this morning and I’m avoiding my book. Here you go!
1. Take her out for what will certainly be a Sad Happy Hour.
2. Glance around furtively and ensure the Misogyny Mafia, also known as her family, aren’t having her followed by private dicks and monitoring her conversation with you. These people are probably tracking her ovulation via surreptitious basal temperature monitoring so I wouldn’t put anything past them.
3. Deliver unto your poor niece the following speech:
I love you and I want you to be happy. I see nothing wrong with women taking the surname of their husband and I understand why even in this modern age, couples choose to do just that. If you want to make this change, do it.
My worry is that you don’t want to make this change, and that you are being pressured into an uncompromising situation by a man who is supposed to love and support you as a partner, not consider you chattel or a mere appurtenance of himself.
I won’t tell you what to do, but I will offer you this cautionary sentiment: marriage is inherently about compromise and respect. And I don’t see a lot of that going on here.
You’ve already sublimated your career goals to join his family business. What more will you be asked to give up? You aren’t even married yet, but already he is making demands upon you that are based upon outdated social norms and a disturbing tone of ownership.
Any man who would call off a marriage because his wife wants to retain her only birthright, her name, is not a man who can make you a happy wife. He is not a man who will value you, your opinions on the family business, your thoughts on how your children are raised or really any key issues that will arise in your marriage.
I urge you to stand up for yourself and think about how small the name change issue is. If he will leave you over this, he will leave you over anything.
Finally, please know that I will support you in whatever decision you make and I will always be here for you.
As for the family pressuring her to “deliver a grandchild,” that’s just weird. Heidi is only 28 years old. Couples should make the choice to increase the size of their family because they want to have children, not because bored middle-aged women with nothing to do lament their empty nests and empty lives and lust to become grandmothers.
Note that you used the phrase “enjoy her freedom.”
Heidi’s freedom will end the day she signs the marriage certificate regardless of when she produces a replicant. The parents on both sides are far too involved in this young couple’s life together and this is just the beginning.
I have a feeling your niece may be coming to me for advice on her own soon, because with the wedding fast approaching this August she may not find the courage to stand up for her name and her sense of self.