Finally, it’s official! I’ve taken Thomas’ last name. We were married two years ago on August 29 and I didn’t ever intend to take his last name. Mackey is my first husband’s surname and keeping it for our two boys simplifies things.
Over the last two years, I’ve observed Thomas introduce me as his wife, Stacy Mackey. “But she won’t take my last name.” Naturally, we all politely laugh in response. It wasn’t until this year that I really took a look at the concept of a wife taking her husband’s last name.
Around the 15th century, women in England began taking their husband’s last name after marriage to symbolize that the union created “a single person, because they are one flesh and one blood,” according to English jurist Henry de Bracton. This tradition came to America with the Pilgrims.
After my first marriage, there was no question about taking his last name because it was a time-honored custom … especially for Kansas Lutherans. Now that I am older and less inclined to follow tradition, it was just easier to keep the Mackey name after marrying again. The fact that I even decided to legally tie the knot appeared more than enough!
In the last two years, my professional path has taken me into the subject of men and the desire to understand them, especially in the context of a couple. For years, Thomas made passive comments about us getting married. My response was always, “Why do we need a piece of paper from the State to affirm our love?” He would shrug and agree it wasn’t necessary, yet I could sense there was something else.
In my exploration, I got clear about the biological need for a man to have a partner to protect and provide for. It fulfills his purpose. The history of a wife goes back to the times when a woman became the property of her husband after marriage. Now, this isn’t to fire up the feminists, but rather feel into the essence of the concept. Property is a thing belonging to someone. To belong is to be in the hands of. To put an enlightened spin on this, a woman steps into the embrace (literally and energetically) of a man when she becomes his wife. By not agreeing to be this man’s wife, I was essentially preventing him from his masculine purpose.
The subconscious inclination to rebel and stay an independent female carried on into the name change conversation. “A name is a name. It means nothing. What difference does it make if I’m Mackey or Valdez or whatever?” Thomas would shrug with resignation and agree. Again, referring back to my new knowledge about men, I knew my happiness was his priority and if me keeping Mackey made me happy, he wouldn’t push the issue. However, though he couldn’t articulate it, I could sense something … especially in the introductions to his friends and colleagues.
In 2009, Steve Harvey published a book called, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. In it, he talks about the three P’s of how men demonstrate their love. Above, I addressed the acts of protect and provide. The third is to profess. A man that loves you will profess his affection for you everywhere he goes and in the way he treats you in the presence of others. It occurred to me that of course my husband would want me to have his last name, perhaps as a symbol of achievement. A gorilla pounding his chest comes to my mind. It’s like Thomas is proudly announcing his success at being a man in partnership. “I provide for this woman and protect her. As an acknowledgement of my commitment, she has honored me by taking my name.”
Before going through the numerous steps of the name change, I confided in a friend the hesitancy I had about it. Her response was, “Imagine the security you’re offering him with this gift.” Both Thomas and I were married once before and left by our spouses. I acknowledged my fear (What if we don’t last?) in taking his name, as well as the courage to take the action. Happy 2nd Anniversary, dear husband. xoxo