Thursday, 14 April 2016

That's Not My Name!

There has been a lot of paperwork in my world recently. Between medical information, organising maternity appointments and dealing with social security, I was only half-joking when I claimed that our baby required a full-time secretary before it was even the size of a plum. Now that we're also buying a flat (Did I mention that we're buying a flat? Well, we're buying a flat!), the mountain of documents has been growing ever more rapidly.

Mostly, it's fine. There's a lot to "read and approve", a lot to sign and a lot of appointments to fit in, but generally it's just a case of doing what needs to be done. One hiccup that I've encountered on quite a few occasions, though, is people calling me by the wrong name.

When we got married, I decided not to change my last name to Understanding Frenchman's. I had various reasons for this, including some feminist principles and the fact that his name is funny in English if you don't pronounce it the proper French way, but to be honest the biggest ones were that I like my last name, it goes well with my first name, I've had it all my life and it feels like part of my identity. On the other hand, I can see the attraction of having a "family" name that you share with your husband and children, so I wasn't completely against the idea of changing, and I understand why people do it. As a result, I'm fairly laid-back in everyday life if people decide to call me Mrs or Mme  Frenchman (as long as they don't also use his first name when addressing me - that really does offend my feminist principles!).

On official paperwork, however, it's another story. I'm amazed at the number of times that people or organisations have just assumed that I use his last name, and I'm dreading the day when I can't do something important because I don't have any identity documents with it on them.

The problem is that in France, you never actually change your name, you just (have the option to) adopt your husband/wife's name as a nom d'usage. (Eyelean has an interesting post about this where people have shared their experiences of the different options.) This means that somebody looking at my passport would see my actual name but not necessarily understand that this means I haven't taken my husband's name, since a woman who did use her husband's name would also have her maiden name on her ID card (with the option to add the nom d'usage as well). As a result, it's less obvious that I've decided not to change than it would be in the UK, where you either change your name everywhere or you don't.

And so I've written to the CAF, and I've phoned the lawyers, and I've had my blood group card reissued, and every time I wonder if the 25% of women in France who don't change their names after marriage are all doing the same thing, and if not, what I have to do to avoid the problem arising in the first place!

7 comments:

  1. I make sure I never put down my husband's name anywhere. A couple times administrations (the hospital, the police) said that if they checked the box "Married" in the software, they "had" to enter a married name. I told them to put down my maiden name twice, and that's solved the problem.

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    1. That's what the lady at the lab did for by blood group card and the hospital made me take it back to get it changed because I wasn't married to someone who had the same last name as me to start with! Apparently there was some big scandal in France a while back with people being given the wrong blood though, so they are extra-strict with that.

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  2. Oh, I hear you! My parents aren't married (they claim they aren't ready... after 35 years!) and my mom absolutely HATE being called Mrs-my-father's-name. We kids have both names hyphenated and it was a fight to have both names, not just my dad's.

    I kept my maiden name too, I feel it would have been weird to have a Chinese last name. Well, not weird, but confusing to people and I think our family is confusing enough as it is!

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  3. Very interesting! If you don't mind my asking how has your husband gotten his name on the baby stuff? Isn't it just your name for now? Or are you using his health coverage? My husband's name is on none of my documents for now (it's taken some vigilance, but also, we don't have anything from the CAF).

    As for the buying a flat thing, congrats! and, wow, that is a lot at once. Our original plan 2.5 years ago was to buy a house, get married, and start trying for kids all at the same time. NUTS. Fortunately we started house hunting quite a bit earlier than planned and had all that finished before the wedding planning really started. Given all the work we did on the place we found, a wedding would have been crazy at that time.

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    1. I declared the pregnancy to the CAF, so our account is in my name, but because I also told them that I was married, they assumed that I was using his name. I think the baby is going to have only his name, so that will probably confuse them even more!

      Your timing is definitely more sensible than ours, especially if you had work to do on the house. We're fine at the moment with him managing buying the flat and me managing the baby things, but doing all the visits when I was exhausted in the first trimester wasn't fun, and we're lucky that the place we've bought is already fairly liveable in. We definitely couldn't have thrown a wedding into the mix too!

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  4. That's an interesting point that it's harder to tell that you haven't changed your name. I never thought of it that way.

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  5. You probably read my comment on Eileen's post... I don't really have strong feelings either way about my name. It could be because I don't know my dad's family very well (he passed away when I was a child and his family didn't live near by), so I don't really feel too strong of ties with the name. But it's too complicated to change in the US from France, so it's stayed the same. And in France, well, it really just depends. I've mostly stuck with my maiden name as that's what's on my passport, and my titre de sejour has both (and always will).

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