Lagos, Nigeria — The women at the immigration counter thought I was crazy.
“I still don’t understand why you won’t use your husband’s name,” one of them said, pointing to the section of a form where I had indicated my marital status.
“Because it is his name, not mine,” I replied, completely taken aback by this unsolicited opinion.
Unfazed by my blunt response, the questions about why I so stubbornly was choosing to keep my birth name continued for about 15 minutes.
I should have been shocked by the topic of discussion, but I wasn’t. I got married in October 2020, and as soon as the fuss from the ceremony died down, I was faced with a barrage of questions from friends and family about when I planned to adopt my husband’s last name.
On some occasions, I found myself being queried by strangers — like the immigration officers whose sole remit was to renew my Nigerian passport.
So, what’s in a name?
The reasons women adopt their partner’s names of course differ. Some women don’t like their birth names and can’t wait to trade them in.
More women still are going double-barrelled — opting to hyphenate their last name.
I chose to keep my birth name because I like it. It is the name I’ve had my entire life. All of my career highs and lows are associated with my name; my achievements, failures, and experiences are all contained in this name.
Whatever an individual’s motivations, it’s important to understand the origins of this practice before citing “tradition” as the reason to insist on it continuing.
Keeping up appearances
Societies often label women like me who choose to go against the norm as disobedient or defiant. But I am not interested in being either of these things.
I simply want to bear the name I’ve chosen without judgment. I want to continue on this journey with the name I have so far traveled; the one that has won awards and made mistakes.
If the women at the immigration office see this as an act of rebellion, so be it.