Styling: Nicola Rose. Makeup: Caroline Barnes at Frank Agency. Hairstyle: Alex Szabo at Carol Hayes Management
‘Mr Green?’ There is an awkward silence until the boyfriend realizes the waiter is talking to him. We’re on vacation and he’s presented with a bill for poolside G&Ts and ridiculously expensive salty snacks.
The boyfriend’s name isn’t Mr. Green, obviously, but my part-time job as a hotel reviewer means bookings are made in my name, so he goes by the aforementioned nickname. At first he corrected the hotel staff, but now he accepts it and signs.
Does it offend his male pride? Well, if there is any degree of discomfort, it is greatly alleviated by the free trip to a five-star hotel. Because the work of a hotel reviewer’s companion is an even more comfortable job than that of a hotel reviewer. While I have to take pictures and write it down (is your heart still bleeding?), he only has to comment on the gym (his area of expertise) and provide bubbly company. Like a trucker’s companion, but more luxurious.
All of this got me thinking about the importance of names in relationships. And what it means to change your name – or not – when you get married. These thoughts were highlighted by Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz merging their names during their recent nuptials. They are now Mr. and Mrs. Peltz Beckham.
In my social circle, wives doubled their surname with their husband’s, or did it for their children, but never did a man take his wife’s name.
I think making their name Peltz Beckham is enlightened; boyfriend thinks it’s weird. He’s everything for a woman who takes her husband’s name, saying it shows her commitment and strengthens the family unit. He also says that getting married is a pretty outdated concept, so if you want to enroll in it, you might as well embrace all of its traditions and adopt your husband’s name in an effort to unify the clans.
I’m not embarrassed one way or the other. I recognize that walking down the aisle, getting married in church, and wearing a veil is patriarchal and old-fashioned — and I did all of those things because I wanted to. But I didn’t change my name when I got married.
Except on The White Company database and school register for children. Those were the two environments where I wanted to be seen as a real adult. Someone who could have towels in the downstairs bathroom. Damn, someone even had a toilet downstairs to put towels in.
I’m not saying it’s rational.
My daughter tells me that when her teacher got married, she and her husband chose a whole new last name: Darcy. She thinks her teacher was influenced by her love of Pride and Prejudice – or Bridget Jones, my daughter doesn’t know which.
I can see the appeal of that. If I had to do the same, I would become Ferrari, Rothschild, Windsor or similar, to increase my chances of being greeted with obsequious behavior on planes and in banks. But I don’t think I could be bothered with the paperwork.
The only times I regret staying Green is when I wish I had the same last name as my children. I worry in case we get separated – especially in an emergency. Overthinking? Me?
The last time we all flew together, we went through passport control and the customs officer, after seeing our different surnames, said directly to them, “And who did you travel with today? “
He glanced at me as if to say, “Don’t answer for them,” which was agony because you never know what the kids are going to say. I waited what seemed like an interminable long before my son said, ‘British Airways’.
“I meant,” the man sighed, “who is that?” pointing at me.
My son looked at it like it was crackers. “Oh, her? It’s just my mother.