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Full Version: It's 2005 and I'm *still* debating...should I take his last name?
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nickclick
"My choice would be to go ahead and choose a name that puts it in the record books, that puts one in the win column for feminism."

i love it; thanks for posting, grenadine.

but i still don't know, and it's a topic on my mind since mr.nick and i are talking marriage. professionally, i'd keep it, but am i too lazy to have to constantly remind banks, insurance companies, other people, etc. that yes, we're really married?

good discussion on Feministing, via Sarah Michelle (Gellar) Prinze's new name-change.

PS it's almost 2008 and we're still debating....
roseviolet
Very interesting links, Grenadine & Nick.

A lot of my friends have gotten married within the last 3 years. We're split pretty much 50-50 between people who changed their names & those who did not. I have one friend who changed her surname mainly because she saw it as an opportunity to officially sever ties with her abusive, alcoholic father. I have another friend who simply hated the sound of her surname (frankly, it's a rather silly sounding name!) & really liked the way her husband's last name sounded with her first name. I have a third friend who changed her name but on numerous occasions she has told me that she wishes that she hadn't. And I have a fourth friend who changed her surname but is now getting divorced and is very happy to return to her original name; even if she remarries someday, I can't imagine her changing her name again.

I've been married for more than two years now. I did not change my name and, honestly, it hasn't been a hassle. We've had to correct a few people when they've assumed that Sheff and I have the same last name, but people seem very accepting. Some new friends asked me about it & I casually explained my reasonings. I suspect that my choice to keep my name has made some people think about the issue more deeply than they would have otherwise, but I find that as long as I don't make a huge deal about it, no one else does, either.

Basically, I kept my name because I felt like it. I just felt no need or desire to change it. Plus, I hated the assumption that I was expected to change it because I'm female & no one expected Sheff to change a thing simply because he is male. Getting married was a major event in my life, but no more so than it was to him. So why should my identity be altered? Why should I throw away my name - the person I had been for decades? It made no sense.
raisingirl
I know a guy who took his wife's last name when they married.
lananans
My boyfriend thinks it would be cool to change his last name to mine, because my last name is Power and he would then be 'Will Power', however I doubt that will actually happen, its mostly a joke. I think it would just be easier to change my name, plus I have three brothers so its not as though my name is in danger of dying out:P
ananke
I kept my name, much to the annoyance of the in-laws and my Da. The in-laws think it's horrible that I won't have the same name as my kids and my fucking mil actually addresses stuff to Ananke HisLastName, which makes it really difficult to collect mail and things like that. Even though we've had so many discussions about it.

I like my name. It's a good, solid name. I'd have liked to hyphenate, but the MU is deadset against it. So he kept his, I'll keep mine, the kids will have his and I'll choose their first/middle names.
grenadine
interesting, ananke...there was one letter from a woman who kept her name and gave half her kids her husband's name and half hers. she said she didn't understand why the kids had to have his last name. is that something you've considered, or do you not care?

personally, i kept my name and i thought i was cool with giving my son my husband's, with mine as a middle name, but i increasingly regretted that. our second child, a girl, was born two months ago and she has my last name (with his as a middle name). i feel pretty good about it as a whole, although selfishly i'd still like to have both kids have my last name.

i have to say that i have never had to "constantly remind" banks, insurance companies, etc. that we're married. we own a house together and have a joint bank account and are each other's beneficiaries on life insurance, and he has insurance through my work, and there has never been the slightest inconvenience because of our having different last names. if anything i think it would be more work to change your name because you have to notify social security, change your license, etc. etc.

we do occasionally get stuff addressed to "grenadine hislastname" but we also get stuff addressed to "mister herlastname." it's very infrequent on both sides and usually from the american heart association or carpet cleaning companies, etc. -- nothing important.

nick, i too love the "puts one in the win column" remark. and it really helped me to articulate WHY it's so important to me and why it drives me nuts when my in-laws (to be fair, my grandparents-in-law) get my name wrong!
swedishchick
Interesting articles and opinions y'all!

I changed my last name for 2 reasons:

1. I didn't want to keep my fathers name, because he's an alcoholic with whom I wish to have no contact. (much like roseviolet's friend) I couldn't see why it would be more feminist to keep my dad's name than changing to my husband's. I also have no contact whatsoever with my father's side of the family.

2. I didn't like my old name. My old name is also quite common and I now have a "unique" name. Silly and vain? Yes, probably. My husband's name simply sounded nicer.

The most feminist or "equal" thing to do would probably be making up a new name for your family. Some people do that where I'm from and I think it's not such a bad idea. Do people do that in the US/UK/Canada etc?
grenadine
swedish, i know a few people who've made up a new name; i also have some friends who hyphenated (he and she both). i also have friends who kept their names and gave both kids HER last name because his was, as he said, "a fake ellis island name" and hers said something about their heritage.

i think the argument for why it's more feminist to keep your birth name is that it is the name you grew up with, that you bring to the marriage just as your husband brings his name, and presumably it says something about your personal history and your heritage. it's not your father's name any more than it's yours; he got it from his father (or mother). personally, i have had terrible rifts with my father in the past, though we're ok now (not a great relationship, but stable for what it is), but i associate my last name much more with my ethnic identity than i do with my father as a person. after all, it's existed for thousands of years before HE was born.

that's not to say there aren't valid reasons for changing your name to your husband's. they probably aren't based on ideas of feminism or equality, though, as you state.
ananke
The MU and I have had a few discussions about the future kids' names. He'd prefer my last name over hyphenation, but would prefer his last name in general. I'm not so gungho, so we decided on his name, with the possibility that may change. We may alternate though, that's an interesting idea. Mostly the MU feels that the kids need solidarity, the kind he had with his siblings and father. But I remind him we're less likely to split then travel the country and our kids are much much less likely to have 13 schools over 12 years.
LilPinkElectricChair
Personally as someone who has a hyphenated name combining both my parents names I have always been really proud of having a hyphenated name. It makes me feel like I have both a part of my father and mother in my name, as well as having a completely unique name. That said in some of the aforementioned cases where yo don't identify with or like your last name it seems perfectly fine to change it.
p_176
unfortunately, in the States, the mother's last name does not have the same standing as the father's last name. (i think, even in the case of divorce, the kids would stll have the father's last name?) whereas, like, in france, both parents names have the same standing, so they can choose whose name the kids take.
i think, in the case i get married, i'll go for simplicity and take my husbands last name. between the 2 of us, we have a 13 letter last name, if hyphenated.
grenadine
p. 176, i'm not sure what you mean by "the same standing," but in the states you can give your child any name you want -- the mother's, the father's, neither, -- when he or she is born. in the case of divorce the kids have whatever name you originally gave them -- but in the initial choice all names had equal standing.

of course it's a choice that involves a lot more components than just which is the most feminist or rights-affirming solution, but i don't think that element can be removed from the equation -- choosing to keep your name is a choice that affirms feminist values, and choosing to take your husband's is not, whatever your reasons for doing so. we can choose whatever makes us happy, but best to do it with eyes open to the broader implications, no? wink.gif

on the hyphenated names note, i think it depends so much on the names in question...but it can be a great solution.
ellenevenstar
Bump.

Well it's been two years since my last post in this thread. Now I am seven weeks away from being married and this question is keeping me up at night!!
I have changed my mind four times this week & I want an easy answer! I'm vacillating between having my maiden name as an extra middle name, followed by his surname (like 'Hillary Rodham Clinton') or just keeping my maiden name on its own. Lots of pros and cons for each option.

Unfortunately he won't consider making a new name or even taking my maiden name as an extra middle name (!!why??).

I wish I didn't get feminist guilt when I consider taking his name. I know in my head that, either way, I am making an informed and critical choice that will make me happy so why do I get the feeling that I'm 'letting the side down' when I think about maybe taking his name on? Grrr.

There's an interesting range of opinions and experiences here.
tankgirl
I think that the boy and I are going to both change our last names, if and when (who knows at this point because we have been pushing it off forever.) It is a pretty happy medium. Since, my parents got a divorce, I no longer feel attached to my last name, and he never liked his because he parents didn't raise him, his grandmother did, so we will be taking her name.
As feminist as I am, I still think a married couple should share a last name, whether it is one or the other. I have been against marriage in general my whole life until recently, but, things change I guess, I grew up? Not that it is immature to not believe in marriage, but for me, personally, it was.
candycane_girl
I find this debate interesting. I don't even have a boyfriend or anything but if I ever get married I will probably change my name. My reason is simple though, I think it would be a step up from my maiden name which is foreign and people find hard to pronounce. It usually gets butchered. Seriously, if I could marry a guy with a normal last name and not having to constantly correct people I would do it!

The name issue also came up in one of my classes and we got into discussing how much of a hassle it can be for women to keep their last name. Anything from bank accounts to traveling, the general consensus was that you get questioned a lot more and always have to prove that you are in fact married.
hellotampon
Even if things were completely egalitarian and it was the norm to flip a coin to decide who takes who's name, I still wouldn't want to change mine. I have no attachment to it, but I've seen the amount of paperwork you have to go through, and I haaaaaaaate paperwork more than anything.
pollystyrene
For me, I just don't see why marriage=name change. I'm not particularly attached to my name; hell, less than 100 years ago, there was an "ovich" at the end of it, so it's not like there's a big family history there that I'm trying to honor. It just doesn't feel right for me. I think everyone has personal reasons why we would/wouldn't/should/shouldn't. Most of the women I know who changed didn't change it in all contexts of their lives- like, their driver's license changed, but they kept it professionally and their friends still refer to them by their maiden name. I just don't think it's important enough to go through the hassle and then have to keep track of what you're called, where.

But no one should feel like their feminist credentials are going to be taken away for making that choice for themselves.
auralpoison
I like my name. I see no reason to change it. I was born Aural X, I'll die Aural X.

I do have two friends, however, that decided that rather than take his name, they'd come up with a new one. It's kinda retarded, but the name they came up with fits them.
sybarite
I'm not going to change my name for several reasons. I've published under my name and want to keep references to my work consistent. I also feel my name is integral to my identity and my sense of connection to my family. I have seen at my workplace the hassle involved when women change to their married name--our office requires the original marriage certificate sent in as proof. Finally, when discussing the idea of name change with the mister, he said he wouldn't change his name.... so I see no reason to change mine. We are both stubborn people. wink.gif
sidecar
Sybarite, I kept my name for all the reasons you've cited. And while I anticipated a lot of hassle, especially stuff like the bank and traveling, it hasn't been a hassle at all. In fact, I think I've had an easier time of it in terms of hassle/paperwork than my friends who changed their names (and I am the only one of my friends who didn't change the last name upon marriage). My name is pretty Germanic and has only been pronounced correctly once by someone seeing it for the first time (it was at LaGuardia airport, and I actually said to the woman, "Ma'am, no one has ever said it right after looking at my license before"). My husband's name is a lot simpler, but you know, now that we've lived together awhile, I've discovered that it too is always misspelled and mispronounced.

The one thing that bothers me about name changing is when people assume (and they do) that it means somehow you're not fully committed to your marriage. I can say pretty definitively that I am in one of the happiest, most compatible marriages of anyone I know. In a way, I think his supporting my decision -- and my independence within our marriage -- has contributed to that.

The only thing that gives me pause is that when we have kids, they'll use his last name and mine as a middle name, so my name will be different from my family's. And that's a little sad, but I hope if I have daughters, I can use it to teach them to make their own decisions about the things that matter to them, like what they'll be called.
roseviolet
Ellenevenstar, I think you shouldn't stress about it so much. There are so many other sources of stress when you're getting married, so why add to that? You don't have to make a decision before you get married. You don't even have to decide on your wedding day. You can do it later if you want to. So relax.

I was torn on this issue before my wedding, so I decided not to do anything until I knew for sure what was right for me. The week after the ceremony I knew in my heart that I wanted to keep my name as-is. It doesn't bother me if someone who just met me calls me "Mrs. Steel" since I am Mr. Steel's wife & all, but the people who know us know my real name. I've never had a problem with banks or insurance companies or anyone else about it (we bought a house last year & our different last names was never an issue). Honestly, it's so common for women to maintain their birth names nowadays that people don't make a big deal about it.

I say that you should do what you want to do. Trust your gut. If your gut doesn't know what to do yet, then wait. Changing your name once is hard enough. Changing it back is a whole other can of worms!
crazyoldcatlady
sidecar's post reminded me of something: why don't couples give their children the woman's last name? and also, why aren't there female jr's, or III's, or IV's, etc.?

Catlady the III sounds regal, no?
candycane_girl
There are female jr.s but usually instead of being called junior, they get called missy. At least that's always been my understanding. Jr. for boys, missy for girls.
starship
QUOTE(crazyoldcatlady @ Oct 5 2008, 11:24 PM) *
sidecar's post reminded me of something: why don't couples give their children the woman's last name? and also, why aren't there female jr's, or III's, or IV's, etc.?

Catlady the III sounds regal, no?


I do have my mother's last name!
Her and my father weren't married but were in a serious long term relationship so I'm not entirely sure why.
but i like it.

I don't want to change my name when/if i marry. i feel it's part of my identity somehow. and slightly quirky:)
and if my husband has a silly name then I'll probably want my children to have mine too.
the whole double-barrel thing is a nice compromise if it's an issue but my name is too long so it would ever work for me
ellenevenstar
Thanks so much everyone, especially roseviolet. I'm glad I reignited this conversation and have taken all your thoughts on board. Yes, I do need to relax about it! The wedding is so low-key and I'm not usually one to stress but I am big on symbolism and meaning so I was thinking that if the name was going to change, it should happen as close as possible to the moment of life commitment.

My gut desire is to keep my name but I think I was over-analysing where that gut feeling was coming from and what factors had informed it - ("am I just kicking against my parents-in-law's expectations??"). I am now more and more leaning towards just trusting that gut feeling and not interrogating it any more. Just like Roseviolet, I don't care if some people call me Mrs. other name. & I don't expect too much trouble from banks, insurance, schools etc. with having different names.

We plan for all our children to have my surname as a second middle name and have their father's name as a surname. This is following a sexist tradition but it doesn't bother me as much as changing my own name does!

Interestingly, there is much less of a tradition in Australia of the whole jr. III, IV thing than there is in the USA. I don't think I have ever encountered it here. I do know a family where both children - son and daughter - are both officially named exactly after their parents but they have always been called by their second name.
sidecar
We're going with his because he's an only child, and i have brothers and other relatives with my last name. It matters to him, and you know, he was very supportive of my decision, and I don't mind being supportive of this one.

BTW ellenevenstar, I didn't decide what I was going to do until after my wedding. (I thought I'd probably hyphenate, and then decided I didn't.) It was weird because I hemmed and hawed over what to do my entire engagement: hyphenate or keep it? And then when I decided, I just knew it was the right decision for me.
prophecy_grrl
I kept my name. I have a somewhat estranged relationship with my father and his side of the family, but I see the name as mine and not his - it's been part of my identity long enough that I don't see it as attached to him. My husband didn't care and, in fact, would have been surprised had I chosen to take his name. If we have a kid one day, it will have his name; it means more to his family. My siblings and I all had different last names from our mother and each other, and it wasn't traumatizing. We often get holiday cards and wedding invitations and the like addressed to Mr & Mrs, but it doesn't bother me too much. I am surprised by how much it still throws people off though - which to me is reason enough to do it - it's obv still the norm to take your husband's name, and as a result still "easier" in some respects. I just remember that "the personal is political" and those seemingly small statements of opposition can sometimes be the most important.
pollystyrene
As I am now officially in wedding planning mode, I look at a lot of wedding related websites, a couple of which are message boards. There is a lot of discussion about this and I find it shocking...well, maybe not too shocking; at least surprising...at how many women just unquestionably take their husband's name, and the reasons they use to justify it; "it makes me feel like part of his family"...well what about you and your family?!?!

Like I've said before, I have no problem with women choosing to change it, but at least put a little thought into it....some of them list these brainless reasons they're going to do it and then talk about how they still feel conflicted, and it's like, then don't do it. Or at least take the time to think about it and reconcile your feelings, and know that not changing your name is an option, and it doesn't mean you don't love your husband as much.

This website was brought up and I'm a little disturbed by it. I'm all for anything that saves the time and hassle of dealing with bureaucracy, but I think it just adds to the "don't question, just do" mentality.
stargazer
so, are you keeping your last name, polly?
pollystyrene
I am. Changing it just doesn't feel right to me. I just don't have that "getting married=name change" mentality that some women do, even the ones that do put some thought into it. LeBoy doesn't really care; like prophecy_guy, I think he'd more shocked if I did want to do it because he doesn't see the necessity in it either. (There's a reason they're friends!)
Lily_Anne
What seems to be increasingly popular: both keep their names, and any children get hyphenated names. This makes me wonder,

(1) Does paperwork get more confusing because nobody matches?
(2) What happens when the kid grows up and gets married? Can you hyphenate a hyphenated name?
Laurenzorro
I decided to take my husbands name because it made us feel like a family and more united. It was (and still is, 9 months later) a pain in the ass changing over....ID, passport, bank etc etc ETC. It's a weird feeling losing the name you've always had but I didn't have any strong feelings about it either way. I'm happy I changed it, even though my maiden name was better (looked nicer on paper, sounded better with my name, less common)
LilPinkElectricChair
Lily_Anne-My parents kept their names and my sister and I have hyphenated names. We've never really had any issues with it though. If ever I were to get married I'd keep mine, but I would probably just do a double hyphen if my husband insisted on the children having his name. But maybe that's wishful thinking, because that could be a pain.
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