Reading Anji over at Mothers for Women’s Lib writing about her regrets that her son doesn’t share her last name reminids me of a story…
See, my kids do share my last name. It was a no-brainer for me: before my daughter was born, not a single person with my last name had ever appeared in the records of Scotland, since 1580. Who wouldn’t want to be the first? And being someone with a slightly odd and very unusual last name has been a fairly big part of my identity all my life. I couldn’t imagine bringing up children with one of the frankly pedestrian options on offer from the other three parents. (I did offer to hyphenate with one of them, but everyone pointed out that that would sound stupid.)
This episode happened when we went to register Secondborn. (I don’t recall it happening with Firstborn, which is odd.)
The registrar had filled in all the details of Secondborn’s names and biological parentage on the computer. She turned the screen towards me and his bio-dad and asked if we were absolutely sure that these were the details we wanted, as after she clicked the button, there was no going back. Yes, we agreed. She clicked. And a pop-up window appeared:
Child’s surname is not the same as father’s. Continue? Yes/ No
Yes, that’s right. The patriarchy is actually programmed in to the registration system. Wow.