It started innocently enough at the mailbox.
I reached in and pulled out the usual bills, Victoria’s Secret catalogs, and fliers for the local pizza joint. Because it was the holiday season, there was also an envelope befitting a Christmas card. “Oh! [Redacted family member] sent us a card!” I said to my husband as we made our way into the house.
Then I looked at who the card was addressed to: the Bogadnovs’.
Bogdanovs is my husband’s last name. My last name is Wakeman. We were addressed both by his last name.
I probably would have just shrugged and forgotten about it had the card come from anyone else. I would have assumed it was an accident. But I don’t think it was an accident. See, [redacted family member] made it clear to me already what they thought about me keeping my “maiden name ” — actually, on the day I got married.
We were all waiting around City Hall for our turn in front of the justice of the peace when [redacted family member] asked me what my last name was going to be. A bunch of people have asked me the same question. “I’m keeping my name,” I said. “Just Jessica Wakeman still.”
“Whyyyy?” replied [redacted family member]. “You can still be a feminissssst if you have your husband’s last name.” She drew out both the letter “y” and the word “feminist.”
“I don’t really think so,” I replied, calmly, as I could sense she was trying to rile me up. “I think the practice of taking the man’s name is actually pretty patriarchal. If other women want to take their husband’s name, I’ll respect that as their choice. They have their own reasons for doing it. But I don’t want to.”
“Patriarchal!” [Redacted family member] huffed. “Come on!”
I felt so annoyed that someone — whose business it was not a whit — was criticizing my decision on my freakin’ wedding day, of all days, while I was standing there in my wedding gown. Fortunately, as I walked away, I could hear a member of my husband’s family jump into the conversation and stick up for me.
So when the Christmas card arrived in the mail addressed to “the Bogdanovs’,” it was clear to me that writing that name was not a mistake. It felt kind of like how, on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” Brandi Glanville keeps calling new Housewife Joyce “Jacqueline” because she thinks “Jacqueline” fits her better. And poor Joyce, bless her soul, is, like, That’s not my name, you psychopath.
“That is some passive-aggressive shit right there,” one of my best friends told me.
“It was not an accident, she did it on purpose to try to impose her life choices on you,” added another.
I agreed and considered writing [redacted family family] a polite but firm email. My husband, even-tempered and conciliatory that he is, thought I should drop it. He wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt.
“It wasn’t your name that you’ve been using your entire life that got erased,” I responded. “How would you feel if we got cards to the house addressed to the Wakemans? You would think it was weird not just because guys don’t usually change their name but because we already told everybody we’ve both kept our names. It would seem intentional, because it is.”
“You’re right, you’re right,” he quickly relented.
Not taking his last name is not a rejection of him or his name. It’s a preservation of me. I want to keep my own name professionally and personally because I have used it my entire life, and these are my feminist beliefs. Look, I realize over the course of my life I’ll accidentally be called “Mrs. Bogdanovs” or “Jessica Bogdanovs” many times by strangers or otherwise well-meaning folks. I’ll let it go. It’s not a huge deal. I know in those circumstances it’s unintentional. But [redacted family member] clearly doesn’t want to accept my personal decision. More specifically, she hasn’t shown respect for my personal decision. But I’m not pushing my own decision about my last name on her. In fact, I’m the only woman in my entire immediate family to keep her “maiden name” and I’ve kept my opinions about it to myself unless asked, such as in this case.
One friend suggested I email [redacted family member] and tell her that my husband’s parents loved the card addressed to the Bogdanovs’ and say I was confused why she would send a card addressed to them to our address. While funny, I don’t think that response is firm enough to resonate. I need to discuss with this person directly that my name is still Jessica Wakeman, not Jessica Bogdanovs, and that is what I would like to be called.
This is about my personal decisions being respected. It’s no one else’s business what I choose or why I choose it. And Jessica Bogdanovs, were she to exist, would feel the same way.
[“Hello my name is” card via Shutterstock]