When 'What's your name' is a hard question
A guy came up to me at a party with a strange question. "You know, you're a good writer," he said. "Why are you ashamed to use your real name in your newspaper column?"
He came to that conclusion because he noticed my married name and the name that appears with my column are entirely different.
It's not just the last name that's different. My husband calls me Trish and introduces me to everyone by that name.
I, on the other hand, always use Pattie.
So the poor guy's confusion might be understandable when he sees Dave's wife, Trish Allen, writing under Pattie Mihalik.
I explained to him that I've been writing for decades under the Mihalik name and didn't intend to change it.
He said that was "dumb."
Maybe. Other people have called it worse.
One of my dearest friends said he would never marry someone who won't use his name. "If I'm good enough for her to marry, I'm good enough for her to carry my name," he said.
He also said I cause a lot of confusion for him when he addresses Christmas cards or when he tries to look up my new phone number. "Why not just use one name?" my friend asked.
I never consciously decided not to. Dave and I talked it over and we agreed I would use his name - except for my newspaper writing. The banks decided otherwise.
When I went to cash a check made out to my married name, I had to show my driver's license. That's the rule here in Florida. The teller said the license and name on the check has to match, or, they can't cash it.
A few photo I. D.s temporarily solved that problem. I told her I would change my driver's license when it was up for renewal. She said legally, I only had three months to do it.
Fortunately, I don't believe everything I'm told. What do they do at the end of three months throw every woman in jail who's still using her former name?
It was even more complicated with my health plan. My bills with my new name kept bouncing back. So I followed the course of least resistance and just kept everything the same as it was before I married David.
This week, the topic of whether or not a woman should change her name is suddenly being explored on the Internet and even in the front section of newspapers.
One woman who wrote about her desire to hyphenate her maiden name with her soon-to-be married name started a wild discussion on the Internet.
"There's no level-headed reason why a woman should have to abandon her family's last name in order to prove her fidelity and allegiance to her man. None what so ever. The concept is archaic and patriarchal," she wrote on Face book.
Her comments drew 1,236 comments, with opinions split down the middle.
According to the recently released wedding survey from The Knot, only six percent of newly wed women opted to hyphenate their names.
Responses from about 20,000 brides concluded that 86 percent opted to take their husband's name.
Many who keep their family name do so for professional reasons. They spent years building a reputation in their field and want to keep a name that is recognized.
When I was sending out mailings for the Pennsylvania Press Association, I thought there were a lot of couples living together because there were two different names for the same address. I learned later it was a case of married professional women who wanted to keep the name they were known by.
That's fairly easy to do in this country. Not so in other countries.
According to an AP story in this week's papers, women in Japan are causing a stir by revolting against the practice of having to be buried with their husband's family. Women are rebelling against what they say is a forced life-long divorce from their own family which carries over to the grave.
In Japan, six women filed a lawsuit fighting a 113-year-old civil law that precludes brides from keeping their surnames when they marry.
Here, there isn't much static when a woman keeps her surname because we've been doing it for decades.
My daughter Andrea's marriage 17 years ago came at a time when her father was suffering from three kinds of cancer and the effects of two strokes. She realized when she married, the Mihalik name would not be continued.
She decided to keep her maiden name in honor of her father and that was just fine with her husband.
I recall her in-laws saying she would probably change her mind when she had children. They were sure she would "want everyone to have the same last name."
Her oldest son is in high school but she still hasn't changed her mind. The marriage, along with the entire family, is thriving just fine.
I have several friends who still use their maiden name, even though they've been happily married for years. No one cares.
That's the point. In this, the land of many viewpoints, there is a lot of latitude.
But I sure do think it would be nice if I didn't have to think twice when someone asks my name.