Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Me, Mrs George Clooney? No thanks

Quite the modest affair, wasn't it? A guest list that included the likes of Bill Murray and Anna Wintour, a seven-star hotel, a mere two wedding ceremonies and a convoy of boats travelling through Venice.

Now, a week after these low-key nuptials, it's been reported that Amal Alamuddin - the internationally renowned human rights lawyer and George Clooney's newly betrothed - has officially changed her name, claiming the much-coveted Mrs Clooney title as her own.

His ER heyday may have been a little before my time, but I've long been a Clooney fan. Those twinkly eyes...that silky soft drawl...the crop of grey hair that's earned him certified silver fox status. I'm well aware of the rumours that surround his sexuality, and perhaps my affections are about as well-placed as those of the 80s teenagers with George Michael plastered all over their walls - but I still can't say I'd be turning down a proposal from Clooney.

What you wouldn't catch me doing however, as Amal has reportedly chosen to do, is changing my name. And I can't understand why it is that in 2014, so many women still are.

It was only recently this year that the campaign led by feminist Caroline Criado-Perez (who also succeeded in campaigning for a woman to appear on the £10 note) managed to ensure that for the first time, there will be a space for the mother's name on a marriage certificate, and not just the father's. This is undoubtedly a good step towards equality, and one that echoes many women's decision today to take the traditional 'obeying' aspect out of their vowels. It is the 21st century, after all.

But why, then, are so few of us questioning the next antiquated step in the marriage process? There are of course countless women who would fiercely defend their choice to take their husband's name. Even when the topic has come up amongst my own friends, arguments as to why they wouldn't hesitate to do so range from not feeling particularly attached to a pretty generic moniker, or because, like many people, it would make them feel "more like a family". All the more so, if any children were to come along.

But the fact that there is absolutely no expectation on men to take their wives' names irks me. It would no doubt be seen as a slight on their masculinity were they to do so, and though I'm sure it has happened, I can't think of too many men - no matter how liberal they might be in other respects - who would do so without a second thought, as the vast majority of married women still do today.

The obvious compromise would be to go down the double-barreled route. But this doesn't sit especially well with me, not least because Gardiner is already quite enough of a mouthful, and I'm not sure quite how fair it would be to inflict an even bigger one on any future offspring.

Marriage itself is obviously a very traditional institution. You could be thinking at this point well, if you don't like all the tradition that goes with it then you can just lump it -  don't get married then. But old-fashioned though it may be (and I'm certainly in no position to do so anytime remotely soon), I do still really like the idea of this public declaration of a lifelong commitment - and the big bash to kick it all off.

Perhaps one day, when confronted with the real-life prospect of changing my name, I might not feel quite so strongly about it - in which case feel free to quote this back in my hypocritical face. But for now, I wholeheartedly believe I'll be Gardiner 'til I die. Amal - you can keep the Mrs Clooney title, I'm sticking with my own.