Writing a blog about the importance of women’s last names often makes me feel like I’m wandering alone in the Arctic. Instead of snow and ice, the blank tundra of sameness surrounding me are the masses of folks who, seemingly blindly, follow the patrilineal pattern after marriage and children.
Then, once in a while, I connect with someone like Robert Simms of Scottsdale, Arizona. And the tundra melts, revealing a beautiful wildflower — vibrantly colorful and growing defiantly where no one planted it.
Simms’ story starts when he married in 1992. He still went by his birth name, Robert Lyle. His wife, Terri Simms, kept hers, too. Five years later, when their first son was born, they decided to give him Terri’s last name, for three reasons: Terri was the last of the Simms line, with no siblings or cousins. Second “it just seemed fair,” as Rob says, since she’d borne the burden of pregnancy. Third, “the plan was for me to be the primary parent at home and Terri to return to work, so we thought it good to have the baby have her name, to reinforce the connection,” Rob said.
Six years and a second baby — also christened Simms — later, with No. 3 on the way, all those reasons still stood. In the meanwhile, Rob had experienced that skeptical eyebrow from one too many doctor’s office receptionists while out and about with his other-named sons. A new job for Terri and the family’s relocation to Arizona also loomed. What was one more change, especially if it would circumvent all those questions and explanations?
“Pretty much all was going to be new, so I decided that I’d also make a symbolic fresh start by becoming a Simms too,” he says
His wife wasn’t so sure at first. But after they tried it during an out-of-town business conference together – Rob’s maiden voyage as Mr. Simms outside of parenting circles – she agreed. She also decided to adopt Lyle as her middle name, which Rob did as well. Three months later the courts finalized it. Terri Simms bought her husband a gift to celebrate — monogrammed towels.
“I have gotten many negative reactions,” from family and friends, Simms says. “But it was worth it.”
Amen. And pass it on.
Photo credit: B. Bowman.