When I was little, as far back as kindergarten, there were boys I considered good enough to marry. Not many, mind you, I was incredibly picky…but they existed. Like other girls, I spent time attaching these boys’ last names with mine. Carrie Grover (Michael. We got in trouble in kindergarten for talking too much and he was so dang cute!), Carrie Johnson (Kevin. Also super cute…we were in gifted together in third grade), Carrie Jackson (Michael…obviously), and then we got to junior high and…to be honest…there are far too many to list. That and there are people reading this right now who will know EXACTLY who I’m talking about and it’s maybe a teensy bit embarrassing.
Through my senior year in high school I was still attaching boyfriend’s names to my own. Even though many people in my high school called me Monroe, I still had no plans to hold onto the name. My senior year boyfriend and I…we had big plans to get married…even had our neighborhood picked out. And I planned to take his name. For certain. Hold please while I swoon over my high school romance for a couple seconds.
I started working in my field when I was 19. Only as an admin assistant, but I was in my field nonetheless, and making contacts that I still have today. I was Carrie Monroe. As my career took off, and I kept getting better and better positions, I found myself in an enviable position of making a small name for myself. I got to know a lot of people and I worked really hard to maintain a fabulous reputation. All as Carrie Monroe.
I still thought about the man I’d marry someday. And I hoped I’d get some lovely last name that had character. You know…something like Carrie Del Toro, or Carrie Katzenberg, or Carrie Rossellini, or Carrie O’Donnell. All good viable options.
My friends got married, I remained single, and kept working, working, working. And then at 31, I finally met my husband. We dated a year, got engaged, and then, one day, we were driving home and started talking about whether I would or would not take his name. I don’t know…suddenly it wasn’t about his fabulous Irish name and how it would sound with mine. Suddenly, it felt very very personal. And very very difficult.
When my parents divorced I was pretty little. My mom had the choice of keeping her married name or going back to her maiden name. She had established herself in her career, and she wanted me to have a parent with my same last name, so she kept Monroe. When she remarried I was 12, and again, she kept Monroe.
When it came to making the decision for myself, I had grown up with a woman who always preferred Ms. to Mrs. A woman who was incredibly independent and strong. A woman who had kind of blazed a trail in her career. And a woman who always had her very own last name…the one that I shared. When I told my husband I wasn’t sure I could take his name he didn’t understand. We went in circles. I asked if he’d be willing to take my last name (I didn’t want him to…I was trying to prove a point) and he scoffed. He seriously balked…like I was straight-up CRAZY. I tried to explain that it was the same for me. At 31, my name had become a part of who I was. Both professionally, and also personally. It was part of me. Just as I would never expect my husband to simply throw his last name to the wind, I didn’t feel like he should expect that of me, and I started a long debate with myself about how I would do this.
I knew I wanted the little girls to have a woman in their life with their last name. But I didn’t want to mess around with hyphens. And I wasn’t willing to drop my middle name to be replaced by my maiden name. I just really wanted the best of both worlds. My husband came around and began to understand. And after all was said and done I became Carrie Christine Monroe O’Keefe.
After we got married I became increasingly fond of sentences that included “my husband.” My husband this, my husband that. I LOVED being able to say those words. Even more so after we got through our really hard times and he was still, in fact, my husband.
Professionally, the two last name thing felt like a pain in the a-s in the beginning. More than one professional colleague or client (all men) have asked why I felt the need to “do that?!” It always amazes me how people feel they have the right to comment on other people’s decisions…especially in professional settings. In the little girls’ school, I always go by Carrie O’Keefe, because I’m in their domain and I’m an extension of them. But after the first couple of years, and getting over the idiots who felt they had the right to comment on it, I started to really love my name. I like the sound of it…and I like writing it…and it’s now a part of me just like Monroe had been.
Last week I chaperoned a field trip for my littlest little girl. When I arrived, I was handed a packet, and inside was this:
At first I thought ‘wait…what? Seriously?’ And then I thought ‘holy hell…I have to send my husband a picture of this!’ Which I did…obviously. And then I stuck it on my chest and started chasing six second graders around the Science Museum. Which, by the way, I think every lawmaker should have to do before voting on education bills. Dealing with a slew of other people’s children is no joke!
The two times I was actually able to run to the bathroom I was startled to see that name tag staring back at me in the mirror. Mrs. O’Keefe. And it grew on me. By the end of the day, when I was dashing from the field trip to check-in on an event with which my company was involved, it felt almost like a badge of honor. I raced inside the venue and immediately saw the client who said “Mrs. O’Keefe? What?” I explained that my husband had surely never seen anything like that on me and I felt I owed it to him to show him in-person. I then found my colleagues who laughed and pointed out that I still had a name tag on. And I finally made it home to my husband who appreciated it and then asked if I planned to keep it on when we went out to dinner.
I’ve mentioned that I’m kind of in this honeymoon phase in my life right now? Well…that also goes for my relationship with my husband. We’re having so much fun and are so enjoying each other’s company. I become more and more aware of how much I really like him. As a person…not just my husband. I mean…this is the man that just tonight our littlest little girl’s neighbor friend came over to ask to play. He didn’t ask for our littlest little girl...he asked for my husband. And minutes later, this husband of mine raced outside to take care of that same little boy after he’d fallen off of his skateboard and hurt himself. He makes me laugh out loud, and then surprises me with his compassion, and then is so sarcastic I can barely stand it, and then makes me nuts because he puts dishes in the sink a mere three feet from the dishwasher (I mean really…what is that?!). But I adore him.
I love being a wife, and I’m so lucky to be his wife, and every once in a while being Mrs. O’Keefe might be pretty cool. I may prefer Ms. to Mrs. and I may never change my name from Carrie Monroe O’Keefe to Carrie O’Keefe, but I love the fact that I am also officially Mrs. O’Keefe.
TODAY: What if throwing my last name to the wind is sometimes just fine thank you very much?