The First Day of the Rest of Your Life Together
Mrs. Who? To Name Change or Not
One of your first big decisions as a dynamic duo is to decide what your new handle will be. Some of you Married Girls were ready to link your first names with his last the very second Your Guy first sent a sexy smile your way. For other MGs the decision is angst ridden and goes against everything you (and your shrink) have programmed your single selves to believe. Admittedly, sound dating mantras like "Don't lose yourself in the relationship" and "You shouldn't have to give up your identity to be with someone" loom large as you debate giving up the name you've known your whole life. Many MGs love the romance of becoming a unit and having a shared last name that they will pass on to their children. Others couldn't care less what anyone will think if they keep their monogram the way it was on their baby pillow.
Your Guy may or may not have very definite opinions about this, but this is one of the first big decisions you make together (you both have to live with your choice every day). So make sure you know his take. You can always remind him that legally he has the option to take your name. Whether you decide to keep the name your parents gave you or take on his, here's the skinny on what to expect:
Mrs. Susie Marriedgirl
Taking on your husband's name is the biggest seller with new brides. Out of all your options it involves the least amount of speculation and questioning from pesky characters like your new mother-in-law.
PROS: This is an opportunity to align yourself with your man, the two of you against the world. It is especially useful if you have a notorious past, say, in the criminal underworld. You can erase it all with a new name (it's what cons on the run do, after all). And it is an especially tempting choice if you've been dying to get rid of an impossibly long or trickily spelled name.
CONS: You'll be faced with a few annoying transitional weeks, perhaps months, where you'll be constantly reminding people that your name isn't Susie Singlegirl anymore. You will be doing so much correcting you will feel like a third-grade teacher (or your mother). Old friends may not be supportive of your eliminating your Singlegirl roots. They might say, quite offhandedly, "You know, you'll always be Susie Singlegirl to me."
TIPS: This is a terrific opportunity to make over your office. Why not order new stationery, business cards, and an email address to assist in drilling your new surname into people's minds? There is something about seeing it in writing that makes things stick.
Ms. Susie Singlegirl
Keeping your name is the way to go if you start to break out in hives, rashes, or cold sweats at the thought of losing the name you've had for the past twenty or thirty years. If you feel that your lovely name is inextricably linked to your identity, this is for you.
PROS: A good choice if you've established yourself publicly as a witty writer, sultry actor, or crime-fighting lawyer. And you don't have to go through the time-intensive process of changing your name on everything from your gym card to your Visa. A special plus if your husband's last name rhymes with your first name or is something less than desirable like Butt.
CONS: More traditional girls and your new mother-in-law will be openly disapproving. Be prepared for them to use guilt-inducing tactics like asking why you wouldn't want to take your husband's last name since it represents being committed to the relationship. You will have to make a very big point of introducing yourself as Susie Singlegirl lest people just assume you changed your name (like the emcee at the wedding probably did). This can be exasperating. Also, not a good option if you like using Your Guy's AmEx.
TIPS: Have a ready answer as to why you've decided not to change your name since you will constantly be explaining yourself. Something like "I don't want to change my name in case we get a divorce" will immediately stop anyone from bugging you about it.
HAVING IT BOTH WAYS
Ms. Susie Singlegirl for Work
Mrs. Susie Marriedgirl for Your Personal Life
Have the best of both worlds. Keep the name that has made you wildly successful in your career, but use your joint last name for social functions so single babes will know you two are together with a capital T.
PROS: You don't have to deal with the hassle of changing your name at work and having clients you've known forever say "Who?" when you call. You can go to parties and introduce yourself as Mrs. Marriedgirl to the delight of your mother-in-law. You can separate business from pleasure and have some anonymity in your personal life, key if you do something slightly naughty like write a sex column for Playboy.
CONS: You will feel like you are two people. Sybil but with only two personalities. There will be long awkward pauses before you introduce yourself, call anyone, make an appointment, or sign your name. You will constantly rack your brain when you see or talk to anyone and ponder, "Is this someone who knows me as Marriedgirl or Singlegirl?"
TIPS: Don't expect nine-to-five people to know what you call yourself from five to nine. Introducing yourself with just your first name saves a lot of migraines.
This seems like a good way to link the past with the future, but sometimes it seems a little forced. It's also, for whatever reason, not very glamorous.
PROS: People will still know it's you, as well as whom you've decided to commit to. It's a good way to keep everyone happy and mesh both your names into one.
CONS: Only works if both of you have shortish last names. Some last names simply don't go together but become tongue twisters when meshed. Do you really want to spell out Singlegirl-Marriedgirl when all you need is your dry-cleaning?
TIPS: For an easier time, have him hyphenate too.
CREATING A NEW NAME
Mr. and Mrs. Fantastic
You're a hip couple, so why not ignore convention and coin your own nifty handle? Try combining the beginning of one of your surnames with the end of the other. Or start fresh. Look in the phone book for a particular name that sounds like it's got "happy couple" written all over it and choose that.
PROS: You're on equal footing with each other since you're both tossing your former last names to the scrap heap. It's a chance to have the name you've always wanted (or at least a better one than you've got now). Your new handle may lead you in new and exciting directions, who knows? After all, would Veronica Lake have been a star if her name had stayed Constance Ockleman?
CONS: Your families will say things like "Our name isn't good enough for you?" Others, too, might consider it a little bizarre to suddenly adopt a new name. People might speculate the IRS is on your trail.
THE MG FILES:
Panic Attack at City Hall
It seemed innocent enough. Take a day off from work. Grab My Guy and head down to City Hall to get our marriage license and fill out some pesky name-change paperwork. No big deal. After seventeen years of debate, I had finally made a decision. At age ten, I told my mother that I would NEVER change my name (I also said I would always live at home). At age twenty-one, several college women's studies classes reinforced the ideal of not losing my surname to a patriarchal, chauvinistic ritual designed to obliterate the female's identity apart from her husband (even though I really, really wanted to join the patriarchal institution of wedlock). Most important, everyone called me Bliss.
Then, fabulous fate intervened and I got engaged to My Guy. I was past the feminist theory--working life had made me secure in my independent identity--but I didn't want to lose my nom de plume. Since My Guy is Mr. Mellow the idea that I might keep my name didn't faze him. "You're a writer, you've got to keep your byline," he said. My Guy was supportive, and tress cool about whatever choice I made.
Age twenty-seven, my bridal shower. As soon as I looked at a monogrammed hand towel with my married initials on it, the Martha Stewart in me came out screaming. So cute! I loved the way it looked. I wanted to monogram everything. I wanted a welcome mat, stationery, and a mailbox with our new name on it. I wanted to be Mrs. Marriedgirl and I couldn't wait to have little babes and send out Marriedgirl family holiday cards.
I was conflicted. What's a Thoroughly Modern Almost Married Girl to do?
By the time I got up to the counter at City Hall I was ready with my name-change form filled out as Sara Bliss Marriedgirl. My Guy loved our decision: use his last name socially and as a family, and use Bliss for churning out the great American novel. "I need to be anonymous when you're famous," he said, grinning.
Government Red Tape Lady quickly put a stop to our plans. "You can hyphenate. You can't make your maiden name your middle name unless you ask permission of the court," she pronounced. "What's it going to be?" In the past weeks, I had endured not fitting into my wedding dress because I had gained weight, bridesmaids' skirts that arrived see-through, and now this. Red Tape Lady watched me panic.
I hesitated. I hemmed and hawed. I stared blankly at the paper before me. My Guy awaited my decision. Red Tape Lady was not so patient. She suggested we step aside and loudly announced that we were wasting both her time and the time of other "ready and organized" brides.
We were banished to the corner of the room to figure things out. Other brides sent concerned glances our way. My Guy found the whole thing very amusing. He let me know that things could be worse, I could be embarking on life with Menacing Tattoo Muscle Guy across the room.
End result? Red Tape Lady let us come back to the counter. I didn't let a little hyphen become a big problem. Now I'm three people. Hyphengirl for legal documents. Marriedgirl for family life. Bliss for my pen name. But my friends and My Guy still call me Bliss.
Leaving the Spotlight
When you return ecstatic from your honeymoon, don't make the mistake of thinking that the world still revolves around the two of you and your great love for each other. It's easy to think that all time has stopped. You haven't seen Peter Jennings for weeks, didn't call a soul, and spent most of your time lounging on the beach/skiing down the slopes/trekking the third world/checking in to country inns. However, the reality is that everyone at home has moved on.
When you walk into a party after you're married expect a quick congratulations and a "Your wedding was so beautiful." Don't expect the same obsession with you and your wedding as when you got engaged. After Your Guy popped the question didn't you feel like a movie starlet on a publicity tour? Friends and family wanted to hear all the details: Did he get down on bended knee? Were you surprised? Emerald or princess cut? Carats? Town or country nuptials? Vera? What time of day? Hair up or down? What shade of pink exactly? Chocolate or lemon icing? And on and on and on. This fascination with you ends after the wedding and poof! You're again just like everyone else.
After spending months listening to you talk in painstaking detail about your every fight with the caterer, your friends may be a little bored with you two. Now the latest obsession is over the new fall lineup: your friend Lucinda who's finally pregnant (with twins!) or your cousin Isabella's second wedding to an English lord. You and Your Guy are just reruns. Your buddies will want to hear from you when you return from Bora Bora so they can tell you, yes, how marvelous your wedding was and how beautiful you looked, but mainly that they started dating Your Guy's cute cousin. Then you should (quickly) mention how romantic your honeymoon was, but that's it. You may have a few saintly friends who will wade through hundreds of wedding photos (although probably just to see pictures of them dancing with Your Guy's cute cousin). Only your parents will be really eager to see the pics, since it's likely they contributed some chunk of cash to the event, and they want proof of where it all went.
The MG Blues
Lots of Married Girls get a little bummed out when they realize they will never again be a bride. No more moonlit proposals. No more being the star. No more showers (you'll have to get pregnant for another one of those). No more parties in your honor. The Post-Wedding Blues is a common, but little-discussed phenomenon. Symptoms include secretly continuing to buy Martha Stewart Weddings, trying to schedule lunch with your wedding planner because you miss seeing her, and going to bridal fairs just to know what's going on in the market. Don't think that Your Guy is going to feel the same post-wedding doldrums. He is probably thrilled that all the wedding nonsense is over. After all, he just wanted you to say "I do."
Get over the Post-Wedding Blues by living vicariously through someone else's wedding. Engaged girls are always happy for another opinion and you're now a pro. Let them have a moment to shine while you take a back seat as simply a fountain of good info. Give them your wedding sources, the scoop on handling pre-wedding jitters, and the pros and cons of a receiving line. If you're still pining for wedding festivities, throw a newly engaged couple a rockin' engagement party. Just don't expect any more showering you with gifts, compliments, rose petals, and applause (although you could ask Your Guy to keep this up indefinitely).
Don't Bother Us, We're Busy Living Happily Ever After
Now that you're embarking on life as a Thoroughly Modern Married Couple, it is time to envision how you want your happily-ever-after to be. From free time to the daily grind, from the practical to the preposterous, give some thought to imagining an anti-cookie-cutter life that suits you both. Did you always dream of touring through Italy by bicycle or spending a year somewhere you don't speak the language? Does Your Guy want to keep up with his weekly surfing jaunts and open a little surf shack someday? Write yourselves a "life will," a list of all the things you two will do in your life together. No need to figure out exactly how you're going to realize all your wild ideas, just jot it all down. Your list should answer the question "If we could do absolutely anything at all, what would it be?"
Excerpted from The Thoroughly Modern Married Girl by Sara Bliss. Copyright © 2003 by Sara Bliss. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.