About Neil ...
I had planned on leaving for you a few tidbits of information about the author of this website, but instead I've devoted this whole page to my new identity and the reasoning behind it. Perhaps in a year or two, once the novelty has worn off, I'll let you in on a few other aspects of my personality, but until then, please read on; I promise it will be interesting.
My name is Neil Lawrence, but such was not always the case. For several years (even before I met Meghan) I had strongly considered the possibility of taking my wife's last name.
I recognize that our society still has some inherent sexist thoughts and realities, and that if we are to improve our society, sexism needs to be challenged whenever and wherever it is recognized. One such power imbalance is, in my mind, the expectation that when a woman marries she will take her husband's surname or, if she firmly disagrees with this "normal" route, she must push aside society's expectations and step off the path. Her choices are then to keep her surname or hyphenate the two surnames. Not only does she have to weigh her choices carefully and with an eye to her fiance to ensure that no splinter is introduced into their relationship, but she must then justify her choice to her husband, to both families, and to society as a whole. And there will continue to be demands on this woman to provide justification of her choice for her lifetime.
Never does the man endure the questioning about whether he might change his last name. Never does the husband face the weight of society's expectations for him to make any sort of sacrifice as far as surname is concerned or justify his reasoning for retaining his last name.
Well, that's where I kind of consider myself slightly enlightened. In my mind, the husband does indeed NEED to make a conscious choice about the new family unit's surname, and that includes the possibility of adopting his wife's surname. Why should it be any other way? When Meghan and I got engaged, we discussed our vision of the new family unit we were creating, and we firmly desired a common surname to be shared between us and any children we might have. While the right decision for some couples might be otherwise, we decided to chose either Lawrence or Buie as our family surname.
Let me say that it is quite a soul-searching experience to consider losing your name, your identity, those magic syllables which you've grown to build your whole mental self around. This was quite an experience to work through with my future wife, and we had some great discussions about our feelings and fears in changing our surname. Neither of us were 'chomping at the bit' to change our name, but we were committed to making a choice and fashioning a new future together under our chosen surname. Meghan was willing to take Buie, and I was willing to be a Lawrence. We both are blessed to have amazing families, both of whom are proud of their surnames, and rightly so. In the end we chose Lawrence because I strongly felt that society's assumptions needed to be challenged on this front and this would lend our support, in some small way, for equal rights for women world-wide.
The transition has been made easier for me because I continue to be referred to as Neil Buie in my professional life. I am a veterinarian here in Orangeville, and had been established here for over a year before Meghan and I were married. My clients knew me as Dr. Buie, and the College of Veterinarians of Ontario know me as such. In every other way, though, I have adopted Lawrence as my new surname. I have kept Buie in my identification where space allowed, such as on my social insurance card, which reads 'Neil Verden Buie Lawrence'. However, on most of my identification I am more concisely known as Neil Verden Lawrence. When I move to another practice and have a new clientelle, I will be known as Dr. Neil Lawrence and the transformation will be complete!
My only regret in having made this decision has been trying to explain myself to my dad. The Buie family has lived on Manitoulin Island for several generations. Like most rural commmunities, a great deal is often inferred about a person based on their family's reputation. Needless to say, the Buies have an excellent reputation. My dad was a bookkeeper for hundreds of families and small businesses on the Island and my mom was a nurse, and more recently a midwife, since she moved here from England in 1969. When I was a kid, I could rely on most everybody I met knowing something of either my mom or dad. Add to that my dad's one true passion, geneology, and you begin to see two different mindsets clashing. Well, clashing would be too strong a word, but he and I have 'enjoyed' several heart-felt discussions about my choice. Luckily he seems to love me an awful lot, so he has tried extremely hard to understand my reasoning. It doesn't hurt that Meghan is his favourite daughter-in-law either, and the two are very close.
So there you have my best attempt at explaining why Neil Buie has been transformed into Neil Lawrence. CBC Radio ran a program in 2002 about men who changed their surnames when they got married, and I've been in touch with a gentleman in the U.S. who took his wife's surname when they married in the 60's. What I'm getting at is that even if you didn't buy my into my reasons for challenging the social norms on surnames and still aren't sure if I'm a little off my rocker or not, I can assure you that I am not alone out there. To date, none of our friends who have married since we did in August, 2003, have followed our lead, but that seed of possibility has been sown. I hope our decision has inspired a few late-night discussions between couples about the true range of possibilities for their surname when their wedding day comes ringing in.