Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Court backs convention of picking one surname | The Japan Times

Court backs convention of picking one surname | The Japan Times

Marriage changes a lot of things.  Not everything.  We were living in sin before we made it official, so the change in our legal status barely registered.  Our togetherness didn't become more acute.  We both work long, long hours and don't get to see each other nearly enough.  We're not even wearing matching rings.  I did, however, experience a recurring warm, complete feeling.  I could kindle it by saying, "We're married."

What hasn't changed yet is my wife's surname.  Yet.  She wants to change her name, I'm happy and comfortable with that decision; apparently, the courts here practically demand it.  We're waiting until after we get back from our wedding trip to meet my family.  When we tried to buy airline tickets, we ran afoul of the ESTA program and her soon-to-expire passport.  It just seemed easier at the time to expedite things by applying for her passport under her original name.  There's no big hurry.  She says she has 6 months to change her name at the ward office before it becomes a matter of a court hassle to have it done.

I had no idea the name laws were so strict here in Japan, though.  And 96% of couples adopt a single surname.  That also came as a surprise.  I don't know the total in the US.  Probably pretty high, but not that high.  And I suppose some husbands take their wives' surnames, too.

Names, names, names.  For me it's enough my wife thought so highly of me to entwine us with a web of legalese.  But changing her name, too?  The name-changing thing is just one of those old fashioned conventions I rarely gave any thought to beyond a simple understanding that some people just don't want to do it.  I don't even need to know their motivation, be it personal, professional or political.  Change it or don't change it, whatever makes you happy.  You don't owe me anything, least of all an explanation.  I am behind your decision completely because it is your decision.

My wife has a perfectly serviceable surname and my in-laws have been nothing but nice to me.  So I'm flattered and touched beyond measure my wife wants to change her name to mine.  I did give a little thought to changing my middle name just like John Ono Lennon did, but then I thought about the person I'm named after and how much he meant to my mom.  And I happen to like my own name.  At least my surname.  My given name I could take or leave.  That ended that idea.

I really thought, however, it was our choice.  Now I see it's the choice of neither of us.  Rather, it's something imposed by Article 750 of the Civil Code whether we want it or not.  There's not even a Constitutional protection against it based on individual rights.  So it's lucky she wants it.  But for all of you who want to retain your own identities, please believe me when I say I'm on your side without reservations!

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