The other day a lady in the office asked me about my surname. You know the way Kenyans are always trying to figure out which part of the country you’re from by checking out your name. In a bid to find out what kind of name ‘Kihusa’ is, I mentioned that it was my husband’s name and not my dad’s and the discussion took an entirely new direction.
“Are you serious? You changed your name?” The lady asked looking horrified you’d think I had committed a terrible crime like stealing a baby – am not planning on stealing a baby, it’s just the first thing that popped into my head 🙂
I said yes. When I mentioned that I was in the process of changing my ID and other documents to read Kihusa she looked like she was going to have a stroke –OK, am exaggerating. But seriously, she couldn’t believe it. She clearly disapproved and was not afraid to show it. She went ahead to suggest I was being naïve and shortsighted. I was on the verge of getting offended but I went on listening.
Here are her arguments and my responses.
What if the marriage doesn’t last and you have to get a divorce? Then you have to change back to your maiden name. First of all, who starts out marriage thinking of a divorce? Seriously, who does that? Most people I know get into marriage planning that it will last. If you already think it won’t, why get married in the first place? I’ve been married for close to a year now and I have consciously decided to close the back door called divorce. I’m not planning to run at the first site of trouble. Am not naïve, I know there will be trouble. There will be days when leaving will be an option but I choose now to stay. I have promised my husband to stay with him until death do us part and taking up his name is a way to put my actions where my mouth is. It is a show of faith on my part. A way to say “I’m here to stay”.
But people are used to your old name. Won’t it be hard on them? I don’t think this is even a valid argument but I answered the question anyway. Some of my old friends still call me Kiunga – my father’s name and I don’t mind it. It’ll take time but you have to start somewhere. Nonetheless, am not the kind of person who is keen on pleasing people – it’s an elusive goal I tell you. If your friends thinks it’s “hard” to learn your new name, they shouldn’t even be your friends. That’s just how I see it.
It’s a lot of work to change all your documents! Another invalid argument in my opinion. Since when do we do things because they are easy and convenient? In Kenya, if you want to change your surname, you have to go with your husband, a copy of your ID and your marriage certificate. I agree it’s a bit cumbersome, but which is better, to change now or later? You see, if I change my ID and passport now, all my new documents will come with the new name
You will lose your identity! You’re from now on going to be referred as his, not a person on your own. My identity is not lost at all. The things that used to define me before marriage have not changed. I was a hardworking, focused (among many other things) woman and I still am! True, I have a new identity. I’m his –which is a huge responsibility for him. But I’m still my own person, I don’t now have the same opinions as he does just because I have his name. I will keep seeing things differently (just like everyone else) because everyone has their perspective.
Plus, I have to ask. When I was called by my father’s name did it mean that my identity was lost, that it was his identity? No. my opinions and worldview was not tied to him alone. All it meant was that I was his daughter.
Changing my name is one way of showing my man that I’m willing submit to his leadership. That in our home, he is the head and I’m cool with it. It is a way to say I understand my identity, that my place is with you now. And if that isn’t having an identity I don’t know what is.
Any achievement you have will be linked to him. First of all this is not true because of reasons given on the identity issue above. If I do a Nobel Prize (ahem) am the one who gets the credit. He gets to share in his wife’s achievement but I do not in any way lose the Prize to him.
It’s the 21st Century. I get it. It’s no longer cool to take up your hubby’s name. People keep telling me “if you really have to put it there then put a hyphen, let it read Wanjiru Kiunga-Kihusa.” No thanks. I’m old school and am OK with it. Plus, putting a hyphen just makes the name longer and it takes more time to write 🙂