What’s in a name?

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 🙂 name1

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.  name

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 🙂


42 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. The lady asked looking horrified you’d think I had committed a terrible crime like stealing a baby ………………. this is an award winning piece of creative writing

  2. I hold the same view, but i would never be able to write out my mind so eloquently. I love your style of writing. God bless your work. You’re inspiring me to start a blob. Many blessings!

  3. Great writing and on point for our generation. My wife changed her name, her id and all exactly two weeks after our wedding. We had not talked about it and when I asked, she simply said that she had made a vow that only death would annul and hence no need to wait. Right there, I knew it would be a great ride. 16 years later, I am glad I married her.

    Keep writing.

    NB: Thank you for passing by my blog http://www.lifession.com the other day.

    You are a blessing

    • Edward, standing ovation for your wife! 16 years? wow, when I grow up I want to be just like you 🙂
      Keep writing too, I’m currently reading your piece “How to Ruin Your Marriage or Relationship in 4 Easy Steps”..Great work!

    • Edward, this wife of mine actually insisted that she wanted to change her name. I was none the wiser 🙂 She is definitely a keeper. 16 years down the line i hope to be saying the same thing you are saying. I am one proud husband 🙂

  4. Amazing piece there gal friend,and yes I agree with u,we got to put ur actions where our words are! Tell her even f it was possible,u could change ur blood type to match his!

  5. I love my dad…and my surname but I’m an old school gal and when I get married, I am changing it. No hyphens, no commas, no extra spaces or quotation marks… If you love someone enough to commit your life to them, I figure changing your name is a small deal. Well written! 🙂

  6. ” And the two shall become one” you just found another way of elaborating that. God bless you for your great insights, we all need to hear the truth and not be blinded but the worlds idea of truth.

  7. Proud of you Carol Kiunga!!! Lol! (One of your old friends who still has trouble calling you by your new name) – go ahead and strike me off your friends list!! Lol! Great piece this is 🙂

  8. That was a good commitment gesture……it shows you really meant to be married……you burnt the bridge of returning ………….i admire your writing prose keep it up

  9. nice one, hebu tell them. Unfortunately our generation has so many unbelievers in marriage and they r quite a number in the church.
    So hebu waambie tena

  10. Mh, appreciate the thinking. Been married happily for 13 years and I am double barreled all the way. I don’t believe dropping your surname is proof of love or submission. That’s a matter of the heart, not names!

    • Thanks Nyambura for sharing your thoughts. I salute you for being married for 13 years..that’s not an easy thing especially in our generation. I share your opinion, people should not imagine that changing your name will automatically give you a happy marriage -I still need to work on my marriage. I have to practice kindness, forgiveness, wisdom, careful speech and all other things that build a marriage. Readers shouldn’t get me wrong, dropping your name is not proof of love and submission. For instance, you cant speak disrespectfully to your man, disregard his opinions and leadership and still think you’re submitting just because you changed a name!

  11. Very nice piece, I love your arguments. And while you’re at it, please find out for me the process of hyphenating a name in legal documents (is it possible to have a hyphenated name in the ID?) Me i’m in the group of hyphenating 🙂

    • Thanks..I love your blog! Been visiting it a lot of late – am looking to become a mummy soon and it’s really helpful 🙂 Let me do some research on the documents and drop you an email..Ok?

  12. Well written, My take:
    My first year in law school convinced me that changing names after marriage is not wise but again not wrong. It should be at one’s liberty and free will. All the best 🙂

  13. Hey, read this blog post sometime back and forgot to comment but can you please outline the process of changing your name in your ID and passport (places and process details please). I had wanted to do that but left Kenya immediately I got married and I would like to do that next time I am in Kenya and would like to know how long it would take so that I can plan to be there long enough to do it. You can email me or post on your blog (just in case someone else also wants to know how to do it)

    • Julie,
      I’m currently going through the process. Here is what you do:
      1. Go to a place that deals with ID replacement/issuing near you. Most DC offices have them
      2. Carry your original ID, Marriage certificate and go with hubby (you MUST go together)
      3. Tell the clerk you want “change of details”
      4. It shouldn’t take more than a month to get new ID

  14. This is incisively refreshing and true. You’ve nailed it home Wanjiru especially on the argument “I’m his –which is a huge responsibility for him”. Keep up the good work…

  15. i like i like… someone shared one of these on facebook and i can’t stop reading your ‘articles'(for lack of a better word)… i feel like u have been sent to me by God.. May God bless u as u keep writing and increase your wisdom all for his glory as u continue to inspire young women…

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