I’m a “hyphen” wife, Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, and I’m happy to be so, but it took me about eight years after Al and I got married before I tacked on the Tolstoy name. For me it had everything to do with convenience, changing your name on driver’s licenses, passports, cell phone bills, and everything else can drive you crazy. There were forms, fees and all kinds of inconveniences I just sort of put off… I’d do something here and there, but no direct campaign, after all, I’d been rolling with my family name for quite some time and it had served me well, right?
Truth be told, I love being a Tolstoy. It’s a wild history that goes back to the writer Leo Tolstoy (Al’s Great Great Cousin), into Czarist Russia and weaves it’s way through the Bolshevik Revolution and all kinds of European history. On top of that, it’s nice to embrace the fact that we are family, bound together in love, mutual admiration and all that mushy stuff.
But at the same time, it’s nice to remember and respect where I come from (the Stephens have plenty of our own history thank you very much!) and it’s nice to pay respect to my family line too.
I can understand the arguments for every situation, whether a woman decides to go the hyphen route like me, or keep her own name, or take on her husband’s name completely. The tradition of keeping the “family” name is completely patriarchic and comes from a time when women weren’t regarded much better than cattle, but it simplifies things for families and especially for children and it’s a pretty grand and flattering gesture on the part of women to her husband.
On the other hand, keeping your own name is a sign of strength in a woman, and progressiveness on the part of the husband. It takes an awfully nice guy to give up the ego trip of having his stamp on the marriage. Keeping a name will always draw the ire from the traditionalists in a family, but it seems to work out about as much as the alternative marriages do.
I’ve even heard of couples that choose an entirely different surname when they get married. They just start from scratch and invent their own dynasty, and when you think about it all families must have started out like that at some point! It’s definitely not ordinary, and makes for an even more confusing time at the DMV, but it’s putting a point on the idea of “starting a new life together”.
Me, I think I’ve got the best of both worlds, but I think we’re all richer for having all the different options open to all of us! Choice and freedom are never a bad thing, even if it makes the world a little more confusing.
Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, Tokii CEO & Founder
A business and brand maverick, skilled in building start-ups and building brand management teams in North America, Asia and Europe.