Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

A marriage by any other name...

WEDDED bliss is all well and good but it's the things that go around it which cause a fuss.

The flowers, the dress, the house-buying - and the outlaws. Heidi Withers wants to marry Freddie Bourne but to do that she has to join a family containing his stepmother Carolyn, a woman whose manners are far from relaxed and is not afraid to point out that Heidi does not meet her high standards. It's such a common story that a pernickety email between the two has gone viral.

Then there's the politics of deciding whether to change your name, in what circumstances to keep your own and what everyone else has to say on the matter. Lily Allen now calls herself  'Mrs Cooper' on the grounds she never liked her maiden name and it's 'a new chapter in my life'.

Have you noticed it's only women that agonise over this kind of thing? Men don't have to bother about changing their name and when it comes to the family upsets they generally follow the path of least resistance. Freddie, predictably, is keeping his head down. Whether Heidi will continue to Wither or join the Bourne conspiracy is as yet unknown, and why Lily didn't change her name sooner is a matter for speculation.

This is the fuss that goes around a marriage, but it does not make a damn bit of difference to its chances of success. I got on with my outlaws brilliantly, they liked me and I them and although it later turned out they had raised my husband to act like a twat I never really held it against them. The marriage still went phut, as one in two will do.

I never wanted to change my name either, but my husband-to-be disagreed, not least because he wanted to be seen as the majority partner. I compromised by keeping my maiden name as a middle name, and as soon as we split - before the divorce had barely begun - I changed it right back again by deed poll. There's no power on earth, marriage or otherwise, that could persuade me to change it again. But my views didn't change because of the divorce: they were ever thus.

Yes, it's nice when you're in love and want to be as together as possible and want to shout to the world: "We are ONE!" But you're not. You're two individuals, hopefully going in the same direction and with the same aims in mind, acting as partners and maybe a family unit.

Pretending once the ring goes on that you are a single, entirely new creature is like trying to win a three-legged race by telling yourself you genuinely do have three legs. You'll end up flat on your face.

There are women (and men) who don't like their names and are happy to change, who see nothing wrong with the idea, double-barrel or don't stop to think about it being a problem. Fine, knock yourselves out, free country and all that.

I don't know what to do about names for children if I have any but I quite like the Scandinavian practice of mothers handing their surnames to their daughters, and fathers to their sons. Or maybe the other way around. And I'd be inclined, when the child was 18 or so, to let them choose.

It's a bit right-on perhaps, but when it comes to the crunch the success of any relationship - parent-child, husband-wife, in-laws and outlaws - comes down not to doing the thing others say you ought but what suits you, and trying to remember that if it's to work you have to be friends. Changing your name does not change who you are.

This way! That way! Oh bugger.