Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's in a Name?

Hey, Working Girls. Question: What do you think about keeping or changing your last name when getting married?

Say you're like me, and didn't think twice about taking on your husband's last name. After reading this article about reasons why you should and why you shouldn't change your last name, all I can say is "poo poo" to all the reasons why not to.

So there's some paperwork, big deal, grow up. Secondly, I think I got married young enough that I didn't have any notable professional achievements under my name that I was worried about "losing in translation." Credit rating? OK, this is my future husband, if I'm worried about how he'll affect my credit rating, maybe I should be worried about several other things too before saying "I do." And the divorce thing, c'mon, is that REALLY a reason why I shouldn't change my last name? In the grand scheme of things that is a divorce, is that really going to be the thing I'm most worried about? I don't know, it's like saying to your potential employer, why don't I fill out my exit interview survey now, to get it over with, you know, just in case, because filling out that thing will be such a big, huge headache to have to worry about if/when that day should come.

Also, I admit, I wasn't in love with my last name (but purely because of aesthetic reasons, nothing more - don't feel bad, Daddy) and I really, really liked my husband's last name, so I was more than happy to make it my own on our wedding day.

What do you girls think? I can totally understand if you had established your career under your birth name and you felt it was the real you and a new name would confuse important clients and you wouldn't feel like yourself anymore, etc. but I'm still curious as to why so many women want to keep their name so badly. To me, it seems more of a headache to have different last names with all the explaining that comes with it.

I have a friend who is a model, she's been modeling since she was a child. When she was getting ready to marry her now husband, she strongly considered keeping her last name because that was who she was, that was who her clients knew her as, and she had really established herself as a professional model as well as an actress under her birth name. (OK, so for actors/actresses, movie people, artists and writers/authors, it makes a lot more sense to keep a last name, but for regular joes like you and me, is it really that necessary?) Anyway, she decided in the end to take her husband's last name, and the way she explained it to me, it didn't hurt her career at all. In fact, if anything, people perked their ears up a little more wondering who this new person was. Her husband's last name was a fabulous one and just so effortlessly flowed off the tounge with her first name, so in a way, it was like she was able to totally reinvent herself as this new fabulous person with her new married name.

Anyway, just thinking aloud. I hope I haven't offended anyone. I'm eager to hear your thoughts about this subject!


Anonymous said...

But WHY do women change their name? Tradition?

Just because "that's what people do" isn't good enough for me.

Personally, I see a whole host of reasons not to and no reasons to.

I don't like my last name, but nor do I like his...and it doesn't go with my first name.

There's also the career thing given my field, and quite frankly, call me lazy and cheap but the cost and hassle of paperwork doesn't endear the idea to me.

I'm curious though as to whether it's difficult for women who change their name to get used to introducing themselves by their new name?

Angeline said...

I did take my husband's last name, partly out of tradition and mainly because I think it feels more like family. But that's just me and my preference. I have many friends that have kept their name and they have their reasons, too. It was easy because I was just out of grad school and not far into my career.

I actually use my maiden name + married name professionally because I'm proud of my ethnic heritage (which I don't share with my husband), and want it to be evident (more than just when people see me). It was just too hard a decision to get rid of my birth name completely, but I really wanted my first name + my middle name + my maiden name + my married name, but I thought 4 names was too much for any driver's license to handle, so I settled on the system I have now. Legally: first name + middle name + married name. Professionally: first name + maiden name + married name.

Caitlin said...

I agree with eemusings, no one could ever make an argument for why I was supposed to change my name. I actually planned on changing my name throughout our engagement, but as we got closer, my future husband and I discussed it - and I totally changed my mind. I realized how attached I was to my whole name as my identity. Why does a woman have to have made something of herself in order to think that her name is worth preserving? Your parents may have spent many months thinking about how your first and middle name went with your last name. Every diploma you own up to that point (that I want to proudly show my own children) has that name. Your birth certificate, your baptismal certificate, even your marriage license will have that name on it. The discuss we had was, if my husband was "supposed to" would he want to? And he felt just as strongly about what his name meant to him - and in that moment he totally understood what I was feeling. Why is it that when I choose my son's name, I know I will be choosing the name he has for his whole lifetime (assuming he doesn't want to change it) but when I choose my daughter's I should assume that only part of her name will stay as I have chosen? It really is a strange tradition that we cling to - which I believe is only for the convenience. The only issue I have had is with what people assume (which is on them for making assumptions) and with people who therefore think that it will be hard to identify as a family unit. Now my children will have my husband's name (because I have brothers and he is an only child) but they will have my name as a second middle name. They will be able to identify as being a product of both families.

Also, why is it that in terms of the paperwork, if I indicate that it seems like a lot of work I should "grow up"? I can guarantee that most women go and do that work on their own - you don't see the husband tagging along for the trips to the DMV and SS office, nor hanging out for the numerous phone calls to credit card companies. If men had to do the same, I imagine that it would not become a set tradition as they realize the work involved. As women, we accept a lot of things (even completely evolved identifying feminist women) because the women in our life have done it that way, and we think it will be too hard to change the tide. But this is one thing that is actually easier if we didn't do it! I had the best transition when I went back to work - no changing email or paperwork for HR, just back to work with a ring on my finger and a new picture for my desk - just like my husband did. It just seems that a tradition that is primarily done by one party with very little explanation of why (except for sentiment) is one that can be dispensed with.

If you don't like your name, or love your husband's, then yes, changing it is the right thing. But don't be a lemming - I hope more women will consider other alternatives before just blindly following tradition.

Anonymous said...

that's so strange, i was just having this conversation about an hour ago.

at this point in my life, i plan on keeping my last name. it's so unique and it's who i am. of course people change, and by getting married i will be changing of part of who i am, but why is it the female who's got to change her name.

i don't want to be another "smith" in the phonebook.

if women want to change their last names i get it, but i think we should look back at the original reasons why women took the last name of their husbands.

and what happens in a queer relationship? who gets whose last name?

Rebekah said...

This was a HUGE issue for me when I got married.

I loved the name my parents gave me because so much thought went into it with meaning and loved namesakes. I'm also from a family of three girls and no boys. One sister was already married and had taken her husband's last name.

I was a reporter at the time, so I was used to seeing MY NAME in print. Another reporter in our newsroom got married 5 months before I did, and adding her married name to her maiden name would have made a vulgar connotation (seriously), and the editor was worried that just dropping the maiden name would make readers think there was a new person (although I don't really understand why that's bad). So she and the editor had decided that she would keep her maiden name professionally to avoid confusing readers. I followed suit. Except I didn't change my name legally for a year.

I finally did it because my husband was hurt. He never mentioned it after the wedding, but before, he had said, "It would really hurt me if you didn't take my last name because it would be a rejection of a part of me." Not a great argument logically, but I love him, and I was on the fence. So it was more important that he be happy than fighting on principle.

So now I have four names. I didn't drop anything. Social Security is super confused, and on my card, my name looks like this: "Given Middle-Maiden Married." They hyphenated my middle names. And that was after they had messed up once.

But I think it was free... Just time-consuming.

Mary @The Sweet Bookshelf said...

I think I had intended on changing my name for the last 3 yrs. I just haven't. But why should I?? I love my name. It is who I am.

My husband is Portuguese/Venezuelan. In both those cultures the woman keeps her maiden name, just ads on the husbands. I like that. So, I get to keep my name. It's handy for genealogical purposes, but it also if WHO we are.

Just because I don't change my name doesn't mean I don't love my husband. I don't even think my husband notices I haven't changed it. We are having a baby in Jan. I've thought about changing my name when I do the baby's paperwork...but I might not. Who says I should?!

I don't think that because I don't change it I need to "grow up". That is a very ignorant statement.

PR Working Girl said...

Well, seems I am the odd man (woman) out. Call me old-fashioned or prude ... (um, but a lemming?!?)

Think about it, to question tradition is to question a lot more than you think. Tradition, yes, is what drives people to do what people do. Why eat cake and ice cream at birthdays? Why deliver a basket of wine, bread and salt to a new neighbor? Why introduce yourself in a circle instead of randomly? Why get married in a white dress?

Then there's family traditions. What makes my family my family ARE traditions. How sad if there were no traditions.

Sure, change things up, don't be the status quo. But just remember that as much as someone believes in a tradition, there are going to be people who believe the opposite, doesn't make anybody wrong (or a LEMMING).

Regarding the "grow up" statement, I guess I had a deeper intention and I apologize if some of you took it the wrong way. I just get so sick of our generation sometimes, our "Me Generation" that demands things "right now or I'm gonna freak out" and that has made us as a whole more impatient. I'm totally guilty of this too. Some things just take time to complete.

MonsteRawr said...

Not only did I change my name, but I went ahead and started using his name before it was actually mine! We were engaged when we graduated college, and planned to be married within 6 months. I knew I was going to be sending out a ton of resumes, and I didn't want to send out bunch only to have them be incorrect in 6 months. So I went ahead and took his name early! Oh, and for the record, I didn't take my husband's name because I'm a lemming, I took his name because we are a family. It may not be important to others, but to me, a family shares certain things like traditions, dinners, and last names. (Also, totally dig his name.)

miss_kay said...

Great post. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that doesn't feel so strongly about taking the husbands last name. As a matter of fact I can't wait.

For the reasons listed in the article, I mean they all make sense, but some of them are just a bit absurd.

The way I see it if you're up for not taking the last name then don't, if you are go for it. :)

I for one will, whenever that time comes and can't wait.

Kristen Jensen said...

This was also a huge issue for me when I got married. I had begun my acting career working along side Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange and had a very distinguishable last name that came up immediately when googled. My husbands last name is almost as common as they come.
I'm not one to blindly follow traditions, but have to disect for myself why the tradition exists. In the end, I realized that taking on my husbands last name was the ultimate display of commitment to him I could give, and that my children would see that and benefit from it.
In an ever changing world where marriage seems to become less and less valued I wanted to do something to show how much I truly do value commitment in marriage.

Corporate Chickee said...

I never hesitated and wanted to take my husband's last name. I just traditional and old-fashioned like that. (I even changed our dog's last name at the vet after we got married so we all had the same last name! She was bought by both of us, but I did the paperwork so she "got" my last name at the vet, haha.)

I'll be honest though... the paperwork does kind of suck. I've changed my name on everything (been married just over a year) pretty quick, but still haven't gotten around to changing it with the Social Security office. They just make it so darn difficult to to do by mail, and their hours simply require you to take a half-day of PTO from work. I HATE to part with my PTO for anything less than fun.

It was a little sad at first to lose my maiden name, as so much of my identity was wrapped up in that name (think nicknames, sports, etc.) But, in the end I LOVE my new married name, it just sounds great together, and is MUCH easier to spell over the phone, added bonus!! :)

Ashley Rochelle said...

First off-changing your name doesn't cost anything. Unless you're changing a passport. The marriage license-you already paid for. Driver's license--you have to renew it anyway every so many years. Unless you're in the state of AZ. Social security doesn't cost anything.

My husband did tag along to the DMV and the SS administration. And I gladly and proudly took his name.

I think not taking your husband's name is part of the "Women's Right Activist" attitude. Women don't want to be accountable or associated to "men's rules" therefore they make their own. They want to be equal to men when it concerns careers and opportunities, but then unequal when it comes to taking a name.

Granted--it is everyone's own opinion and choice. But I think not taking your husband's name is prideful and selfish. I also think that those who don't take their husband's name are shamed by who they married.

I agree with those who say you take it because you're a family. You don't take it to lose your identity. You take it to establish your new identity--that of being a wife and no longer single.

lisa said...

Interesting. I can see how, if your name is in the limelight a lot (like you run a company named after yourself or you're a freelance writer) and it ties in with a lot of what's on your resume or CV, a name change can create a lot of confusion.

Anonymous said...

Just to throw a different perspective in about traditions, most of the women in my family kept their last name when marrying. I think it's because we're Vietnamese, and your family name is your link to your family of origin. To me, that's pretty important not to lose. Just my personal 2 cents.

Amy said...

I got married a year ago and kept my last name. For me, the reasons to keep my name far outweighed the reasons to change it and I'm happy with my choice. I didn't want to deal with the paperwork of changing it. I don't want to have to reintroduce myself to all my clients, past and present, and people working in my industry around town. Plus it's just always been my name...basically I don't see any advantages in changing it. My husband was fine with me not changing my name. It's not a feminist move for me, because after all, my maiden name is still my father's last name...there were just zero compelling reasons for me to make the switch. I don't give a hoot about tradition.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself to be pretty traditional - although, I never really wanted to get married. Or have kids. I still don't really desire children, but I am in a committed relationship that is headed towards marriage. I always thought if I did get married that I would take my husband's name. It's just what you do, right?

Well, a little over a year ago, my dad died. I was very close to him and it completely destroyed me. I only have one sister. Now I'm torn. I love my parents so much and I want to keep my family's name "out there" since there are no men to carry it forward. I may hyphenate it, or take his name and use my maiden name professionally.

I still haven't decided what feels right to me. I suppose when the time comes, it will be a discussion we will have.

Amers said...

I think changing your name is a very personal choice, and was something I always knew that I would do. It was exciting on our honeymoon to sign things as "Mrs" and I love that it feels like were a family, rather than two individuals who are legally bonded.