About a year into dating, Christian and I were headed south to Sedalia for a fancy date night. We gussied ourselves up and headed out the door. Christian hopped in the driver’s seat and I ambled over to the passenger side. I’m sure we had a nice dinner, though it wasn’t all that memorable. However, the minor revelation I had on the way home is still with me today. That revelation was:
I liked not having to drive.
Not in the ‘I want a limo driver’ sense (probably wouldn’t turn that down, though), but in the ‘I like allowing someone else to care for me and go through life with me’ sense. We’re driving home and I glance over at Christian – hand on the steering wheel, eyes straight ahead. And, it hits me that its ok to feel that way.
Let me back up a bit.
Throughout my childhood my family was big on “girl power” — girls can do anything they want, boys aren’t the only ones who can use tools… I had a feminist older sister that I idolized and a Mom that never changed her last name in addition to being the primary breadwinner. In my family, women did it all. So, as my childhood logic would have it. I would, most obviously, never change my name. It was my name and there certainly was no need for me to adopt someone else’s.
I had all these negative feelings I associated with women that changed their name when they got married. To me, those women weren’t independent, they weren’t strong enough to hold their own and they most certainly didn’t adopt the “girls can do anything” mantra I was desperately trying to embody. They caved.
So, fast forward, again, to my revelation.
That moment in the car was the first moment when I felt like there could be a place for me between the two worlds. Neither was right nor wrong and neither was the determinate for what made you weak or strong. I wanted to live in my own world – one where I can be in love, have a partner to do life with and still be my own person. I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. I didn’t have to live by ideals I had set for myself at age 10. I didn’t have to hold onto something that no longer felt the way I had hoped it would. I evolved, we all evolve. It’s part of life.
Even though my thought patterns were shifting and my pre-conceived notions of what it meant to be a woman were being challenged, I was still holding on to my last name. It was the final stronghold that defined my views on who I would be.
When Christian proposed many months later, I had no idea what I was going to do. Stay Megan Stout, change to Megan Stecker —- the only thing I knew was that the hyphenated last name was not for me. Too long, too cumbersome and it felt like I, then, belonged to no one, but rather to an in between. I would no longer be me, but I wouldn’t be joining Christian either. If I was going to have a different last name, I was keeping my own. End of story.
As we moved forward in planning the wedding, buying a house and all the things that come with engagement and newlywedness, I started to feel the death grip on my last name loosen. The need to be a person, completely autonomous and separate from the husband I had agreed to marry felt wrong. It felt like I was fighting for something that I already had, something inside. Knowing that I am who I am and a name is a name.
Regardless of the name I took, I would always be me. I would always be Megan.
Almost two months after saying I do, I took the trip to the social security office and made it official. I retired Megan Stout and became Megan Stecker. I can’t say that I feel at home in the name. Stout will always have my heart and it patters just a bit every time I think about it (oh! nostalgia how you get me every time), but I’m growing into it more and more each day. Christian and I, we’re the Steckers, we’re partners, we’re in it together. And that, for me, is how it should be.