Why I Plan to Keep My Last Name
Nowadays I often find myself having private thoughts about odd things, like when I am married which side of the bed will I sleep on? But that’s easy; the one furthest away from the door so that if a burglar comes in I have the chance to reach for the baseball bat. You may call me evil, but I know myself, the sight of a stray cat can send me to the brink of self-annihilation, let alone at the sight of a stranger in my house stealing my things. I may believe in equality but you damn well know female muscles are nothing compared to those of a man, especially if like me your version of exercise is lifting
a chocolate treat to your lips every twenty minutes.
In all the private thoughts I have had to date, and most certainly in the last year – the one that perplexed me the most due to its significance (culturally and socially) was the inheritance of my husband’s surname upon our nuptials. I have grown so attached to my name since I bothered to ask my father what it meant, that I would feel psychologically raped if my husband-to-be insisted that I give it up. Gatsinzi (which can be directly translated to winner or victor) is a name which has been used and abused by European (Africans try their best to get it right) professionals who could not care less about learning how it was pronounced before they called out ‘Gatsinski’ or ‘Katsini’ in the doctor’s waiting room. The surprised looks I got from the secretary when I, instead of a blonde Polish woman turned up to an interview have since become my guilty pleasure. Oh the joy of being given the choice to phonetically spell it out for the university so that the Chancellor did not embarrass himself as he called my name during the degree ceremony – [GAT-SIN-ZEE]! Still didn’t say it properly, but well I suppose he tried!
And after all this drama, I ask myself, ‘do I just drop the name and pretend it never was? Do I join the file of women with maiden/previous names? Do I now surrender my history and belong to my husband and his ancestors? Do I end up being the first victim of a friend’s Facebook clear out because they don’t know who this person with a weird surname is and how they creeped onto their Facebook friends list?’
I have seen it on Facebook, acquaintances and friends who were close to getting married starting the countdown until they become Mrs Mufasa (sorry I had to). As soon as they get that engagement ring, they be in that mirror practising their future surname. I hate to say that I find it strange that we can get so excited about leaving our families behind and cleaving to this new family, that most of the times we know little about. Many times women go into families that hate their guts, and they walk around with a name that cuts thorns into their hearts. I don’t know, every woman should choose how she wants to define marriage, and I am truly supportive of those who carry their husband’s name – I am a sucker for love. But dudes, I don’t think I can love that deeply.
People will blame my education for this decision. That woman, because she is educated she thinks she knows better, she has opened her mind to that evil called feminism. She is questioning practices which have worked well in our African society for a million years. Oh she is already showing us that she will not respect her husband, one less cow for her. She is daring to question God’s Word. MCHEEEWWWWW
Those overcome by the desire to quote the Bible can perhaps fish out a person with a surname from the Bible, or tell me where it said ‘thou shall adopt thy husband’s name to show your faithfulness to him.’ I always say to people, ‘first know why something came to be before you use the Bible as your reference.’ I am not ashamed of questioning common practices that strip me off my identity. Yes, I said it. I came out of my mother’s womb with an identity, and I am the only person responsible for defining it. Marriage is not just above love, it is an institution which is built brick by brick over a period of time. With me I will bring many achievements that I worked hard for and signed with my name, and then what happens when my name changes? You can call it selfish if you want, but when your husband is sitting there reminding you about who built the house you are sitting in, nobody will call him selfish. If I work hard for it, then I deserve the praise. Hallelujah! Then on top of that, there is the hassle of changing my passport, driver’s licence, bank details and everything else with my name on it. What if the marriage doesn’t last forever? Do I then go through the hassle of changing things back to what they were before? If I get remarried do I proceed to take this new man’s name?
My grandmother and grandfather on both sides had their own names and their children [my parents, aunts and uncles] were also given their own names. I don’t remember ever writing my father’s name on my exercise books as a child but it became more apparent upon entering the United Kingdom that this name belonging to my father would join the other names, and suddenly my surname became my middle name.
And these questions that they ask, ‘Ma’am you have five children with five different surnames? Good Lord!’ And we give up, we do not want to question the authorities, we don’t want them thinking we are a promiscuous race. When in Rome, do as the Romans do – or something along those lines. It is too late now for me to undo what the British society imposed on my parents, and anyway I love my father’s name which has now become my own too. I also love the names which were intended only for me; Angélique Ikuzwe [ee-kooz-gwe], the latter means ‘glorify Him (God)’ and the former is a simple adjective which I hope describes me, ‘angelic’. In essence, my parents were glorifying God for sending them an angelic being. Let’s not have a debate on whether I have fulfilled this angelic role, the most important thing was that in that moment when they gave me the name, it represented who I was and who I would always be to them. In my language they say ‘izina niryo muntu’ – you are your name. And as I navigate my way through this maze they call life, I use my name as reference of my destiny.
I will be a wife and I will be a mother and even a grandmother perhaps but I do not want to consider the act of being someone’s wife as a new beginning, I want it to be a continuation of what already existed. It is not marriage that will complete me; it is by being myself and being proud of who I am that I can even begin to consider marriage.
Let’s not even have a debate about whose name will appear on our children’s birth certificate. All I know is that I will not suffer for nine months (or more) to be a footnote in my child’s destiny.
Future husband, take note!