Miller. It’s a very common name. Easy to spell. Easy to say. Almost…anonymous in its plain-vanilla ordinariness.
My former last name was not at all common. I was the only person in America with my former full legal name. Even in the days before facebook, it was a very obvious name. Many people all over the country had heard of at least one person with the same last name and asked if I were related to that person (usually my father’s oldest brother. If not, it was my uncle one brother up from my father).
When I got married, I was happy to take on the anonymity of Miller. There are names I would not have traded for. In fact, a former boyfriend had a common last name that suited him very well, but would not have suited me at all. At 4’11″, one does not take on a name that means, “tall building”.
Changing one’s name on marrying was and is a very un-feminist thing to do, and I consider myself a feminist. But Miller as a name was pretty darn seductive to someone whose name had been forever a thing to reckon with. Even my father pronounces it differently depending on if he introduces himself as Bob (emphasis on last syllable) or Robert (emphasis on first). So believe me when I tell you that I did not change my name lightly or without a lot of thought.
As a feminist, I think I made the poorer choice, the choice that makes it harder for others to remain themselves if they wish.
Perhaps the better choice would have been for both of us to have changed our names to something like Brown or Jones. I don’t know.
I know that I made the choice that felt right to me at the time, and that still feels right to me as a person.
And the fact that men, in general, don’t have to think about this? Is a privilege I haven’t got.
But here’s the thing. I got married in New York State in 1996. If I had wanted to marry another woman, I wouldn’t have been able to, and still could not in NY or VA. So the ease of changing my name through marriage? Is a privilege.