On our third wedding anniversary 12 years ago, my husband Jim presented me with a deed poll document saying he’d changed his name.
The man I had fallen in love with, Jim Pride, was now Jim Parks. In a crazily romantic, powerful and strong gesture he had taken my surname.
Jim’s family, to their credit, never commented on the name change; absolutely not a word. They operate a policy of non-interference.
Top author Adele Parks’ husband changed his surname to her’s for their third wedding anniversary
Surprisingly, my family found it strange. We assumed they’d be delighted, but instead I think they wondered why we’d refused to follow the path of convention once again.
Their reaction was similar to when we announced we’d eloped to Vegas — a sort of muted mystification. They didn’t express disapproval, but didn’t crack open the champagne either.
What we did was unusual and people always need time to digest new ideas. Friends, at least, said it was a wonderful gesture. They might privately have thought differently — but real friends support your choices, don’t they.
Complete strangers, on the other hand, have commented negatively. When Jim was changing utility bills into his new name, he found himself having to offer long explanations to often incredulous and judgmental strangers over the phone. It really irritated him, and in one case led to him changing our service provider.
A bride taking her groom’s name is a centuries-old tradition. For many it makes unquestionable sense, and more than 60 per cent of women still change their name to their husband’s after marriage.
Jim Pride, now Jim Parks, made the change without even asking his wife about it
Some keep their own name and other couples hyphenate or otherwise combine theirs, but less than one per cent of men take their wife’s surname. It is legal but it’s certainly not usual.
Historically, taking a man’s name on marriage offered women legal protection, especially in relation to legitimacy and inheritance.
However, since men no longer own their wives (phew!) and we have jobs and independent lives, many have begun to question why a woman automatically gives up her name, and why it is so rarely the other way around.
When I met Jim at a salsa bar in London’s Kensington 18 years ago, I thought his surname was awesome. He came into my life when I needed an injection of pride, and I felt his name was imbued with deep significance.
My surname is fine. It isn’t associated with anything in particular but it is easy to spell and it’s mine. I’m one of two girls and am the last Parks in my branch of the family.
l haven’t always done things the way others do, but I’m quite confident I’ve done things the right way for me and my family.
Pair pictured together after getting married in Las Vegas, much to the shock of their families
I’m guided by a belief that I shouldn’t be afraid of doing anything just because I’m a woman. Obviously, Jim is a feminist, too.
Neither of us is rampant or militant or any of those other terms anti-feminists fling at anyone who stands up for their rights. We simply believe men and women should be treated equally.
But we are a little unconventional. We rejected a traditional wedding and slipped off to Las Vegas to marry when our son, Conrad, was three. It raised eyebrows but kept down blood pressure and saved me turning into Bridezilla.
Jim and I achieved a rare thing; a wedding without rows. The three of us had the best day. When we came home we hosted a marvellous party to celebrate.
As soon as Jim and I got married, people started referring to us as Mr and Mrs Pride. There was no discussion, just tradition. Adele Pride sounded lovely but not quite real, perhaps a little remote.
There were practical hurdles to changing my name, too. When we married I was 35, had already published five novels and I was used to seeing my name in print. Maybe a little old for reinvention, I never got around to officially changing my name.
The admin alone put me off! I continued to write as Adele Parks. At my son’s nursery I continued to be known as Ms Parks, although some teachers had called me Mrs Parks even before the wedding.
Pictured together at their home in Guildford, Surrey, this month. They married when their son Conrad was three years old
So we remained Jim Pride, Adele Parks and Conrad Parks for a few years. I can’t pretend I was 100 per cent comfortable with that. I felt we lacked something indefinable.
More pragmatically, no one knew how to address Christmas cards or refer to us collectively.
Who were we? The Parks Family? The Prides? Social conditioning was telling me a family is only a proper family if they share a name. I know this is untrue, but still felt the appeal of a team name.
Travelling could be hard; different names meant we often weren’t allowed to approach border control together. Our son was asked who we were and why he was travelling with us — particularly if he was with just Jim. We considered double barrelling. But would we be Pride-Parks or Parks-Pride? Neither seemed right.
When Conrad started primary school, he became aware of the name situation and didn’t like it. Generally, kids like to fit in. It was then that Jim suggested changing his name. I was surprised, but he joked that as two out of the three of us were already Parks, changing his name was only democratic.
I looked for a precedent, but couldn’t think of anyone we knew.
She first met Jim 18 years ago at a bar in Kensington, London, and thought his surname was awesome
Strangely I felt some regret. I fell in love with Jim Pride, and didn’t want to lose any aspect of him. Would Mr Parks always remind me of my dad and grandad? I love them both, but associate my dad with childhood, rules and dependence, whereas Jim is all about maturity and freedom.
But all this made me wonder why some men are so keen to foist their surnames on their wives. Do they want them to become their mothers? I also feared that people might think Jim was ‘under the thumb’?
In the end I realised it shouldn’t be news that my husband did what hundreds of thousands of women do each year. Women are raised to be prepared to abandon their name, to put less value on it than a man — and it’s not right.
Maybe in a generation’s time it will be normal for a man to take his wife’s name.
For now, I’ve noticed that when I tell other women our story, they are always impressed. They look at Jim with admiration, as do many men — although some also look vaguely horrified. I see them mentally cross their legs, convinced I’m the sort of woman who secretly dreams of castration.
I’m really not; we’re the sort of family who dream of equality.
- Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks, (£7.99, HQ Harper ) is out now