Well... at least it's starting to make sense... a bit.
This is Anthony McLean's latest single: 'My Name',
Most importantly (for the purposes of this article that is) here are (some of ) the lyrics:
Baby you got me falling uncontrollably in love,
Never felt this way (before)
(You) got my heart, my soul, but baby that just isn't enough
Hey, I wanna give you my name...
and the second verse goes on to say...
my everything and all that I possess
cos you deserve to be offered nothing less
you know i'm there for you like you've been there for me
cos whenever I'm without you girl i find it hard to breathe
you take the pain away, you make it worth the wait
i was broken but you came along and mended me
Ok, that's enough, to read the full lyrics you can click here , but let me get to my point.
When I got married many many moons ago (after previously coming to the conclusion that I would NEVER EVER get married because it seemed like the woman was getting a raw deal...) HRH and I had a bit of a skirmish about the surname.
Was I a feminist? I don't know, some may have seen me as such... I was definitely one of those independent women - you know the ones who own their own homes, own cars, own jewellery, own everything. Nothing had been handed to me on a platter and definitely nothing paid for by any man and given to me as a token of
I had done some modelling and TV commercials, and I had won a few street dance competitions in Barbados (very good 'old days'!); I had excelled academically - to the surprise of many - and so my name had been in the papers a couple of times and I knew who I was. I liked who I was. I went to University, I made new friends and I started my career. Professionally I was 'Bajan Lily' (me). And I guess I have to admit that I felt threatened when this man, whom I loved dearly, was now asking me to change all that... to give it all up. To me - changing one's surname felt like the ultimate submission... no longer would I be 'Bajan Lily' from that moment onward, my identity would forever be wrapped up in his, I would be 'Mrs HRH', I felt as though I would disappear into him and I resisted it strongly.
People took this to mean that I didn't love him (or that I loved myself more) but I felt that they didn't understand me. I am one of five, number 4 to be exact, and the concept of family was a BIG deal at home. We were the 'Whites of Mayfair' as far as I was concerned and the family tree, its traditions and legacies were part and parcel of our everyday life. We were proud to be this clan from this place.
When our mother took us on holiday or even daily excursions - there was the whole spiel about being a 'White' and what it meant, and how we shouldn't embarrass her or our father with any bad behaviour (and of course a similar spiel afterwards when we committed some unpardonable infraction). "You're ruining my good name!", "You're bringing disgrace on the family!"... come to think of it, most of those statements were directed at me during my teenage years (I just wanted to dance!!!)
Anyway - bottom line was - this was our name and we were proud of it. Everything we were, where we came from, from whom we were descended was wrapped up in that name! And sitting here analysing it - it makes me smile a bit because my mother married into that name and yet, the way she said it, you'd think it was her own. Come to think of it, I'd say now that it was more a matter of shared identity than assumed identity - because when she said we (the family) were 'Whites' she was giving equal respect to her maiden name as well, so she could just as easily have been saying: 'we are Fleur-Whites' - such was the pride she instilled into us.
The importance of family and a shared identity were driven home (on a daily basis) and from that fertilised ground I sprang up: at times an unruly vine weaving and intertwining my way through thickets and other adversity, always travelling the road less travelled, carving my road away from the beaten path, living to learn, learning to love and loving to live.
So there I was soaring with eagles, 'making a name for myself' and here's this person asking me to give it all up. At least that's what it felt like - like a clipping of my wings. No more professional Lily, gotta build this new identity up; no more homegirl Lily from 'Mayfair' - no more, no more, no more... it just felt like a really long list of 'no mores'. Of course some will say - well you could have made a link between 'Lily White' and the new 'HRH Lily' and eventually that is what I did (in my own way) but at the time the effort just seemed phenomenal and unjustified. |Why should I have to pay to change the name on my passport, and go through the hassle of changing the name on my bank accounts and legal documents etc when my husband doesn't have to change one darned thing? How is that fair? What part of that is creating an equal partnership?
I keep mentioning I work in investment banking so these are the examples I draw from: when (Swiss Bank) Credit Suisse merged with American bank First Boston - we were presented with Credit Suisse First Boston (a mouthful yes, but we knew the faces behind the name); when Bank of American and Merril Lynch got married we again got a mouthful but again we know the players. In 1935 when Henry Morgan and Harold Stanley left JP Morgan... and is now Morgan Stanley Smith Barney - we still know the players! Compare that to the so-called Bear Sterns 'merger'.... there is no JP Morgan Chase Bear Stearns... just JP Morgan Chase which to me says it all... if you get swallowed up by a bigger fish you don't get your name on the door; only partners appear on the door. I wanted to be a partner not pudding!
I also wanted my children to embrace their dual heritage - yes, that meant double barrelled surnames - because kids today are cheeky and I would go berserk if I said to my kids: 'You don't behave that way, YOU are a 'White'; and the little blighter responded: "well, actually mummy, I am a 'Black'"...
I make no bones about being a daddy's girl, I have 2 brothers: both are fathers (to daughters). Only one of my brothers is married, and me - being the sentimental silly that I am - felt great pain at the thought of daddy's name (the one mummy made us so proud of) just fizzling away into history... my son wears my daddy's surname like a prize tag (or at least he will once he's old enough to be schooled into the pride lol); but officially he belongs to the HRH clan (not the 'Whites').
Which brings me back to Mclean's song. I rather like it. I think it'd make a good wedding song, maybe not for the first dance but for at least one of them. It surprises people that I like it - particularly when one reads everything I've said before. BUT as I said right at the beginning - I think I finally get it.
Maybe (MAYBE) taking a man's name is not about ownership or being chattel or being swallowed up in someone else's identity; maybe as McLean says it is simply the man's way of offering everything he has. Material things will fade away, possessions can come and go, a man is born into his name and he will die still bearing that name - therefore it is the only thing he has which is everlasting.
ps. Surnames have been changed to protect identities (but of course if you know me - you already know this hahah)