I now pronounce you... By Mwelwa Chungu, The AFRican Londoner

I now pronounce you...

By Mwelwa Chungu, The AFRican Londoner

Published on Tue, Apr 22 2008 by Mwelwa Chungu

So I am now married.  The wedding has finally passed and I can live my life as a semi normal person again. Everyone keeps asking me how I feel and I have no idea how I am supposed to answer the question.  About my relationship, I feel just as I did before the madness of planning the wedding took over my life.  I love him and he makes me happy, he loves me, as I want to be loved and we are adding value to each other’s life, creating happy memories, so it is all gravy. 


I am not sure what is supposed to change but from the reaction of the people around me something should have changed.  No one person can tell me what but judging from the fear a lot of people have of marriage it is a very big thing, something that can potentially ruin the rest of your life if the transformation is not right.  People seem to be looking to see if I am disappointed. 


To be honest I am simply relieved, towards the end of the wedding planning process I was fed up and irritated.  I was about to run off to Zimbabwe (my husband, being British, would not be very welcome there) but being wise to my state of mind hubby hid my passport. 


If I were to be blunt the wedding planning and organising was the worst part of getting married for me.  For one thing I was 4,700km away from my wedding venue and planner and secondly my husband, having been ill advised by some single person, decided not to take part in the planning process.  This left me to deal with enquiries and demands from his guests as well as mine (who were shockingly well behaved, I suspect because my mother had forewarned them), on top of planning everything practically by myself.   This was simply not helpful, as he realised as the wedding day approached and his bride became ever more disinterested, crazy and angry.


But now it is over, and shockingly I even managed to have a good time on the day and now I can go back to my life and my relationship as it was before people began to expect me to be superwoman.


All I have left is people asking me what it feels like to be married (the same as it felt to be in a committed relationship, I just get to publicise the fact that I am off the market by wearing two rings on the second finger of my left hand now) and if I have any pictures.  I also get people asking me what my new name is.


This question is of a lot more interest to me than the first because, though the last name I have is not the one with which my father had for the first five years of his life, nor, due to an anomaly, the one I had for the first few years of my own existence, I am very attached to it. 


My father acquired his name when he was registered at school at the age of five.  I am not sure my great aunt, who took him in that day, had any real concept of the meaning of a surname and simply told the school her husband’s name, being the name of the child’s guardian.  This has resulted in my father having a different surname from his siblings.


For sometime various people used my father’s first name as my last name, before my parents had this corrected.  Yet despite having started my life with a different last name I greatly identify with the one I have now and I am loath to give it up to take a last name that does not reflect anything about me (apart from the fact that I am married to someone who happens to have that name).  Nor could my new name enable people to identify my tribe, country or even continent of origin.  It does not belong to me; it is unable to tell people something of my history. It is in short my husband’s name.


Please don’t get me wrong I love my husband very much, I simply don’t see why I have to change my name to prove it.  In fact I feel distinctly uncomfortable every time someone refers to me as Mrs because I feel as though I am giving up a very important piece of myself, of my identity.


It is a silly feeling as from what I can tell we did not really have last names in Zambia before we were required to register in the colonial registers.  Historic information on African surnames is very hard to come by, but then last names are a recent (relatively) new concept even in Europe, where they were introduced in the late 13th centaury. 


There is some indication that everywhere people were referred to by their place of birth, residence or by the identity of their father (or in the case of those whose fathers were unknown fathers, their mother).  In some tribes in Zambia, there are still some people whose last names indicate what village they come from. 


Despite all this I am still very attached to my own surname, it has been a part of me for as long as I can remember and goes so well with my first name J. So what to do?  Well, I unilaterally decided that I was going to double barrel my last name, as a compromise.  Hence when I am called Mrs Mister, I correct the speaker, my name is now Chungu-Mister.  My husband doesn’t actually care what I call myself. He is happy as long as I am his wife and I love him, which will be the case regardless of what I call myself.


My next mission is to work on him to ensure that the children (that we don’t yet have) will also be called Chungu-Mister



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