Look, I don’t enjoy arguing with people. This is in large part why I gave up the practice of law. Many people assume, wrongfully, that because I have many opinions, that I enjoy an argument, but I really, really don’t. More often than not, these days, unless I am with someone with whom I believe I can have a genuine discussion and not an argument, I keep my mouth shut.
However, I wrongfully assumed that would mean that I would be a relatively invisible figure as I don’t speak unless specifically spoken to on most occasions. For most of my life, that absolutely is true and I move in relative anonymity. Unfortunately, that is not the case in our new ward at church. For the past two Sundays in a row, an informer has told me that I have been the subject of discussion at the ward’s Bishop Council, basically because I decided not to change my last name when I got married. And apparently, this week’s discussion ended up with the Relief Society President in tears.
Look, this goes back to the post that I wrote a few weeks ago about me not seeing what the big deal is when it comes to having the need to discuss the life choices that women make constantly at church. I don’t understand why anyone in the Bishop’s Council felt the need to make a comment about my name choice. Does it really matter? I don’t care one way or the other about what other people choose to go by after they are married. It is completely irrelevant to my life. I didn’t change my name. Big deal. I didn’t change it because when I got married, I was nearly thirty years old, and entirely comfortable being Leslie Street. I didn’t change it because I love my family name because it reminds me every day of where I came from and who I am. I didn’t change it because it is a cultural norm that seemed irrelevant to me. There are plenty of other cultures around the world where women do not change their names simply because they get married. When I leave my house everyday and go to work and meet people, I never once question what other people choose to go by for their names. Why? Because that is their choice and it doesn’t matter at all to me what they choose to be called. I just don’t understand why keeping my family name should even be discussed by any other person, because it doesn’t affect them at all. Even if they think, as the words of the unknown commenter said, that it would be so much “easier” if I had just changed my name. Easier for whom? Because I thought, from my point of view, it is much easier to not change it.
Anyway, learning about this discussion doesn’t really affect me one way or the other, except that it makes me really miss the Capitol Hill Ward where everyone was very respectful of the myriad of ordinary decisions about work and family life and even name changes that women chose to make. There, people just accepted a name as a name, and didn’t try to read into it anything more about a person. It starts with a name then goes to the fact that I work and that I don’t have kids, and I know that the assumptions are made in spite of any actual thoughts or feelings that I may actually have. The next thing you know, the Relief Society President is in tears.
I wish that it wasn’t like that. I knew that it could potentially be like that in this ward, when the lady sitting in front of me decided to introduce herself to me one week and then told me that she wanted to go to law school, but then realized that she would be home with kids and would never work anyway, but “good for you” for being a lawyer. I smiled, because I know she didn’t mean any malice, but I also knew that there was at least a hint of judgment in that comment as well.
I wish that I could just give a declaratory statement at church and say, “Look, I am not trying to offend anyone with the choices that I make about my life. I am not making any sort of statement of what I think about you and the choices you have made. I am just trying to be happy and make the most out of my own personal circumstances. No one’s life is ideal or perfect, and everyone has to make the most out of what they have been given.”
Would such a statement clear things up, I wonder? Or would it create more assumptions and tears?