Friday, March 13, 2015

Personal History ~ 3

Naming. When I married in 1960, a woman Always took her husband’s name. There was no question about this. And so I wrote “Mrs. Rex Mix” in many of my school books. Practiced writing the name and drew hearts around it. I had been married about 18 months when the news came out of the newly rising women’s movement that there was no law that said a woman had to take her husband’s name. It was only tradition and one of those used to perpetuate possession. 

That news arrived and I thought, well, that makes a lot of sense. Knowing that no woman will ever take her husband’s name again. Of course I was wrong. Most women still do. However, as I was in theatre and my name appeared often on play bills, I started listing it as Susan Shank Mix including my maiden name as my middle name. I had no other middle name as my parents expected me to marry and begin to sign my name this way. (Are you aware of how many assumptions about women are in this blog?)

One day when I was in my late 20s I sent a play bill to a church event to which I was taking a production. Once again I was listed as Susan Shank Mix. The church leader called me. 

“We always list our women as Mrs. So & So.”

“That’s fine. And you will list me as Susan Shank Mix.”

“Well, we do it differently. We might list you as Mrs. Rex (Susan) Mix.”

“No. You will list me as Susan Shank Mix.”

(After another few minutes of this, I was fed up.)

“Look. This has nothing to do with Rex. He is not in the play. He didn’t direct it or have any part in the staging. He may, but only may, drive one of the cars that brings us there. You will list me as Susan Shank Mix.” 

And he did and years later when I reminded him of the incident, he was so embarrassed. Could not believe he had done that. 

This one incident really defined my name for me. Tradition gave me my first name ~ Susan is a family name. Tradition gave me my middle name ~ children take the name of their father. Tradition gave me my last name ~ when I married women took the name of their husband. But I chose to go by the three names. I chose my name within the parameters I lived. 

And so when I married again after Rex’s death, I chose to stay with the name that I had chosen. Dean would have liked for me to take his name, and, bless him, he understood after hearing the above explanation and married the woman I am. 

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