Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's in a name?

At a party last weekend some girls were admiring Ivy and asked Ed what her name was. They then asked what his surname was and he said "Holmes". "Ah" nodded the girls "Ivy Holmes". "No" said Ed, "it's Ivy Browne". The girls looked confused and then horrified as he explained "she has Kate's surname".

It's amazing how in 2008 you can shock by something as simple as a name. When Ed and I found out we were going to be parents we discussed names, and then surnames. We aren't married (not that, that would make any difference) and in the interests of fairness we agreed that if we had a boy, he would have Ed's name and if it was a girl she would have mine. I was inspired by the example of my lovely friend Hanna whose parents had done a similar thing, and then diplomatically produced a girl followed by a boy so each name could get a run. In our case we had a girl so she got my name.

Older people we told were perplexed, some claimed that it wasn't "fair" to Ed while others said it would be "confusing" for Ivy. What I don't understand is that hundreds of women keep their name but dutifully give their baby their male partners name and no-one seems to think that's unfair or confusing. I kind of expected this attitude from older people but I'm amazed how many people my age or younger think it's so strange. To me it seems a total case of double standards.

In other countries it doesn't seem to be such a big deal. My German friends made the decision to choose a single family name and then decided to take Dot's surname. Apparently it's quite common to take the woman's name, other couples I've heard of have ditched their names and chosen a new name for everyone, others go down the path of double barrelled names (which personally scares me a little) but here in Sydney 99.9 percent of the parents I know tread the traditional route of naming their kids after their husband or partner.

While I'm quite proud that Ivy shares my name, I do have to wonder somedays why I bothered. Recently my brother had a new baby and there was great excitement from my family that the "Family name would now continue" despite the fact both Ivy and her cousin Jospehine already have this surname. The reason? This new baby is a boy. It seems despite claims that today there is equality between the sexes the name thing implies that, at the end of the day, boys are still more important than girls.


Blogger j.yo said...

Sorry I didn't check back in earlier to provide support in your hour of blog angst. Keep the dream alive! And yes, I totally don't get the default male surname thing. Although I think Holmes-Browne is the sort of surname that would really get you places.

4:32 PM  
Blogger torshy said...

I completely agree with the ridiculously old-fashioned name ideas. I love having my mother's name.

And despite all the naysayers, in actuality there has only been one time when it was a problem having a different name to my brother (and as you know we look so alike there was never a question of us not being related. We went on a family skiing holiday to conservative Switzerland and Mum booked Paul and I into a double room. When we got there we found they had assumed we were man and wife and had given us a double bed. This was not fun, as we were both in our early twenties and, frankly, needed a bit of privacy in a room as big as a closet. Mum, who had a whole double bed to herself, thought it was hilarious.

Given that these days there are so many variations on families it seems amazing that people could assume two people with different names must be a couple. It just goes to show that reality is often a few steps ahead of people's ideas about the world. Go Ivy Browne. Glad to be your inspiration.

1:10 AM  

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