About the Author:
How does one introduce yourself on a blog like this? On principle, I hate writing "My name is Rachael Dickson" unless I get to follow it up with "You killed my father; prepare to die."
Anyway. The name is Dickson. Rachael Dickson. I'm a trademark attorney and a former journalist. I'm a bit obsessed with pop cultural references (in case you can't tell), history, Shakespeare, books, cats, all things sparkly, and trivia.
I recently got engaged to my boyfriend of over four years, John. We met in law school and now are both attorneys. He's pretty kickass, but he's a very private person who would prefer I not talk about him much here, so I won't.
Due to my moving for a job in Washington DC, we are currently conducting our relationship and planning our wedding long distance (a little, anyway, as it's not actually happening until June 2, 2018). I am currently deciding whether to change my name when we get married or not. In talking to my friends about their decisions, I've discovered that I'm incredibly interested in this topic. Why do women change their names? How did this tradition start? How does it function in various cultures around the world? As someone who loves to learn all the things, I plan to survey my friends, research the history of this, and read and learn as much as I can about this.
Why I Named My Blog "By Any Other Name"
Well, "By any other name" is a shortened version of Juliet's famous balcony speech from Romeo and Juliet and my first and foremost reason for naming it this is basically that Shakespeare seriously rocks.
Secondly, in this instance, I really like the implication of the quote. "A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet." All people really remain themselves no matter what names they take on during their life. They continue to smell as sweet or as terrible as they did prior to taking their new spouse's last name or choosing to keep their last name or making up an excellent new name; they continue to be as powerful, smart, feminist, intelligent, etc. as they were beforehand. To be honest, I take issue with the entire train of thought of "a woman loses her identity if she takes her husband's last name" because that's ridiculous, of course she remains the same person. There may be many many other implications of that decision, but I don't think losing yourself is automatically one of them. To continue the rose and literary quote trend: "A rose is a rose is a rose."
However, I've always believed that words are important. Language is important. "Putting pen to paper lights more fires than matches ever will." Though your name does not change who you intrinsically are, it is, for better or worse, how you are identified. Names, like language, can stand as signposts for where we are in history. The earliest surnames identified you by your occupation (last names like Carpenter, Baker, or Farmer), your parents (my own last name means "Son of Dick," a shortened version of Richard), or by where you were from (example: Leonardo da Vinci, from the Tuscan town of Vinci). Powerful families and royal dynasties are generally identified by their last name (Like the Tudors, the Borgias, or the Kennedys). First names and middle names go in and out of style and can tell you something about someone's culture, religion, and state or country of origin (Perhaps young girls named Bella today had parents who were into Twilight. Or think about how many Catholic children you know with middle names inspired by saints! So many Maries and Marys. Kids with unconventional names may have parents who like taking the road less traveled by.).
So even though I don't think a marital surname decision changes who you are, it can definitely impact how you see yourself, how others see you, and can (but does not always!) communicate information about your personal preferences or values. I believe it's worth thinking about and researching and discussing.
But to get back to my initial point - I know you smell just as sweet or not sweet as you did before your marriage. You'll never get any judgment from me about whatever you choose to do with your name. But I'm super excited to talk about it all anyway.