To Be or Not to Be a Hughlett

1 09 2009

When Roger and I got married six and a half years ago, there was no question that I wasn’t going to change my name. A Safavian I was born, and a Safavian I will die.

My last name just feels like such a huge part of my identity. It is my tie to my father, the person I loved most for much of my life.

It is a tie to my history. The Safavians are the offspring, many generations removed of the Safavids, the ruling dynasty of Iran several centuries ago. I don’t lay claim to the accomplishments or failures of my ancestors, but it’s nice to feel like I have some roots laid down in documented history.

In addition to all of the above, my last name is a tie to the customs of my heritage. Iranians don’t change their names when they get married. In fact, the custom of a woman adopting her husband’s family name is a very Western thing. It is also a very sexist thing. Look it up on Wikipedia (and yes, before you say it, I know Wikipedia is in no way an authoritative source on anything, but humor me for a bit). I quote:

It can be construed as meaning the woman’s father and then husband had control over her, and it means that lines of male descent (patrilinearity) are seen as primary—that a child has no inherited name tying him or her to female ancestors (matrilinearity). Moreover, it means that women have no surnames of their own, but only “place-markers” indicating their relationship to men.

I have nothing more to that criticism other than to say that it sums up the final nail in the coffin of the idea that I would adopt the Hughlett surname when I wed Roger.

Not that Roger actually pressured or even ever brought up the idea. Roger knows me better than that, and I like to think that he loves me precisely for being that person. And, certainly no one in my family really questioned whether or not I would change my name either. Not even Roger’s parents made a big deal out of this.

His extended family is another story. Now, I’m not saying that they make a big deal or even any deal out of this non-issue. I’m just saying that every holiday season, Roger and I take on the big project of sending holiday cards to just about everyone in our large list of family and friends. That’s a lot of cards, but we do it because 1) we have a mutual, freakish love of good stationary, and 2) we both think it’s nice to spread a little holiday cheer. Every year, as we take on this task, we address every card with “Safavian / Hughlett” in the return address. It is pretty clear that we are not “The Hughletts”, but “The Safavian” and “The Hughlett.” Then we buy the coolest holiday-themed stamps we can find, send these cards off, and wait for our favorite part…

our ongoing little contest to see which one of us guesses correctly how many cards people will send us in return addressed to “Mr. & Mrs. Hughlett.” We laugh at it, and the following statement really is mostly jest, but some people really will use any vehicle, even a holiday card, to keep a woman down. And to that I say, Rrrrraaaaar!

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2 responses

4 09 2009
Cara

I guess I’m old fashioned but I don’t mind the whole name change thing. Obviously, since I did it. For me, it was about creating a family unit. While I know there is much more to that than just a name, it does give me a sense of belonging, of permanence. Also, and this was a biggie for me, I wanted to have the same name as our child(ren).

It’s funny, I’m reading a book right now (The Motion of the Ocean – I recommend it!) and I’m at a part where she talks about the dilemma of whether to change her name.

4 09 2009
zsafavian

I don’t know what it is about the name change thing that just never appealed to me. I think it’s because so much of my life is more American than Iranian that I wanted to hold on to as much of the Iranian side as I could — even out my two halves. My sister changed her name once she had kids, and actually, so did my mom. And I definitely am feeling your argument about having the same name as your children. It’s a compromise, but that’s why we made Azita’s middle name Safavian — not that anyone but the government, her future teachers and school administrators, and now anyone who actually reads my blog will ever know. 🙂

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