The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What’s in a Name?

Recently, a few articles have been written on the topic of women changing or not changing their last names upon marriage. I have long questioned the same system.

When I dated men, I always asked their opinion on the topic, partially because I knew I could never be with someone who expected me to take his name. But the truth is, even with the feminist spirit alive and well in this country, the majority of women still take their husbands’ names.
The obvious reason that women take men’s last names makes sense to me: if you want to share a last name with your partner, picking one name is logical. I’m not a big fan of hyphenating names because, as one of the above articles points out, it’s only good for one generation. If someone with a hyphenated name marries another person with a hyphenated name, what do they do?

In my experience, even couples who keep their own names upon marriage still give their children, if they have children, the husband’s last name.

At some point I realized that when a person signs a marriage license, she or he can declare whatever new name she or he chooses. Based on this information, I decided if I ever got married I would legally change my name to Pink Purple Crockpot, as a middle finger to the whole system (and also because it sounds awesome).

So when I began dating women, this line of thinking got more interesting. First, I decided Pink Purple Crockpot just couldn't work for me. Also, I no longer have the privilege of choosing whether or not I want to play into this name changing system. There is no room for two women – there’s no man’s name to take. Making decisions about this tradition became, for me, more than just a fun way to combat patriarchy; it became an actual problem that requires a sensible solution.

Call me a romantic, but I have a real desire to share a last name with my Hypothetical Future Partner.
For me, if my partner or I picked either of our names for both of us to share, the decision would feel symbolic of our relationship. If I took my Hypothetical Future Partner’s name, would it mean she has more power in our relationship? That she wears the pants? That she’s the man? That she won the coin flip? If she took mine, how would I feel about asking her to switch? And, given the hope that my Hypothetical Future Partner and I both have good relationships with our families, how could either of us decide to leave our family names for the others?

It’s interesting being a woman dating a woman, because we've both been socialized into the assumption that our last names would someday change. From a young age, it’s acceptable, even encouraged, for a girl to start doodling Mrs. Name-of-crush-here on her notebook. (And that’s to say nothing of a culture that asks women but not men to name their marital status simply by the title in front of their last names.)

So here I am, in a system that stems from a tradition that has no place for me and my woman loving ways, wondering what I’ll do with my name if I ever get married, knowing that even that simple thing – marriage – is a thing only some people and some states believe I deserve.

Who can blame the lezbos everywhere for keeping their own names, for not buying into any system that has marks of oppression all over it?

But I still want to share a name. I don’t want to make a new name out of nowhere. I don’t want to take and I don’t want to give, I want to share. So my solution is to fit my Hypothetical Future Partner’s name together with mine, just as we’ll attempt to fit our lives together (hypothetically of course). A little give and take. A little of her and a little of me. Compromise.

How does this work in the heterosexual world? Shit, I don’t know. But if people always chose the simple, easier road, we’d be in big trouble.

I understand that professionals that have careers prior to getting married would keep their names. And if you believe that your husband should be the head of your household, then yes, take his name. But otherwise, why not carefully consider the name you’ll (hopefully) be living with for the rest of your life, and be open to doing something nontraditional?

The same questions should be posed about how a proposal works, why only a woman wears an engagement ring, and why a man is told that he can kiss the bride at the end of a wedding (aren't they kissing each other?).

Just because I’m in a situation where I have to devise new strategies with my Hypothetical Future Partner, doesn't mean heterosexuals, particularly those who believe in equality of gender, can't or shouldn't question the systems in which they are included.

If a name is so unimportant, why not give it up for a new one?

Or, as I've argued, if a name is so important that it tells others about who you are – and who you and your partner are together – then why not choose it wisely?

What do you think?


Friday, March 8, 2013

Faith & Romantic Relationships

Between wedding shows, talks with friends and talks with my mother, a common question keeps popping up:

Does sharing the same faith really matter in a relationship?

I don't think so.

Some of my girlfriends and I talked about this last fall. Most of them said that they wouldn't marry a guy if he wasn't the same denomination as her, or at least a Christian. Some of them said they wouldn't even date a guy of a different faith.

This isn't to shame them or laugh at my own superiority; they had some good points when asked why. 

One friend said that there would always be something between them, that they wouldn't have the same view of the world. Another said that they couldn't get married in her church if her fiance wasn't of her faith. Another pointed out that raising kids would be a lot harder when their parents have two different faiths. I've been preached at by random people that Christian marriages last longer; that couples who pray together or read the Bible together last longer than couples who don't.

All good, valid, points. I just disagree.

(1) Worldview Differences

Take my life: Jake and I don't share the same faith. Jake's a nontheist. He's just not religious. He doesn't believe in God, and it's not something that bothers him.

I'm a questioning Christian. I have a very personal faith. I believe in God. Jesus and I are friends. I like going to church and singing and worshiping and rejoicing in love.

Maybe it's the Interfaith nerd in me, but I'd argue that our worldview isn't very different at all. We both believe in justice and truth and fairness and honesty. We believe in helping others; not because we need to, but because we should. We believe in love and that food is delicious. We believe that trust and equality are essential in a relationship. We put each other first - always - even if it means doing more work yourself.

Is that very different than what two Christians would believe in? Or a Christian and a Muslim? Or a Jew and an atheist?

For me, that world view is so much more important than whether or not my boyfriend / spouse / life partner believes in God. My belief doesn't condemn him to some fiery torment or push me to convert him. My belief doesn't tell me I'm sinning by loving someone. I don't care if we get married in the Christian church or not (though my preference would be yes). I understand that his beliefs may prevent that from happening, and that doesn't bother me. 

You know what I care about? I care about my family being at our wedding, his family being there, and our close friends being there. I care about the people we love surrounding us and blessing our relationship. I care about having a celebration of love. I care about loving Jacob. Which brings us to:

(2) Marriage in the Church

This could get trickier, but stay with me here. This might not be preventable. Straight up. One of my friends is Greek Orthodox. If her fiance doesn't convert, there will not be a wedding. Period.

My solution here isn't easy, but it starts off that way: Why do you want to get married in your church?

Let's say you're Catholic, but your girlfriend's an atheist. Do you care about getting married in your church because you want her to be a Christian? Is your family pressuring it? Do you want the people in your church to be there? Is it a spiritually moving place for you? Or is it just about appearances?

Is your church worth losing the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? Or having them change who they are to be with you?

It's a serious question! If your church is more imporant to you, this probably isn't the right relationship for you to be in; but at least figure out WHY you're so set on your church and WHY the church says you can't be with this person.

Take 1 Corinthians 7:13-14:
And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
Clearly Paul doesn't have a problem with Interfaith marriage in Corinthians. Paul's not like, "Well, she's a heathen, so convert her and THEN it's totally cool to marry her." God's not all, "I know you really love Chris and all, but...  don't. Sorry I'm NOT sorry!" Literally, the opposite thing is happening here. Think on these things.

I'm not saying one verse should be enough to convert you to the idea (see what I did there?), but try to keep an open mind to the idea that maaaybe God doesn't care about this issue quite as much as people claim God cares. Like, maybe God cares about you being happy with the one you love. Maybe God wants what's best for you, and maybe what's best for you is an Atheist. Maybe a Muslim spouse will strengthen your Christian faith and maybe that's totally awesome. Interfaith relations can be cool like that.

(3) The Kids

I don't see the "kids" issue as much of an issue at all. For one, we're all going to mess them up anyway, be honest. When you find the parents who did everything perfectly, come talk to me and we'll write a book. Secondly, communicate with your partner for goodness sakes. Talk to them about how you want to raise your kids. You'll probably disagree on something whether or not you're both Christians. If you can't agree on how to raise them, try compromising. It's not like we're Congressmen - we're grown adults, we can give and take and make some compromises here and there.

It turns out, Jake and I are pretty much on the same page with the whole "kid" thing because (SHOCK) we've talked about it. When we do have kids eventually, we will let them be whatever faith they would like to be. I would be thrilled if they wanted to be Jews, of course, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. If they don't believe in God at all, that'll be fine. If they want to be Muslims, that'll be fine too. As long as we raise our kids to be kind and loving, I'll consider that to be more than a success.

(4) Marriages Last Longer

As for the articles on Christian marriages lasting longer: I'm not here to dispel that, but what I see as the point of those facts or articles is not that the couples are Christian - the couples are doing something together, every day. They bond over something they mutual agree with. They make time for each other and don't break up over something small because they've made a committment. 

It's not magic Christian fairy dust that makes marriage easy or last; it's the committment and the dedication to working on this relationship. That's beautiful. It's something all couples can take as a lesson.

... ... ... ... ... ...

What really is the most important thing in a relationship? Do you think that a similar worldview can make up for differences in faith? Would you ever date or marry someone of a different faith? Do you agree with my friends or me? Why? Would your church look down on you if your partner wasn't the same faith as you?


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Here It Is: My Inevitable Catholic Post

Bye-bye Papa B.
As the token Catholic contributor to this blog, I knew this post was coming eventually.  Some of you probably did too.  So, here we go.  In the past few weeks there has been a lot of buzz about the resignation of the Pope.  And not all of it has been pleasant…or really even rational.  While I have not agreed with everything Benedict did as Pope, I am still offended when people attack him in a blatant, nasty, and uninformed manner.  There are definitely things about the Catholic Church that need to be worked on, and some things that need to be reconsidered and changed.  That doesn’t mean the Church doesn’t have anything to offer to the world…and that doesn’t mean that it’s not something worth fighting for.    

I’ve been asked plenty of times “Why are you Catholic?”  Not going to lie, I’m Catholic in large part because my parents raised me that way.  Honestly, that’s why a lot of people are Catholic.  They’re “culture Catholic”…don’t always go to Church, but still want to be a part of the group.  But for me, it’s more than a label I walk around having but don’t really do much with.  I’m Catholic because I find something beautiful in the tradition, the celebration, the structure, and the worldwide community that I’m apart of just for being Catholic.  I could go to any Catholic Church in the world, and even if the Mass wasn’t in English, I would still be able to understand what is happening for the most part.  There is a comfort in that kind of unification and connection.     

I’ve also been asked “Why do you stay Catholic?”  As I said, I recognize that there are some major issues within the Catholic Church.  The sexual abuse, and the way that the situations were sometimes handled, was really disgraceful.  Many clergy, however, were very adamant about new measures being adopted by the Church that would ensure the protection of children against such abuse, and many of the faithful called out those who tried to downplay or cover-up the situations.  On the more theological side of things, women’s ordination and general leadership within the Church is another major issue, and one that strikes especially close to home because I am a woman who is Catholic and studying to do ministry (non-ordained) within the Church.  This is something that I think truly does need to be reexamined because the theology and explanations defending male-only priesthood is, in my opinion, kind of weak and unconvincing.  Yet, I remain Catholic.  Gay marriage is another issue the Church is currently facing, and another thing that I am personally in favor of.  Again, the theology and explanations behind arguments against gay marriage seem lacking to me, and I can think of and have heard various solid arguments in favor of it.  Yet, I remain Catholic. 

You might be really wondering why I stay in the Church at this point.  Why I don’t just up and leave everything I have known since my childhood to find something that better accommodates my ideals.  One reason is that I believe the easiest way to change something is from the inside.  Standing on the outside, yelling and pounding your fists against the wall are not going to be effective.  Being a part of the tradition, the culture, and understanding the issues with an insider’s perspective will get you a lot farther in your arguments.  I also know some of the theology behind a couple of these issues, from both sides of the arguments.  I’m not just going around bashing the Church because I don’t agree with everything it says or does (show me a religion in which all of its believers agree with everything it says…and is not a cult).  I know why the Church says some of what it says, and on my end I can make thoughtful critiques of it because I give enough of a damn to actually learn about my faith and my Church.  People who think they know the issues within the Church without bothering to actually try to learn about about the theology and understand it are not doing themselves or their causes any favors. 

I believe the Catholic Church is worth fighting for.  I believe, at its heart, that it is meant to bring good to this world, and I see so much worth being a part of within it.  I try to keep in mind that women’s ordination and gay marriage are currently very Western issues.  The Church in Africa and Latin America, for example, is more concerned with alleviating poverty and ending war.  People are happy to bash Benedict for his stand on Western issues, but did you also know that in one of the three encyclicals he wrote that he spoke specifically about economic issues and declared that working and exploiting purely for personal profit is immoral?  This doesn’t mean that the average Joe who puts in an honest day’s labor falls into this category…he’s just trying to get by and provide for his family (if average Joe has a family), or even that all rich people are bad, because maybe becoming obscenely wealthy isn’t actually their goal and just happens to them.  What this does mean is that Benedict basically called out those mega-corporations who exploit and take-advantage of people all over the world…whether through cheap labor or under-handed business practices…just to make that much more money for the people at the top, and said “Hey, assholes…you’re bad people.  Knock it off.”  We’ve also got a pretty impressive legacy of social justice powerhouses, like Mother Theresa and Dorothy Day.          
Finally, Catholicism is also a part of my identity…part of who I am at my core.  I am not just a Catholic…I am Catholic.  Being Catholic, for a lot of people, isn’t just about what religion they are.  There is a culture and a history to being Catholic that stretches farther back into the past than most institutions that exist today (it’s older than even a few long-standing governments).  Even if I stopped actively being Catholic…I would never really stop being Catholic.  It’s ingrained into me that deeply.
The Church is as complex as the billions of people who identify themselves with it.  For every bad aspect of it, there are dozens of good things that are worth fighting to uphold.  So, I remain Catholic and I continue to educate myself about my faith and my Church so that I can make a difference in it and the world.  For those people who do choose to leave, I don’t blame them…for some it really does seem like the only option, and they just get tired of the struggle.  For others, they just might not relate to the Church in a way that spiritually benefits them and they are able to find that somewhere else.  But many people do remain within the Church, and they are the Church…the Body of Christ…who live out their faith in their everyday lives, trying to find peace and grace in an often chaotic and broken world.  It is these people, these common believers, who are the real reason I stay in the Church….they are my community, and they are worth the struggle. 

A short list of some common misconceptions about Catholicism that really, really annoy me:

1.      “Papal Infallibility” does not mean everything the Pope says is true or that a Pope is even sinless.  The Church is infallible, and the Pope is the spokesperson for the Church.  There is a whole list of stuff that has to take place before any Church teaching can be declared infallible by the Pope, and this has actually only happened twice in the history of the Church.  Both times, the teachings had to do with the Virgin Mary (her Conception and Assumption).

2.      We do not worship saints, so let it go already.  When we pray to saints, we are really asking them to pray on our behalf to God.  It always goes to God.  It’s like asking a friend to pray for you when you are about to face some kind of challenge in your life…except in this instance a lot of these “friends” were willing to sacrifice everything, even their own lives, to follow their faith.  Saint side note: A lot of us won’t get too pissed off if you critique the hierarchy, doctrine, tradition, or sacraments of the Church…but don’t you dare go after the Virgin Mary.  You will regret it.
Do not mess with the Virgin

3.      Going along with the Mary theme, the Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus’ conception…but to Mary’s.  We believe, in order to prepare her for her role as Jesus’ mother, God allowed Mary to be conceived without original sin (read Augustine and you’ll understand how this idea works).  I could hardly get through the Family Guy Christmas episode this year because they kept getting the Immaculate Conception wrong…you’re better than that, Seth MacFarlane! (He actually might not be)

4.      The Church doesn’t say sex is only for baby-making (not anymore, anyway).  That definitely is still a big part of it (hence the no-no on contraceptives), but there is also an emphasis on the relational and spiritual intimacy between the couple.  So, unlike in the Middle Ages, it’s okay if you enjoy having sex.  It’s also okay (now verses then) for couples to have sex even if they can’t have babies (see…progress!).    
In summary...
See ya!
Erin B.


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