You can call me Mrs. Saunders, if it makes you feel better.

Oct. 28, 2012 at Eagle’s Point, San Francisco.

I prefer Ms. Cabrera though.

So, I tied the knot last Sunday. Here’s picture proof too. It happened very fast for several reasons, but I prefer to think the day was six years in the making. Just because we did not have a long engagement or announced an engagement, does not make it any less special or perfect.

And it was perfect for us. We were surrounded by a very intimate group of immediate family and friends at a beautiful spot in foggy San Francisco.

Beyond the congratulations and thoughtful, kind words though, a particular question inevitably surfaced:

“So how does it feel to be Mrs. Saunders?”

To which I respond, “Well, I’m still a Cabrera.”

Dun dun dunnnnn.

I wish I could photograph the shock and confusion that lights up a family member’s face. I should have guessed that would be the reaction, but I’m surprised nonetheless. It’s certainly more common for women to keep their last names nowadays, though statistically, more than half of married women still change their last names.

I am unpleasantly surprised that I would still be judged for remaining a Cabrera.

Personally, I never even considered taking David’s last name, or any man’s, for that matter. Marriage was never a life goal for me; if I met someone and fell in love and all that gobbledygook, I would go with it and be happy. Growing up, I never wrote out my name with my crush’s last name, or practiced my new “married” signature. I never planned my wedding colors or theme. I had other things on my mind, like school and a career. But just because I never planned to marry or intended to take my husband’s last name, does not mean I am any less committed to this partnership. David knows this too, and because he knows me so well, he always (correctly) assumed I would keep my last name.

I recognize that names are powerful. Indeed, that is why I will likely keep my full name as is: “Jaena Rae Cabrera.” At 25 years old, I am extremely attached to my full name. It means so much to me, not only because it is a huge part of my identity, but because I am so proud of my family too. Growing up, I used to hate “Jaena” because no one could spell it correctly, let alone pronounce it. Now I have embraced its uniqueness, and I am pretty certain I am the only “Jaena Rae” in the country, and definitely the only “Jaena Rae Cabrera” you’ll ever meet. On a totally mundane note, that makes it satisfyingly easy to search for me in any search engines. As for “Cabrera,” only in recent years have I begun to explore that aspect of my name. Obviously it is Spanish, which harkens back to when Spain colonized the Philippines. Even now, there is an uninhabited island called Cabrera in Spain. There is also a mountain called Cabrera in Spain. I’ve read that it means “goatherd” or “the place of the wild animals.” I still need to learn more about its origins in the Philippines too.

Admittedly, keeping my last name is not necessarily an issue of equality. I suspect my family thinks it’s a women’s empowerment thing. While I do think the idea of a wife being her husband’s property is antiquated and despicable, that is not why I am choosing to keep my last name. David has never made me feel like his property, and he has always respected my independence. Taking his last name would not change his opinion of me in the slightest.

To be perfectly honest, I just prefer my last name. Marriage is a partnership, so we arrived at this decision together. If we decide to change our names later, we would both become Cabrera-Saunders, as we feel that is a more accurate portrayal of our new shared lives together. I am joining his family and he is definitely joining mine as well. But again, we will come to that decision later, together.

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