For Nick Black, the decision to take his wife’s name was part of a wider refiguring of his family’s identity after he got married last year. “I was never that wedded to my former surname, Earley,” he says. “I’m part of a compound family, and have a sister by birth and two siblings by marriage, so we have always had different names. For me, family isn’t tied to a name. My wife, on the other hand, is from a very small family, and so it was more important to her to keep her name.”
Although Nick’s father was taken aback when Nick first mentioned the name change, and initially responded with silence, he says the ensuing reactions have been generally positive, with his wife’s colleagues even labelling him a “modern man”.
“There’s a bit of wistful sadness to be losing something you’ve had with you for your whole life,” he says. “But now, when I use Black, I get that warm feeling of being reminded that I’m married. It wasn’t a huge leap for me, and I would like to think both partners in a relationship would be respectful of the significance of each other’s names, regardless of any wider gender politics.” However, Nick does think that a new wife being expected to take her husband’s name is a worrying continuation of the notion of possession. “The whole practice is so archaic,” he says. “I didn’t even tell my parents before I asked Laura about it, and I didn’t have any intention of asking her dad, either. It didn’t feel appropriate because it’s a decision for me and her.”