A wife by any other name

I’ve never liked the practice of a woman changing her title and surname when she marries.

A man is a mister whether or not he’s married and so a woman should not need to go from Miss to Mrs. I use Ms. And I don’t see why a woman’s marital status is anyone’s business. Why does she need to announce to the world that she’s married?

Chinese (I am technically Chinese, but that’s another story) women do not change their names upon marriage. They may be introduced as Mrs (insert husband’s surname), but there isn’t a legal change of surname the way it’s practised in the West, or, as I learnt recently, Nigeria. I guess my mother might have been addressed as Mrs Lee at times – I can’t remember, but she was never ever Esther Lee. And my grandmother was always Alice Wong, never Alice Hong; my great-grandmother was Lucy Chen, never Lucy Wong.

A (male) Nigerian Facebook friend asked, ‘So what do you guys share on marriage?’

Really? How about ‘love, life, hopes and dreams’?

His next question: ‘How do you know a couple is married?’

Umm, because they might tell you. And why is it important to know a couple’s marital status?

Don and I have talked about this before. It wasn’t a major discussion because he isn’t fussed about me changing my name. I did suggest that I add his name (Orji) to mine (Lee) -which would make me Daphne Lee-Orji. However, he said I should be either Daphne Lee or Daphne Orji, and I should choose whichever name works for me. Well, I have been Daphne Lee for close to fifty years so of course that works best for me. My name has nothing to do with my love for Don, or the commitment I’ve made to our relationship. I am quite sure he knows that.

There was a period when I considered being Daphne Orji. I just find the name kinda hilarious (because I say ‘orgy’ when it’s more like ‘oh-ji’) and I thought that taking the name would be a ‘fuck you’ to all the Malaysian women who change their surnames when marrying white men. My theory is that they see these white names as a status symbol and adopt them as what Malaysians call ‘nama glamour’ – a name that sounds ‘posh’, ‘stylish’, ‘prestigious’ and, of course, ‘glamorous’ – because Western/white surnames are, of course, all these things ….

That would be a very bad reason to change my name though.What would be a good reason? I think I would have to feel like ‘Daphne Orji’ for a start, and I think that could happen only after using that name for many years – I will surely always feel more like Daphne Lee.

Don’s surname has nothing to do with the way I feel about him; it doesn’t even seem like a significant part of him. I don’t think he’s very attached to it – once when I asked him if it was important to him to have a son to carry on the family name, he laughed and said, ‘There are already lots of Orjis in Nigeria.’

So I think I shall remain Daphne Lee. I will, however, endeavour not to ignore anyone who addresses me as Mrs Orji, or to answer with, ‘Mrs Orji is my mother-n-law, you may call me Ms Lee.’ I will write a post the first time I am addressed thus. It will probably at the wedding itself. Help! I’m already experiencing palpitations.


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