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Guest column | Jerry Cowling

Here's the real reason women keep maiden names

After all these years I think I finally decoded one of the many mysticisms of femininity. If I'm wrong please don't tell me. I'm so satisfied with myself for understanding something new about women I don't want it spoiled.

Going back to when I was a young man in the 1960s, I was a bit confused about why some women wanted to hyphenate their names after getting married.

One person explained that it was about a woman keeping her own name. But, as I thought but dared not say aloud, it wasn't her name anyway. It was her father's name and his father's name before that. I didn't actually say it because I didn't want to come across as being a male chauvinist pig.

I even knew a woman once who had a hyphenated name whose husband hyphenated his name with hers. The trouble was that she eventually divorced him. His being so understanding got on her nerves, I think. Anyway, after the divorce he kept his hyphenated name.

Don't get me wrong. I was all for anyone calling themselves anything they wanted. If they hyphenated every name from the last 10 generations it was fine with me. I was especially all for women making equal pay for equal work. When you're a stay-at-home dad with no other income, you become a real women's libber.

My daughter, being raised by a stay-at-home dad while Mom was a probation officer, grew up to be very opinionated and independent. She didn't even take her husband's name when they married.

He actually volunteered to take her last name. It's just as well that he didn't because she divorced him anyway. He didn't do his share of the cooking and cleaning.

What's the use of having a man around if he doesn't do housekeeping? She has a new husband now. He cleaned house, and she took his name.

Anyway, in the past year or two I noticed more women used their maiden names as a middle name, not hyphenated. My wife told me women had to do that for legal documents, like deeds and stuff. That was true, but I saw it places where it was not a legal document.

This was where my epiphany came. The feminine mysticism became clear. I was wrong. Nothing mystical about that. But I was wrong thinking the insertion of the maiden name had to do with identity issues. That was not it. It was a love issue.

Women who identified themselves with their maiden names in the middle were giving credit to their mothers and fathers. They wanted the world to know who was responsible for who they were. It was the woman and the man of a certain name who raised her with self-esteem, values, common sense and education. I wanted to think these women were honoring their parents.

You see, men didn't have to think about things like that because our parents got credit, or blame as the case may be, automatically because of the way society was. Leave it to women, through their mysticism, to go the extra mile to give credit where it is due.

Please don't tell me I'm wrong.

Jerry Cowling is a freelance writer and storyteller living in Brooksville.

Here's the real reason women keep maiden names 07/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2011 4:45pm]
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