My Chinese-American boyfriend had just proposed. I threw my arms around Andy, kissed him, and marveled at the fact that I was no longer terrified.
I looked at the ring – and told Andy how beautiful it was. For a full minute. At which point he reminded me that I had not, in fact, actually answered the question “Will you marry me?”
I asked, “What about last names?”
Andy gave me a look. “Now? You want to do this now?”
I did. I’m a big planner. I’ve always liked my ducks in a row. And I liked the idea of everyone in one family having the same last name. It makes things less confusing. My ex-stepfather used to get irritated when my friends called him “Mr. Ashbough” – because that was the name of his wife’s first husband. And he hated my dad. (My dad didn’t like my ex-stepfather either. Good times.) Anyway, at one point in my shattered family’s history, there were four different names in one house and one very confused mailman. One name for one household seems practical. Cohesive.
But WHY should it automatically be the husband’s name? Because it’s traditional? Well, at different points in human history, there have been traditions of human sacrifice, slavery, disenfranchised women, and child labor. Tradition easily becomes a tool of oppression. Tradition is a LAME answer.
Female oppression aside, I’ve got practical reasons for worrying about surnames. Andy’s last name is Wong. Whenever he makes a hotel or dinner reservation in San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Honolulu, Seattle, or Los Angeles, there is ALWAYS another “Andy Wong.” You know how I found this out? Andy regularly turns off his cell phone and forgets to turn it on again. I called his hotel when he was away and not answering his phone. I asked for Andy Wong, got put through to a hotel room, and when Andy Wong answered on speaker phone, I led with, “It’s too bad you’re not here, I’m wearing that black mesh you like –”
A woman cursed, a man yelled, and I realized it WAS NOT MY ANDY. I screamed, “Wrong Wong!” and hung up in a hurry. Andy and I laughed over it later. Hopefully the other couple did, too.
There are actually two other “Andy Wongs” at Andy’s company. One even has the same middle initial. If my Andy is not in his office and I’m trying to hunt him down, my rate of success is, at best, 33%. Usually I get him on the first try 1 time out of 5. Sometimes I think the bored receptionist just likes to mess with me. (Cell phones are not permitted at Andy’s Top Secret Company.)
The only name I did not feel the need to change for this blog was Andy’s. Wong is one of the most common surnames in the world. It’s also a nice target for identity theft. Just ask Andy. He’s not the A. Wong who spent $2,000 at Walmart in Seattle, or got a cash advance of $10,000 in Vegas – he’s just the one who got stuck arguing with the credit card company. Repeatedly. At one point, Chase was issuing him a new credit card nearly every month.
My real last name is lengthy and weird. You can’t pronounce it if you read it first, and I guarantee you can’t spell it correctly if you hear it aloud first. Number of attempts at identity theft? ZERO. At first I wondered why Andy was a target and I wasn’t. I was kind of offended. Was my credit rating bad? Was that why no one even tried to steal my credit card numbers? I investigated and discovered that my credit rating is almost perfect. Way better than Andy’s. Clearly, an unspellable and unpronounceable last name is a great asset. If we were getting married, Andy should share in this asset. (Am I not generous with my assets?)
There’s no reason why, with a perfectly good, identity-theft-less last name like mine, that I should become a Wong. Andy should, instead, become an Ashbough.
I explained my excellent rationale to Andy.
Andy looked at me like I was nuts. “So you aren’t going to marry me unless I change my last name?”
“No. It’s not a condition. I was just wondering what we were going to do about names.”
“And I’m wondering if you’re ever going to put on this ring and answer my question.”
I laughed, and held out my hand. Andy slid the ring on my finger. The ring was old-fashioned, with filigree, but cast in platinum. The diamond was clearly more than 1 carat. “How did you manage to buy this with your credit rating?”
“I paid cash. Now, are you ever going to officially answer my question?”
“What question?” I turned my ring into the light and admired the sparkle. “You know, maybe we could both hyphenate our names…”
Andy said, “I’ll think about it.” He cleared his throat pointedly. “Will. You. Marry. Me.”
I smiled, looked deep into those dark chocolate eyes, and answered, “I would never want to marry anyone but you…