petite anglaise

October 5, 2004

old maid

Filed under: navel gazing — bipolarinparis @ 12:15 pm

Mr Frog won’t marry me.

Until recently, this didn’t bother me at all. I have long thought that marriage was not for me. I don’t practise any religion. I’m sad to say that I consider myself a bit old for a white dress, and neither of us comes from a wealthy family, so we would be the ones footing the bill. Spending cash on a wedding comes low on my list of priorities. More importantly though, I’ve just never thought it necessary. We are happy as we are, and have been for almost nine years, and I couldn’t really see how a ring on my finger would change anything.

However, my point of view has changed with the advent of the Tadpole. For admittedly rather unromantic reasons.

France, patriarchal society that it is, has still not got around to passing the law which was supposed to give unmarried couples the right to give their child both their surnames. It was supposed to come into force back in September 2003, but was quietly shelved and will allegedly resurface in 2005. Unless it’s postponed again. So the Tadpole has her father’s surname only. I feel a pang of jealousy every time I see it written down: it is a name that they share and which I do not.

Incidentally, whenever I travel alone with her, I take her British passport. As our surnames don’t match, if she was using her French ID card I could be asked to prove that I am her mother, and even be asked for a legal document in which her father gives me permission to take her out of the country! When she’s travelling as a Brit however, I could be a child smuggler for all French customs care, and am waved straight through.

My other arguments in favour of marriage include the fact that I’d like to get dual British/French nationality in order to be able to vote here, as French politicians’ actions tend to have a direct bearing on my life. I’d also like to get my hands on all Mr Frog’s cash and his share of our flat (when we buy one), should anything happen to him, and vice versa. Even his pension if we make it that far. As it stands, despite the small detail of having had a child together, I have as much right to inherit his stuff as a flatmate would (i.e. zero). Granted, Tadpole would inherit, but I suspect that would make for complications if she were a minor at the time.

So, I’ve changed my mind. Not because I have suddenly become pro-marriage, but because sadly the French legal system does not move with the times (there are just as many unmarried couples with children as there are married ones these days) and relegates me to the position of second class citizen.

Mr Frog, however, remains unmoved by my myriad pragmatic arguments. If you want to have a go at convincing him on my behalf, be my guest:

Monsieur Frog@gmail.com

26 Comments

  1. Come now Petite, you are a woman…use your wily charms on him and persuade him!

    That was so sweet about your pangs of jealousy that they share their name.

    Comment by PPQ — October 5, 2004 @ 12:56 pm

  2. Is that really his email address? I sense a deluge coming on. Can you really not give the Tadpole both names? I thought you could call a child Knickerbocker Glory if you felt so inclined. It’s amazing how backward the French can be at some things.

    The Frog must propose at once and hasten ye forthwith to merringues and fluff.

    Interestingly, here in Zambia the legal bods were quite keen to deport me because I haven’t taken The Husband’s name, being quite happy with the one I’ve got. You can’t win.

    Comment by Claypot — October 5, 2004 @ 2:27 pm

  3. This is an interesting turn of events. I, too, lived “in sin” for many years before tying the knot. We just had the bureaucratic ceremony with no one else around & told everyone about it afterwards. You’ve given us some very good (and practical!) reasons why you want to get married. I feel I’d like to hear M. Frog’s reasons for NOT wanting to get married. Can you summarize them?

    Comment by D. S. — October 5, 2004 @ 2:37 pm

  4. Claypot: the gmail address works. But I confess I set it up for this very purpose…

    The Frog’s reasons? Well….the ones he has told me are:

    * my reasons are too pragmatic and not romantic at all
    * they involve scenarios where one of us pops our clogs which he just finds morbid
    * he has already made the biggest commitment of all by having a child with me

    Comment by petite anglaise — October 5, 2004 @ 3:15 pm

  5. I feel your pain. I have been living “in sin” for almost 6 years, engaged for 3, and now my guy says “why get married–we already are permanent.” Hmmm. Like you, I was never into the marriage concept. Maybe I’m getting old and sentimental. . .No rugrat (yet). Good luck petite!

    Comment by Emily — October 5, 2004 @ 4:42 pm

  6. How about getting pacsed? Especially now that it gives you exactly the same rights as marriage… you’re very lucky to have that alternative to the patriarchical tool of female oppression that marriage historically is, why not make use of it?

    Comment by céline — October 5, 2004 @ 5:11 pm

  7. exactly what I was going to say:try the PACS.
    Or is the grenouille also opposed?

    Comment by Cecile — October 5, 2004 @ 7:14 pm

  8. I kept my maiden name when I got married, but the kid has the hub’s last name, to placate him since I chose her first and middle names. ;) However, it is very annoying for people to assume we are unmarried. I guess I should get my wedding ring resized to fit and start wearing it again. We are a unit, plain and simple. In addition to the reasons for marriage you mentioned, if your Frog is incapacitated, who will make his life or death medical decisions? It certainly won’t be you–it will be his next of kin, right?

    Comment by cass — October 5, 2004 @ 7:24 pm

  9. The PACS is crap. You have to go through more paperwork than to get married and you can’t even pay your taxes as a family unit for three years.

    If we were going to PACS, we might as well just get down to the mairie and get married…

    Comment by petite anglaise — October 5, 2004 @ 7:28 pm

  10. all three of my kids have their father’s name, and it would be like that whether we were married or not. we finally got married when the girls were nearly 5 and i was 6 months pregnant with todd. it was a disaster from the day we got married.

    think about it …. what’s in a name ?

    Comment by zed — October 5, 2004 @ 9:15 pm

  11. So he wants something romantic, with no hint of death? I guess you’ll have to dress up in fanciful costumes and have Tadpole lead the way to the Mairie, strewing rose petals in your path.

    Or, in keeping with how you met, you could place a personal ad for someone ‘ouverte’ to perform the ceremony, if they allow such things in France.

    Comment by Nigel M. — October 5, 2004 @ 9:20 pm

  12. Mr Frog, get on with it! If you believe you have indeed made the biggest commitment, getting married wont feel that massive then. Probably the benefits do outweight the disatvantages.
    Suggestion: Have a really nice meaninfull cerimony (whatever that will be for you, in the woods or the beach for eg) with either just the three of you or a few people, after the civil thingy. You dont have to make it wedding-like, just nice.

    Comment by Cal — October 5, 2004 @ 9:30 pm

  13. Marriage doesn’t have to be tool of female oppression. It’s your life – you do what you want with it. Some of the commenters above are evidence of this, keeping their own names (and identities, as some may see it).
    Personally, I got married because it was an excuse for a big party and it makes some legal things (as PE points out) so much easier. We got lots of presents, my mother exploded with pride and we had a really good day and lots of memories of friends. It hasn’t really changed our day to day lives (apart from new saucepans).

    Comment by Tim — October 6, 2004 @ 8:50 am

  14. Huh. It was just the opposite for us. Since neither of us has a trust fund, the least expensive way to stay together – no matter where we decided to live – was to get married. In fact, he never even actually proposed; we just talked about it so much that one night we were chatting online and he said, “Oh, I’ve just told my mother we’re getting married!” Hm. Our wedding was so small you wouldn’t have known it was a wedding at all, except I was wearing white, and I think maybe the tiara might have given it away.

    I wish I had an easy answer to help you convince M. Frog. Sometimes it seems men get their panties in a knot over the stupidest things… I like Tim’s notion that it’s a good excuse for a party, and for driving around Paris like lunatics with ribbons on and horns honking.

    Oh, and the name thingie: In France, don’t you have to prove that the name you want to give your kid is actually a prénom and has been used before, if it’s a little strange?

    Comment by ViVi — October 6, 2004 @ 10:33 am

  15. Just to keep these comments balanced (a bit too pro-marriage for my taste ;)), here is a link to a good article in the Guardian called “Dea Birkett vows she’ll never say ‘I do'”. http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1318922,00.html

    It doesn’t apply exactly to your situation, but I think it says one or two interesting things.

    Thanks for a great blog, by the way.

    Comment by céline — October 6, 2004 @ 10:46 am

  16. As a precaution we had a names book with us when we went to the town hall to register the Tadpole. I think that not so long ago it had to be a saint’s name…

    The law as it stands (until 2005) gives the civil servant registering the birth the right to refuse to name a child something that is ‘contrary to his/her interests’ – suitably vague…. So I imagine ‘Audio Science’ might be a no win choice of prénom here.

    Comment by petite anglaise — October 6, 2004 @ 10:52 am

  17. If he has no reason TO get married, then he can’t possibly have any reasons NOT TO get married. At least, this is the argument that worked on my my live-in boyfriend of 5 years who has now been my husband for 2 months (HAH! Victory). He also said that marriage was an old ‘church enforced’ institution that didn’t apply ‘blah blah yadda yadda’ etc, but at the end of the day we agreed that we love each other and if it is important to one of us, then it should be important to both of us. Plus – you DO need to take care of yourself financially in the event of his death or any other reason so why the hell is he digging his toes in? Was he a prince that turned into a frog when you kissed him? Just joking, I would also be livid if my child had the same surname as my partner, and not me. I mean why the hell should your partner have all the perks of ‘married life’ including a child with his surname, and not want to at the very least take an inexpensive trip down to the french version of the registry office and sign some friggin papers for you? It is NO BIG DEAL honestly. When it came to the crunch, my hub and I both just grinned at each other and signed the papers. It is just one more thing that says you love each other. It doesn’t have to be this big romantic fluffy white thing.

    Comment by Van — October 6, 2004 @ 11:41 am

  18. About the reasons of Monsieur Le Grenouille:

    * my reasons are too pragmatic and not romantic at all

    So if you go down on one knee and produce a ring while saying ‘please marry me because I never want to live without you’, he would say yes then? You could call his bluff on this one…

    * they involve scenarios where one of us pops our clogs which he just finds morbid

    One of you IS going to pop your clogs. Both of you, in fact; but most likely one of you before the other. He needs to get real on this one. Particularly as, statistically, he’s likely to die first. Losing him would be bad enough; if, when newly bereaved, the two of you were also so financially insecure that you lost your home and your lifestyle as well, you might never get over it. It’s hard for many people to think about the deaths of their loved ones, or the likely effect of their own death on their loved ones, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t care about this once he understood it.

    * he has already made the biggest commitment of all by having a child with me

    So, and I agree with Cal here, what’s so difficult about making a smaller commitment to secure the future of you and Tadpole if he dies first, and he and Tadpole if you do?

    Another option where the finances are concerned is to make legal wills in favour of each other. This is also morbid in Mr Frog’s world view and practical in most people’s. Top Bloke and I have done this and we don’t even have children. Doesn’t solve the name or nationality issues though.

    Good luck. Let us know how you get on.

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — October 6, 2004 @ 12:46 pm

  19. The problem there Zinnia is that French inheritance law prevents people from leaving money/property to anyone other than their next of kin. Any will made leaving our worldly goods to one another would be invalid. So the Tadpole has to inherit.

    We could put a clause in the deeds so that the surviving partner would have the ‘right to buy’ the other’s half of our (hypothetical) flat. Which includes the right to pay 40% tax on the amount (the top rate, for people who are not related to each other).

    So you see, French law really puts our back to the wall and leaves no alternative but to marry in order to be provided for.

    And I know of (very sad) cases where the children inherited the family home, and kicked out the aged parent and put them in a home so that they could get their hands on the capital. Charming.

    Comment by petite anglaise — October 6, 2004 @ 1:22 pm

  20. We could always make him jealous. How about it?

    I read in the Observer this weekend about the divorce laws, where some countries break down rights more severely than others. I think I remember France being one of those. So as much as the law isn’t on your side now it equally isn’t on your side if you were to be divorced in France.

    Or something like that.

    Im guessing divorce is the last thing you’re thinking of though.

    Comment by Watski — October 6, 2004 @ 3:25 pm

  21. he he he

    Good point that Watski, I will have to research that, as being a non-French person I would probably get thoroughly shafted (pardon my French)..

    Comment by petite anglaise — October 6, 2004 @ 3:46 pm

  22. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/cash/story/0,6903,1318242,00.html

    This was the article from the Cash part of The Observer.

    Comment by Watski — October 6, 2004 @ 4:36 pm

  23. I think it’s a very good idea! Your arguments for are well-put and wise.
    I found this article in the Sunday Times quite interesting too- it’s quite a different viewpoint from what we tend to see and hear in London! http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-1291389,00.html

    Hope it all turns out the very best for your family.

    Comment by Nelly — October 7, 2004 @ 10:45 am

  24. WOW, I AM SURE LUCKY TO LIVE IN AUSTRALIA. IN MY COUNTRY IT IS IRRELEVANT WHETHER MARRIED OR NOT,WHEN YOUR CHILD IS BORN YOU JUST FILL IN THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE WITH THE CHILDS DETAILS AND THE CHOICE OF NAMES,MY FRIEND HAS TWO KIDS TO TWO DIFFERENT DADS AND IS STILL UNMARRIED,HER FIRST MY GODDAUGHTER HAS HER MOTHERS NAME,AND HER SECOND HAS HIS FATHERS,BUT IF SHE WERE TO GET MARRIED TO ANOTHER THE MAN IF WANTED TO COULD LEGALLY GIVE HIS NAME TO BOTH CHILDREN IF THAT WAS WHAT WAS WANTED,OR KEEP AS IS AND THE WIFE IS ALWAYS ALLOWED TO KEEP HER OWN NAME OR IN FACT HYPHONATE HER NAME WITH HIS AND ALSO THE CHILDS.iN ANY CASE IN THIS COUNTRY IF THE FATHER WAS TO DIE IT WOULD BE ON THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE WHO THE MOTHER WAS ANYWAY SO NO WORRIES THERE,AND ALSO WHICH IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST THING BECAUSE SOME TAKE ADVANTAGE BUT IN YOUR CASE WOULD BE THE OPPOSITE IN AUSTRALIA IF YOU LIVE LIKE A MARRIED COUPLE FOR MORE THAN TWO YEARS YOU ARE ENTITLED TO HALF OF EVERYTHING IN COURT WETHER THERE ARE CHILDREN OR NOT, AND ALSO ENTITLED TO MONEY FROM PARTNER IF THERE ARE CHILDREN WETHER HAVING BEEN MARRIED OR NOT OR EVEN IF NOT TOGETHER AT ALL SINCE CONCEPTION.BIZARRE HOW DIFFERENT THE WORLD IS.

    Comment by tasha — October 11, 2004 @ 8:58 am

  25. tasha

    thanks for your comment, but I have to ask: is your caps lock key stuck?

    Comment by petite — October 11, 2004 @ 7:35 pm

  26. hang in there Girl :) I’ve read the reasons you gave from Mr Frog and they still don’t make sense to me. From the moment you have a kid, you’re pretty-much committed for life, so why deal with the extra hassles of not being married? This kinda mystifies me.

    well, take care :) stumbled upon your blog and just subscribed to your RSS feed :) I grew up in Paris from French Mom and American Dad, both of which still live there and I visit yearly. I’ve lived in california for 9 years (since 19).

    Comment by chris holland — October 14, 2004 @ 12:28 am


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