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Note: Zach and I worked on this blog post together, to make sure it’s a fair representation of what happened and what we both learned.
Zach and I have been married for a few months now, and one of the things that has surprised me most? We donâ€™t have a dog yet! Our friends know weâ€™ve been talking about fostering dogs for a while, but with the wedding we never had the time. We went through the screening and training, but when it came down to it, we were never around enough on the weekends to commit to caring for a foster, let alone our own dog. We both agreed that this dream would have to wait until after the wedding.
Fast forward to a weekend in October, where we have almost nothing going onâ€”a blessing after a whirlwind preparation year, wedding and honeymoon (all of which were wonderful, but still). I received an email from our rescue organization of choice, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, about fostering, and I opened it to look through some of the photos. I found a beauty and fell in love. Her name was Becca, and she was a 1-2-year-old Feist, muscular and small. Perfect for apartment living. Her big brown eyes begged me to take her home.
I told my co-workers about my newfound love, and most of them fawned over Becca with me. Here is where I learned my first lesson on marriage: Just because your co-workers agree with you, doesnâ€™t mean your partner will. My co-workers advised me to really talk with Zach about it seriously, and (here comes my downfall) assured me that he would understand. I mean, that face!
My emotional attachment to Becca caught Zach by surprise. I was already ready to take this dog in permanently, and Zach was looking forward to doing more short-term fostering before adopting. He was concerned about how having a dog would fit into our lives, while I was ready to jump in and make it work.
One big mistake was starting this conversation a few minutes before we had planned to go out with friends. Our fraught emotional state really made for a, shall we say, tense Friday night on the town.
That night, it dawned on me that I was never again going to make big decisions on my own. This was something that affected both of us (in a big way), and so we both needed to be ready for it, no matter how much Beccaâ€™s eyes drew me in. Zach was not accusing me of not knowing what I wanted or being unwilling to take on this responsibility. He was coming to me as a partner saying he wasnâ€™t sure he was ready, and he wanted us to take our time and go into it together, slowly and thoughtfully.
My personal faith encouraged me to slow down, take some deep breaths and really be open to the growth that this encounter offered. I’ve read a few books by a Jesuit priest named Father James Martin, S.J. (Jesuits are an order of Catholic priests that live in community and serve in various ways, as opposed to diocesan priests who mainly serve parish communities). He often emphasizes the Jesuit idea of “meeting people where they are.” In this small way, IÂ needed to meet Zach where he was as opposed to dragging him to wherever I was.
The solution was finding the sweet spot between comfort and compromise. We decided not to adopt Becca, but we committed to block out some time to foster, to see if this is really what we want to do. Zach saw more of my deep desire to care for our own dog, and my frustration that we keep putting it off because it never fits neatly into our existing schedule. And I learned how seriously Zach takes pet ownership and how both of our feelings and perspectives matter in making decisions as a family.
Becca is adopted now, and I hope she’s happy with some other family. Iâ€™m happy in mine, growing in understanding and partnership with my new husband. And still looking forward to getting a dog one of these daysâ€”maybe after we stop traveling every weekend.
While it’s been exhausting to be so busy after a year of wedding planning, our travels have been for good reason. This month we went to Mexico to celebrate the wedding of two friends. Their wedding was also interfaithâ€”the bride and her family are Hindi, and the groom and his family are Jewish. There was a fun multicultural element as well: The bride’s family is Indian and resides in Brazil, while the groom’s family is American. Needless to say, the food was delicious and the party was bumpin’. They chose to do two ceremonies, with an American Jewish ceremony on the beach on Thursday night, and a Hindu ceremony (condensed to an hour from the four hour version) on Saturday afternoon.
I was interested to see how they chose to express their religions differently than oursâ€”namely, with two different ceremonies, while we did one combined ceremony. While I wouldn’t have changed anything about our wedding, I saw that they way they chose to do things allowed them to go more in depth with the traditions associated with each religion. You could tell that they didn’t feel truly married until after the second ceremony, and in that way we were similar: We couldn’t imagine not including both religions.
In 2011, TheKnot.com surveyed almost 20,000 newlywed women. They found that only 8 percent kept their last names. Of the remaining 92 percent, 86 percent took their partnerâ€™s last name. Six percent hyphenated or created a new last name.
While Iâ€™ve seen other studies that show the percentage of women who keep their last names atÂ closer to 20 percent, the fact remains: Changing your name after marriage is the â€śnormalâ€ť thing to do.
Changing my name has never felt like the right move for meâ€”my last name is the one on my degrees, itâ€™s part of the name of my photography business, itâ€™s the name Iâ€™ve written under, and, itâ€™s the name Iâ€™ve used my entire life. Iâ€™ve given this some serious thought. I support a personâ€™s right to choose the name that feels like the best fit for them, and I understand the idea that a unified last name presents a unified team.
But, for me, changing my name just doesnâ€™t feel right.
(It also should be noted, that Justin isnâ€™t up for changing his last name either. My last name is hard to spell, and heâ€™s spent too long building his brand to change his name to something else. I donâ€™t think this is a conversation only half of a coupleÂ should be havingâ€”if name changes are on the table, they should be on the table for everyone.)
It wasnâ€™t until recently, when concepts like name changes shifted from hypothetical to reality, did something click for me. Changing my last name would mean separating my name from my familyâ€™s nameâ€”and taking a step away from my Jewish identity.
I know that marrying Justin, who isnâ€™t Jewish, wonâ€™t make me any less Jewish.
It wonâ€™t make our home any less Jewish; it wonâ€™t invalidate the mezuzah hanging on the door, or make my observance of holidays any less meaningful.
It wonâ€™t make my work any less Jewish; it wonâ€™t tarnish my past community organizing, nor will it make my work with Keshet and commitment to full LGBTQ inclusion in the Jewish community less authentic.
Taking Justinâ€™s last name wouldnâ€™t make me any less Jewishâ€¦ but it feels that way.
As an Ashkenazi Jew, with a very classically Ashkenazi Jewish last name, my name is a calling card. Rozensky, with its â€śrozenâ€ť and its â€śsky,â€ť shouts Jewish. I can trace its Jewish history. My name comes with a connection to my peopleâ€”not just in the sense of â€śthe chosen people,â€ť but also in the way it connects me to previous generations of Rozenskys. Iâ€™m not ready to step away from that tradition.
There will be plenty of compromises made in our marriage; after all, meeting each other halfway is an important part of keeping a relationship working. But when it comes to our namesâ€”which hold such important aspects of our identitiesâ€”compromise doesnâ€™t seem like the best bet.