I had the weirdest conversation with The Princess*, my new sister-in-law, when she was in town for my husband's birthday. It's taken me this long to write about because I just wasn't sure how to process it. Translation: I don't know her well enough to know if she was deliberately being rude or if she is just really clueless. I'm erring on the side of clueless, though deliberately rude is a definite possibility.
Anyway, she and my brother-in-law have been married less than a year. I generally hate talking to newlyweds, for a lot of reasons**, and she hit two of them in less than five minutes:
Why don't you guys wear wedding rings? Don't you want people to know you're married?
Why didn't you change your last name? Is this some kind of feminist thing?
So, here's my reply to those questions, feel free to borrow whatever is applicable to you any time you'd like.
1. Wedding rings:
Does anybody even know what the point of wedding rings is, anyway? I guess to show people I'm married, but why does every random stranger need to know my marital status? An unmarried person could buy a wedding ring. It's not like jewelry stores require proof of marriage. A married person with a wedding ring could simply take it off. And I'm still not sure why everyone I meet needs to know whether or not I'm married.
I've been told that my husband will cheat on me if I don't require him to wear a wedding ring. I told them I had no idea circles of metal had such amazing powers.
I've been told our refusal to wear wedding rings means we're not serious about one another. I've been known to say "fuck off". Seriously, seriously fuck off. We've stuck together through both of our chronic illnesses, poverty, and other stuff I don't talk about here, and you're telling me that the ring is what denotes serious commitment? C'mere, I wanna show you something. It won't hurt for long.
So why don't we wear wedding rings? Neither one of us likes the tactile sensation of rings. My husband won't wear any jewelry at all, not even a watch. I regularly wear earrings, bracelets, and necklaces (I'm actually rarely without all three), but rings bother me. I can't really see how "Hey, I know wearing a ring makes you wildly uncomfortable, but you must wear one every day for the rest of your life" means love.
2. Taking my husband's surname.
This is not a feminist thing. Well, actually, some feminists do promote this as a feminist thing, but it has nothing to do with feminism for me. I'd like to say it does. I'd like to claim to be a feminist warrior, changing the world through my bold refusal to change my name, but Hell is all about the honesty***.
I didn't change my last name because I didn't really care about it and I'm lazy about things I don't care about. Actually, thinking about it, I had just spent a very frustrating six weeks getting a new social security card so I could switch jobs and the thought of doing that all over again to change my name was just too much at the time, so I put it off. After a few years went by, I asked my husband if he cared that I didn't use his name and he said, quite reasonably, that while I was welcome to use his name, he didn't see why I should. I didn't become a different person when I married him, why should I have a different name? And, it bothers him to see men stay Mr. John Doe, but women become Mrs. John Doe as if she had to marry John Doe because her parents named her Mrs. John Doe. What if she wanted to marry Frank Doe? It would be tragic!
Yeah, he's as weird as I am.
I've been told that this means I don't love him. I've been told this means he'll leave me, cheat on me, be heartbroken. I've been told feminists are ridiculous, that I hate men and that I'm a bad wife.
People seriously froth at the mouth about this one, more so than the rings.
Multiple people have suggested a "compromise" as if we were fighting about it: hyphenate our names. First of all, this always means I change my name to the hyphenate and he does nothing. Secondly, I have a four syllable Scots/Irish name and he has a three syllable Italian name. Can you imagine?
Mrs. Faith O'Hannigan-Agnoli****.
That's better than Faith O'Hannigan?
People often ask what name our children (will) have. My husband agrees that in the highly unlikely event that we do have a child, they will have my name because I'll be the one doing all the work. This upsets people so much that I've suggested we simply combine our names into one unhyphenated, bizarre Iritalian mix. O'Hannoli, perhaps. Nobody finds that funny, other than my husband.
Anyway, I really want to know why are either of these things anyone else's business? Why does anyone at all care whether or not we wear wedding rings or whether or not I change my name? I have asked people that, but apparently, I'm the rude one for asking.
*No, I really don't like her all that much.
**Hey, you're happy, good for you. Stop pretending you know anything about marriage. Call me back in ten years and then we'll talk all about it.
***Carefully edited honesty.
****Not our real names. Our real names would be even worse. And longer. Much longer.