Like most people, I have a variety of pet peeves. I can’t stand it when people litter; I hate it when an able-bodied person takes an elevator up one floor; and perhaps what bugs me more than anything else on the planet is a holier than thou attitude, especially when it’s displayed by someone who thinks she’s being revolutionary when, in fact, she’s being … how can I say this delicately? Astonishingly non-sensical. Take, for example, Carrie Sloan, a “brand-spanking newlywed” who writes that she and her husband are “re-writing the rules” of matrimony because — get this — she kept her own name! I hate to break it to her and ruin her self-image as a trendsetter, but it’s 2010. Keeping her own name is not a rule she wrote. If being self-righteous in the face of unoriginality were her biggest crime, I’d be willing to overlook it. Unfortunately, it’s not.Perhaps sensing that millions of women before her have also made the choice to keep their names, for a variety of reasons — some having nothing at all to do with feminism! — Sloan takes things one step further and proposes we abolish the words “husband” and “wife.” Why? Well, because Sloan is afraid of these words. In fact, she says her biggest fear about getting married last year was not any particular challenge or tribulation she and her spouse would surely face together one day, but simply the word “wife.” It “conjures up centuries of well-worn stereotypes,” stereotypes that were confirmed for her when, at Christmas this past year, she received “no fewer than three aprons as gifts.” Oh, the horror!! Nevermind that Sloan later says in her essay that she “likes to cook,” and her family and friends, perhaps knowing this detail about her, gifted her something they thought she might use and appreciate. No! In her mind, she received three aprons for Christmas because she’s a “wife” now, a role so loaded, so thick with centuries of sexism, Sloan has decided to start calling herself a “hife” instead — and if you’re a married woman, she wants you to call yourself a “hife,” as well.
A “hife,” you might have guessed, is a hybrid of “husband” and “wife,” and reflects what Sloan calls the “thoroughly-2010 relationship” she has with the guy she loves. She may like to cook, but she’s no traditional wife! In addition to keeping her own name (!), Sloan wants everyone to know she has “an inner husband who tends to drive at least double the legal speed limit and leave socks on the floor.” How’s that for propelling the women’s movement forward?! And for all her inner-husbandry, her actual husband as an inner wife, too. That’s right! He may be a “tall, handsome, manly-guy,” but he makes sure he and his “hife” have clean underwear. Naturally, Sloan calls him her “wusband.” “These labels,” she explains, “allow for a little overlap: A division of labor based on what we’re each best at, not just what’s assigned us by virtue of chromosome.”
The funny thing is, like Sloan, I’m also a newlywed. Like her, I also kept my name and married a man who does our laundry. But I refuse to call my husband a “wusband” or call myself a “hife.” And I refuse to think I’m better or more progressive than any other woman who made the personal choice — for whatever reason — to take her husband’s name. I’m a feminist in as much as I believe that men and women are equals and that neither sex has to wear traditional roles that may not fit them. But I certainly don’t fear tradition; I don’t see personal choices — like being a stay-at-home mom, for example — as a “broken mold” l have to fix. And perhaps the way I differ from Sloan the most, and the reason I’ve never feared the word “wife”: I absolutely refuse to see marriage as nothing more than a “division of labor.”
Hey, you want to be progressive and set an example for generations of women after us? Then why don’t we all have the kind of marriages we want for ourselves without worrying whether we’re breaking traditional molds or fitting them. Let’s all have marriages that feel right for us instead of defining them by what feels wrong. And let’s all be adults and embrace the roles that suit us and leave the ridiculous, made-up names for kindergarteners on the playground. Acting like grown-ups: groundbreaking, right? Almost as much as keeping your own name.