A Question About Last Names

I have a question for you. Did you change your name when you got married? Or hyphenate? Or make your maiden name your middle name? Or not change it?

I ask because I really like my husband’s last name compared to my maiden name, and my maiden name was never easy for non-Hindi speakers to pronounce. And so I changed it.

And I have always felt a little bit ick about it.

I love my husband, and I love his family, and I feel entirely like we make a new family with the two of us and our two kids, and yet…I don’t know. There’s something about not taking on a man’s last name that strikes me as strong and feminist and all of that. But I’m wondering if I’m making a Thing out of something that’s not a thing.

After all, one of the reasons I changed it was because Gregg wanted to have the same last name as me, and if I didn’t change mine, he was going to change his to my maiden name. This was not a manipulative move. He was earnest and honest and would not at all have minded changing his last name in the least. Except, for a man to change his name after marriage (at least in the year 2000), it would have cost us several thousand dollars in court costs and time and a lawyer. All I had to do was fill out a few forms and get a new driver’s license. Sexist? Yes. Easier? Yes.

So, I changed my name, and for the most part I’m alright with that. I really do like the last name. But. It still strikes me that I did an unfeminist thing. I do not belong to my husband, and yet I changed my last name as if I do. I don’t like that connection, which I know is not a connection HE made or *I* made, but a connection that, as it is, exists in society. Women didn’t have rights. Women belonged to their spouses.

Worse, many years ago I had a job as a research assistant to a history professor. She was co-authoring a scholarly book on modern women, and my job was to go through back issues of magazines from the 1920s to 1950s and photocopy anything that might fit in with their research–ads, articles, illustrations, etc. One illustration stuck with me. It was a drawing of a 1920s woman with a wedding ring…around her neck, like a shackle. The article decried that women shouldn’t marry men, and that marriage was in its essence a sexist institution.

I don’t know that I agree with that sentiment. I mean, sure, in the 1920s, marriage probably WAS a sexist institution. I don’t believe that MY particular marriage is unbalanced or sexist. If I tell Gregg, “You need to do the dishes because I’m tired/I have work/I’m going out/I don’t feel like it,” he doesn’t say, “BUT IT’S YOUR JOB AND I OWN YOU!” He does them. Because, you know, not the 1920s.

But still–I changed my name, and he didn’t. No matter the reason. And that’s the expectation, isn’t it? That women will do it. Do you think it’s alright to change your name? Because I still don’t know. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and honestly, I don’t quite understand the why behind it. WHY do we need to share a last name? WHY does this make things easier in society? WHY?

Obviously, 13 years later, I’m still questioning whether I made the right decision.


  1. kathleenicanrah says

    I got married in October, and didn’t change my name (and have no plans to). It’s weird, but it wasn’t a question for me- though I will say it took some conversations with my husband for him to understand. I tell people it’s because I’m close to my (incredible, loving) family and he isn’t close to his, but that’s not what’s it’s really about. I imagine if/when we have kids I’ll have more feelings about it (we’ve decided on kids having my last name as their middle, and his last as their last), but it’s been an easier choice than I expected. However, being in the south, it’s still a weekly conversation with strangers. ugh.

  2. says

    I was not going to change my name to my husband’s because I married at 40 and what sense would it make to relinquish my father’s name after all that time? I was very proud of my father, grandfather, uncle, brother—I wanted to stay banded with them.

    But my husband wanted me to take his name, and I loved him and, good grief, what was the big deal, it was just my entire family heritage, right? So I changed it a few months after the wedding, but was very lazy about changing it on documents, so for a while I went by both until I got tired of trying to figure out which name I’d given to various businesses, schools and agencies.

    My maiden name is now my middle name and I still answer to it. My husband is happy and so are my in-laws since I don’t look like a feminist monster to their rural Texas friends. I’m already black, so let’s not push things further with the poker buddies, if we can help it.

    Great post, great topic. Thanks for letting me write my mini-post in response.

  3. says

    I did not change my last name, and I have four reasons.

    1. It seemed like a pain in the ass. I didn’t want to have to get new passports and all that nonsense. 2. My name is the same exact name as my grandmothers (first and last) and it was important to me to keep that and 3. I thought it seemed super sexist and 4. my last name is easy to spell and pronounce, and Erik’s last name is horrible to spell and pronounce. I didn’t have to spell my last name once in the first 28 years of my life and I wasn’t interested in starting.

    The sexist thing though, I think is lower down on the rung of importance for me somehow. I mean, I have my dad’s last name that my mom changed her name to. It’s still a MAN’S last name, so that’s not really actually less sexist. And my kids have Erik’s last name, so that’s also sexist, but what are you going to do about it really? They could have my last name, but I didn’t really care so they just got his last name. So that one doesn’t really matter as much to me as the one that is actually most important to me which is keeping my grandmother’s name as it was given to me.
    However, the bonus I have since realized since Eli started kindergarten is that unlike Erik’s unusual and very hard to spell name, Elizabeth Jackson is virtually ongoogle-able. WIN!

  4. michelle says

    I’m getting married in a few months, and do plan to change my name. Part of it is that I just don’t really LIKE my last name. No one knows how to say it when they see it, it sounds funny even when you say it right, it just begs for silly taunting and nicknames in middle school… Nope, I won’t be sad to see it go, other than the fact that I finally am happy with my signature. I also am not super close with my dad’s family, and so “losing” that connection isn’t a big deal to me personally. And none of my cousins had my name to start with (he’s got all sisters). So, while it will be a little less original (I can ALWAYS get my name as a user name online, and now I’ll have the same name as TWO celebrities) I do want to build a family with my husband, and so we’ll use his name. (He’s named after his father who died when he was young, so there has never, not ever been any moment I would consider him changing his. That too.)
    This got long and feels overly defensive, but I guess I sometimes feel defensive about not thinking it’s a big deal.

  5. says

    Ok, I did a LOT of thinking about this when I got married, and a lot of talking about it (I worked in an office with 20 women, all of whom were staunch feminists), and more thinking. Here were some of my thoughts:

    1. I wanted to have the same last name as any future children, because as a child of divorce/remarriage, I had first hand experience with some of the challenges that can come from having different last names. I didn’t care FOR ME, except I did care for the future me who wanted to be a mother and for future children, if that makes sense.
    2. My husband and I discussed changing his name to mine, or making a totally new name (seriously, we discussed just coming up with something totally new since we both were entering into a new phase of our lives. My husband is rad.) However, my husband’s career as an artist was already taking off, and his name basically IS his business. So that didn’t seem like a solid idea. Someone countered with “well what about YOUR career” but I was basically an assistant at that point–no great shake up for my professional life at that time.
    3. I went through a phase of being really irritated that I was even having to have the conversation about changing my name–until I realized that my maiden name is ALSO part of the patriarchy. My parents divorced when I was 3, my mom raised me…and yet, my maiden name is my father’s. And even taking out the problematic relationship with my dad, that was something that many of the women in my office also felt. So FOR ME, the difference was that I was CHOOSING to take my husband’s name, rather than just…having my father’s.

    I think where I personally come down on it is this: the beautiful thing about modern feminism is the choice. In the 1920′s you didn’t have one, but today? You can make the decision based on the things that are important to you–for me, it was having the same name as a family, for other people, it’s keeping their individual or career identities, for others it’s the (pun totally intended) marriage of the two names…or a zillion other reasons. I think if you actively think through the pros/cons/whys/whynots and come to a decision you’re happy with, it doesn’t matter what society thinks, it only matters that you made the choice for you.

    • says

      This third point was exactly my feeling. My Dad wasn’t around and my husband loves me and takes care of me more than he ever did, so why keep a name attached to a not so great history when I could start again?

      I occasionally miss people knowing who I was with my maiden name, like something is missing if they don’t know about that part of me, but that’s only occasionally. My daughter does have my last name as part of her legal name, that was important to me.

  6. Slauditory says

    I’ve thought about this. Professionally and likely legally, I would keep my maiden name, since I have work published under it and all that. In the personal sphere–if I ever had kids and those kids had friends who needed to know what to call me–I would use my husband’s name, probably, to lessen any confusion. My friend’s mom does this (she is a lawyer).

  7. says

    I was looking forward to changing my last name when I got married, since my maiden name was always mispronounced. I also looked at it as a joint venture we were going into and I didn’t want us to have different last names.

    My brother and his wife hyphened their two last names for each of them to use, but it didn’t stick. They announced the new name as soon as the priest announced “husband and wife” to make it official to family and friends, yet as the years went on, even they stopped writing out the full last name and now, after 20 years, they go by just his last name (not sure how it’s listed legally). No children in that union, but I wonder what children would have done with a hyphened last name if they married someone with another hyphened last name. How many hyphens can one name have?

    I think everyone should do what they want to do, of course, but I think it’s easier to have a common last name once children arrive — doctor’s appointments, school forms, etc. — just makes it easier.

  8. Amy K says

    I changed my name when I married, but mostly because I was barely speaking to my parents at that point in my life and I was furious with them. In retrospect, I really wish I had decided to hyphenate. Maybe at some point I’ll go through the legal hassle of changing it again. Although then my daughter and I would have different last names, and I don’t like that either.

  9. says

    I could’ve written this EXACT post. Word for word. (Except the Hindi name, add the fact that I was 22 and not thinking critically about the decision…at all)

    I have the same misgivings about changing my name. I feel conflicted. I feel like I sort of lost the me of 22 years and now am a whole new me. I hate when people say, “Oh! Is your family French?” when they hear my last name. NO. It has nothing to do with my family! It’s my husband’s family! I liked having my German last name – because that WAS part of my family. (Which is why I don’t mind having my dad’s name – doesn’t feel oppressive at all…I have to have SOMEONE’S last name as a new person in the world! Taking on my husband’s family name felt different. Like I was LEAVING my family and just joining his. I still feel icky, obviously.)

    Alas. I was 22 and didn’t think about anything other than what was expected of me. (See also: my entire wedding.)

  10. says

    I did change my last name, though I wasn’t going to initially. I was 31 when I got married and was fairly established in my career. Plus, I liked my last name a lot. So, I dropped my middle name and took my maiden as my middle and used that, plus my husband’s name professionally (while I was still working). I went from a four letter last name to an ELEVEN letter last name.

    I’m my dad’s only child and wanted to carry on the name somehow, so my maiden name (West) is my son’s middle name. I think it works pretty well!

  11. Allie says

    After 13 years, this is a glass of water you can set down. :) I think it’s very sweet & telling that Gregg was willing to change his last name – it shows me that he was interested in creating a family unit (united under name) not just continuing on with a (once) sexist tradition. (You take my name because that’s what ladies do dammit!) I think we’re at weird point in history for this – because yes, at one point the last name thing had a lot of power and symbolism but nowadays – eh, not so much. People can do what works for them (change name, not change name, make a new name, add on to a long string of names, whatever) and most folks don’t bat an eye either way*. (I’m sure there are pockets where this is not true, but I think those pockets are shrinking). You guys talked about the options and went with the more convenient custom. That’s totally fine. You didn’t sin against feminism – if anything it’s a win for equality! Unless you are thinking of changing back to the maiden name, don’t sweat it. Maybe have a talk at/with/near the boys now and again about how the family name could have gone either way and if/when they get married, that’s an option for them too.

    *except for the in-laws who generally seem more invested than the rest of the world.

    • michelle says

      I agree with this! That we’re at a time wherein the custom has become more simply a custom and is losing the trappings of ownership.

      Though, I will say that if anyone ever referred to me as “Mrs. HisFirst OurLast” I would blow a gasket. My first name is my identity. The last name is for identifying our family unit. So that definitely colors how I see the whole thing.

      • says

        OOH. The Mrs. HisFirst OurLast thing gets me. HATE. And the people who do it the most? MY PARENTS. OMG. I’M NOT MRS. GREGG ___. I’M ME.

        • says

          I also hate this very much. I was fine changing my name, but haaaated the sense of ownership that Mrs. SOMEBODY else makes me feel. My mom likes to inform me that when he dies, I’ll get to be Mrs. MYSELF, but that’s a long time to wait.

    • Kate says

      Well said!
      I did not change my name because I like it, and I’m the last of 4 girls and the Canadian branch of my father’s family is at an end, so I liked the idea of keeping the name going for my lifetime. The older generation has been a bit confused over the years (27!) and have called me by hubby’s last name and that’s ok. Our kids have their dad’s last name and that’s also ok. Though occasionally confusing when people assume their last name is my surname. I love it when people refer to my husband as Mr. My surname. It’s awesome.
      I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and how many women made the decision according to how much they liked or disliked their name options. I can be that simple!

      • Kate says

        “It can be that simple.” I suppose I can be, too, but that’s not what I meant. Really.

  12. Katie Mae says

    This post is relevant to my interests! I changed my name when I got married. I had built a professional career publishing under my maiden name, but I was changing fields so that didn’t matter a whole lot. It meant a lot to my husband, and I wanted us to “be a family”, and for the sake of having the same name as my future kids, I guess…anyways, I did it. But now, about 1.5 years later, I really miss my old name. The new name doesn’t feel like me. I don’t like receiving mail as Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname. But now I feel stuck, because I know my husband would take it as a personal insult if I changed my name back, and wouldn’t I seem fickle if I changed back, and it would be such a hassle, blah blah blah. And the fact that this is ALL on me and he never had to worry about a thing, that is so frustrating to me! And I know he never would have considered changing any portion of his name, which bothers me. So I don’t know what I will do…but it’s good to know that other people continue thinking about it after the decision is made.

    • Alice says

      This is one of the sticking points for me – it just seems so unfair that the guy doesn’t need to even THINK about this. He can have opinions on if he wants his wife to take his name, but ultimately no part of him / his identity / his past / etc is at stake (unless he’s as enlightened as Gregg!). And then if you express uncertainty about changing your name, it’s not because it’s a GIANT life and identity shift, it’s because you’re a giant feminist. Hrmph.

  13. says

    Great post. And I have a complicated answer. I hyphenated my name but professional stick with just my maiden name and outside of work I use my married name. (Although more and more, outside of work, I’ve been using my hyphenated name even though it is very long.)
    I did this for a number of reasons: 1. I liked my name. While it is not super, duper unique, it is more unique than “Sullivan.” Plus, why should I be the one to change my name? 2. Being a journalist, your name is kind of your brand so I didn’t want to completely change it. Also, because my husband and I work together, I like to have a thin shred of separation or work and home. It’s thin. Very, very thin. 3. My grandfather had four boys who each had two girls, meaning the name would “die” with my generation. I didn’t like the thought of that so I wanted to keep using it for awhile.
    The girls both have my husband’s last name. I’m not sure any of my reasons are completely logically but, I’m happy with them.
    During our pre-marriage counseling, our minister asked my husband if he was OK that I didn’t plan on taking his fully. I was very indignant. One that he didn’t think we had discussed and two IT’S MY NAME THAT HAS TO BE CHANGED. NOT HIS. While I am sensitive to his feelings, it’s still my damn name.

  14. says

    I’m on my fourth last name, so somewhere along the line, last names just became very disposable to me. Chris has his last name tattooed on his body, so it was obviously very important to him and was more important to him than my last name was to me, so I changed it. I did have a moment (or moments) where I was sad, because LastName #3 was hard-gotten and paid for, but, like I said, on the scale of caring, Chris cared more that I took his name than I cared to keep mine, so take his name I did.

    I do go by Sarah MaidenName MarriedName for work, because a lot of work people knew me by my maiden name. I didn’t drop my middle name because I love it (I cared more about my middle name than my maiden name, it would seem), but legally I dropped my maiden name.

    I try not to over-think stuff like this because I feel like I’d almost always find no happy answer where both parties can accurately articulate why they want something and come to a reasonable, easy conclusion. Could Chris give me a really good reason why he wanted me to take his name? Probably/probably not. Could I give a really compelling reason to keep my maiden name? Probably/probably not. So I don’t know.

  15. says

    I did change mine. And ~10 years later I still love it. And I’m happy about my decision. And I love being called Mrs. D’Angelo. In my husband’s situation, though, I think if he had had the same last name as the rest of his family I might not have. (It’s a long story, but he and his brother were the only ones with out last name.) I never liked my maiden name with my first name, and Jim’s last name is pretty. Although I do hate the apostrophe.

  16. says

    I didn’t take his last name. I wasn’t particularly invested in mine, but I like it slightly better, I had some professional work under it and it seemed like a pain in the ass to change. There was also a feminist part of me that didn’t want to (which seems odd that for myself it mattered, but I don’t judge the people around me who did). We thought about taking a totally new last name together, but couldn’t decide on anything and that seemed like an even bigger pain in the ass.

    The only person who seems to be bothered by it is my dad, which is weird to me that he seems so invested in me taking my husband’s last name.

    We decided if we end up having kids that we’ll pick the first name we like and whichever last name sounds better with it will be the kid’s last name, as well as the last name for any more kids so they all have the same last name.

    Several of my friends who were excited that I kept my name because they had some regret about changing theirs. I live in Utah and it’s very much the cultural/religious norm in the area to change it, so many of my friends did because it’s what was expected and now they feel a loss of identity.

  17. says

    P.S. When I made my last name my husband’s, I dropped my previous middle name and now my middle name is my maiden name, legally. The only time this gets confusing is on my driver’s license. In our state our names are listed LAST FIRST MIDDLE, so my maiden/middle name shows up on the end, and some not familiar with the format assume that’s my legal last name.
    And the whole excitement of changing to his last name to made pronouncing it easier? Well, who knew my husband’s name, though easy to spell, is mispronounced all.the.time (and still spelled wrong half the time as well).
    But… this post got me thinking again about my dream to be a published author (one day … one day) and how I want to have my full name listed, because if I only used First Last, the “real” me would be missing and I want to give credit to the family I was born into. So when/if I get a book in print, it will be First Maiden Last.

  18. says

    I love this conversation. It’s one I’ve thought an awful lot about and spent a lot of time discussing with various people.

    Since I was a little kid I never understood women changing their names when they married. When my youngest, coolest aunt got married when I was 11 I just KNEW that SHE would never change her name! Imagine my disappointment when she did.

    I didn’t change my name when I got married. Since I was a kid I knew I wouldn’t. And I haven’t. That said, my husband did want me to take his last name. It was important to him for us to be under one family umbrella. We had a lot of conversations about this. A LOT. I considered it, we talked about why it was important to each of us. (His had to do in part with carrying on a family name as the only male.) I asked him to spend some time seriously considering how he would feel taking MY name. He didn’t feel comfortable with it. And I can’t say I blame him: I don’t want to change my name either. That’s the whole point. For me.

    As others have mentioned, I have my father’s father’s father’s (and so on) last name, so yeah, I’m still part of the patriarchy. Maybe I should change my name to my mother’s mother’s name? Anyway. Point is, I think there are no easy answers. And over time as I’ve heard more men and women discuss this, I’ve realized (with a small amount of crow-eating embarrassment) that HEY! There are different reasons people change their names and a woman taking her husband’s name doesn’t mean she buys into the patriarchy – it means she’s an adult capable of making the best decision for herself. IMAGINE THAT.

    It also helps that we’re not planning on having kids, so we don’t have to worry about whose name they get. I can make a lot of arguments differently when kids enter the picture. I might consider changing my name in that case, actually, as I think one last name can be easier in a family situation. But as I said, that’s a whole other can of worms.

    But oh, the comments. This is 2013, and I still have relatives her refer to me as Caitlin HisLastName or Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. And it all seems very pointed and insulting to me. That’s not my name. You know that’s not my name. I don’t call you by your maiden name, why do you insist on calling me by the name you want me to have taken? Also: Comments from strangers. So many comments from strangers. The way people approach it is like they’ve never heard of this phenomenon before! But…your last name is different from your husband’s! What sorcery is this?!
    My favorite was one time I was on the phone with who knows what – insurance or something – and she needed my husband’s name, then mine. I told her and a beat later she said “WAIT! How come your last name isn’t HisLast.” I said “Because I didn’t change my name when we got married.” And she literally responded, no exaggeration and I will never forget this; “OH, okay, MISS MOVIE STAR.”

    So. 2013.

    • says

      “And I can’t say I blame him: I don’t want to change my name either. That’s the whole point. For me.”

      YES! I took a class in college (Religious Studies major, here) about marriage and religion and the priest/professor asked the men if they’d be willing to change their last name to their wife’s. One guy raised his hand.

      The priest responded – “That’s not equality. If your husband isn’t willing to change his last name to yours, then why should you change your last name?” It really stuck with me. (Now I see there are other factors, compromise, etc etc…but still!)

  19. says

    Oh! I also wanted to say that I think you should know that I really don’t think there is a perfect answer. I am with you on the struggle! In principle I don’t want to change mine. But if I had a hard last name and could take an easier name, or there were other compelling reasons I’d probably be more open to it. Plus it’s still all mens’ names, so ladies all lose in that regard. There’s no easy answers here.

  20. Mary says

    I kept my own name when I got married 14 years ago and am very happy with my choice. As a stay-at-home parent of three boys, it’s a nice reminder that I am still my own person, not just the maid/chef/chauffeur to this house full of guys! I like the message it sends to my sons as well. We can all be a family and I can have my own identity, those things aren’t mutually exclusive. All our boys have my last name as their middle name, so that’s how we linked us all together as a family. I like it, it’s easy, and I can’t believe more families don’t do the same, but I respect everyone’s right to pick what works best for them. BTW, I’ve never once been hassled about having a different last name as my children.

  21. says

    Love this post. I feel the same way. Ick. Why did I change my name when I got married? I still use my maiden name professionally and it creates all sorts of confusion. Not to mention, I have different first names depending on when you met me in life. Talk about a confused identity! Men never have these issues.

  22. says

    I changed my name because I’m a rule follower, and it’s what people do. I didn’t even really think about it. I did not like my maiden name. I was embarrassed by it. It was easy to tease me on the basis of my last name, but now I’m 33 and that doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I did not make it my middle name, because my mom and I have the same middle name (and now so does my daughter) so that feels like a family tie in the same way using my maiden name as my middle name would have.

  23. says

    I kept my last name, but I have to be honest – only 50% of the reason was because I think it’s lame and old-fashioned (and unfair) that the wife’s family legacy gets absorbed into her husband’s. The other 50% was because my husband’s last name is a little awkward, and I’ve always really liked my last name.

    When it comes to our kids, we agreed that they’d have my husband’s last name but my last name would be their middle name (because hyphenating is a pain in the ass).

    I think it’s sweet that Greg was open to taking your last name! Now THAT is a liberated MAN! :)

  24. Erin says

    I honestly didn’t really think about it, I just took Kevin’s name. I went from Anderson to King, so it was just one common name over to another, but I did keep Anderson as my middle name (for a while I considered also keeping my original middle name but decided Erin Elizabeth Anderson King was too much).

    Kevin loves the alliteration of his name, and wouldn’t have wanted to change it even if it had occurred to me to ask him to. Maybe I’m just not a good feminist, but it honestly just has never struck me NOT to take my husband’s name, because that’s what most people do and it’s not like my maiden name was super interesting.

  25. says

    I took my husband’s last name. Because my maiden name never really went with my first name – too many hard R sounds just didn’t work in the Boston area- and it didn’t matter that both the first and last names were good Irish names.

    Also, I was 22 when I got married, so I was basically a child bride, and I had no professional history with my maiden name, so it didn’t matter to me.

    If ever we get divorced, I’m keeping my married name, because I really like the way it goes together, even if it does sound like a food preservative (Kara Keenan = carrageenan)

  26. says

    My wife and I both kept our names because neither of us was willing to give ours up. We’ll be hyphenating our kids names because we will (obviously) hate them.

    I read an article recently that said women are taking their husbands’ names MORE now than they did 10 or 15 years ago. I hypothesized that it was because it’s convenient and not as many women feel the need to take a stand about it. But I don’t really know – I just made that up.

  27. says

    I changed my last name to T’s because he had strong feelings on it and I had none at all, so why the heck not.

    When my mom and dad got married, she took his last name and he then took her maiden name as a second middle name. Like you mentioned above, it did involve court whatnot but I’ve always liked what that meant as an indication of his commitment to her and their marriage.

  28. says

    I changed my name when I got married; I didn’t even keep my maiden name as a middle name or hyphenate, just changed my last name to my husband’s. I consider myself a feminist and mentally went through all the reasons not to do it in terms of history and social implications, and I decided they didn’t apply to me, in that I wasn’t changing my name because my husband owns me or because society demanded it. Rather, I wanted us to be readily identifiable as a married couple and, when we had a child, as a family. It bothered me to think that my husband and child would have the same last name but mine would be different (and I didn’t want to give the child four names, like first, middle, my name, his name — too much). My husband strongly wanted me to take his name, not because he’s anti-woman or anything, but more because it’s what people do and also for the family-identification reason. It actually really upset him when I would talk about the possibility of not changing my name.

    We’ve been married almost ten years, and I would say that I think about the name issue more now than I did in the beginning. The main problem I have is that I miss being readily identified with my family of origin. Those are my roots, and I was identified as a member of that family for 27 years. So upon reflection, I think I wish I had kept my maiden name as my middle name, or used both names, or something. It feels like that link to my own family is gone, in a way. And people who have married into my family get to have that name, and I don’t, which kind of irritates me. Also, people make certain assumptions based on my married last-name that do not apply to me, so there is kind of a disconnect there.

    I feel like there is no completely good solution to this issue. At least, not for the woman. Either you end up with a long and unwieldy name, or a name different from your children’s, or some compromise name that has nothing to do with you and who you’ve always been — blech. I love that your husband was cool with alternative approaches, though. It says a lot.

  29. says

    I was delighted to change my name. My maiden name is a must-spell and must-correct last name. I spent my entire childhood spelling it. (Which is why I never minded being Jennifer. At least people could spell and pronounce that without my help.) So when I got my husband’s last name that can be spelled and pronounced correctly by just about anyone, I am thrilled. The only downfall is that it is a first name and easily switched to a girl’s first name by adding an le, so sometimes people think it is my first name, but that’s minor.

    Even if it weren’t for those things, I would probably have changed my name anyway. I like that my family has the same last name. We’re a team. ;-)

  30. says

    When I was in the 4th grade, my step-father adopted me and my last name was changed to his. My bio father agreed to this, though I can’t imagine why as he has always been a part of my life. I was asked and agreed to this but I was a kid, what was I supposed to say? I didn’t know better. The older I got, the more I regretted this. I hated that I gave up my birth last name.

    Fast forward many years – when I got married I took my husband’s name without any question. It never occurred to me not to because the name I was giving up wasn’t “mine”. I get why some people feel it’s archaic, but I don’t feel that way. I also wanted any children we have to have the same name and have that issue not bring constant confusion. I have never regretted taking my husband’s last name.

  31. says

    This post is soooooo interesting because I HAVE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS. I am getting married in June and I am stilllll sort of waffling on the name thing. Here are the factors, basically:

    1. My family (at least, my nuclear branch of my family) (wow, mixed metaphors) is pretty Traditional about stuff like this, and I’m pretty sure everyone in my family would think it was supah weird if I didn’t change my name.
    2. My family is also AWESOME, and I love my last name because it connects me with them and reminds me of them. Part of me is really bugged by the idea of not being a Thomas anymore.
    3. My fiance has a much-less-usual, must-spell, not-intuitive-to-pronounce last name. My first name fits all three of those criteria and I sort of hate the idea of having to spell, explain, and clarify the pronunciation of BOTH my names. (Though I would be joining both of my older sisters in this boat…we seem to attract men with unusual last names.)
    4. I love my whole name: Miriel Margaret Thomas. It flows really well and I like my initials and it just feels like…me.
    5. My fiance doesn’t object at all to the idea of me keeping my last name. “It’s your name,” he says. I love him.

    All of which seem to point toward not changing my name. BUT.

    6. My fiance’s last name actually sounds pretty awesome with my first name.
    7. We want to have a lot of kids and I want our whole family to have the same last name, and I don’t want to hyphenate.
    8. My fiance is a doctor, so it doesn’t make any sense for him to think about changing HIS name.
    9. I don’t feel AT ALL like taking John’s last name would be a symbol of him “owning” me or of my identity being absorbed into his; our relationship just doesn’t function like that and I don’t think a name has the power to make it that way. I also like the idea of having the same last name as him, as a symbol of our connectedness, and for practical reasons if that’s going to happen I will need to take his name.

    So basically, in my case, I really WANT to take John’s name, but I feel like it will seem weird at first because I’m used to my current last name. Conclusion: I don’t like change?


    • says

      (Oops. I didn’t clearly flesh out the first point. The fact that everyone expects me to do it sort of makes me NOT want to do it. But that’s silly because my Down With The Patriarchy! rebel response doesn’t actually relate to a Patriarchy! approach on my family’s part! More just, like, hey, this is sort of what people do, it’s practical, or something like that.)


  32. says

    kept my maiden name–may change it many years from now, but not likely. because:

    1) i have always been salty at my parents for not giving me a Hindi first name, so i identify with my last name (not technically hindi, but still Indian–complicated story about explorers in the 1500s). in fact, many people call me by my last name.
    2) my 1st career was built on name recognition, and there’s a chance I may go back to that one day.
    3) my husband’s mother and I have the same first name.

    one of my best friends is CONVINCED that deep deep down in his heart, Jon wants me to change my name to his. to this day he swears he doesn’t care. but when we use my reward card at the grocery checkout and the cashier calls him Mr. MyLastName, he rolls his eyes that i get a thrill from it.

  33. miava says

    My husband’s family simplified/changed their last names when they came to the U.S. It has always bothered my husband. So I act like I love the last name and now our girls use it in cheers to pump themselves up before school. (Don’t ask). But it makes him really happy. It took a long time to convince him that his dad would be proud, and not critical of the change. I’m not sure how to say this, but a name is just a name. Its the family that carries it that makes it special. (Oddly, I never changed my signature. Its not legible anyway and I signed my name too many times, until I was 29, to change the habit. So I kept it.)

  34. says

    I kept my maiden name when I got married. I always knew that I would, well before I met my husband, so his last name didn’t really come in to play in the decision. Luckily for me, he didn’t care one lick what my last name was.

    I kept my maiden name because it was MY name. I identified with it. I couldn’t imagine having any other name. Ironically, it wasn’t actually the name I was born with — my mom remarried when I was three, her husband adopted me and is my dad (I haven’t ever had contact with my bio-dad since they divorced when I was a baby), and I have had his name since I was young. I don’t ever remember NOT having his last name as mine, although I know there was a time when I didn’t. Also, I’d somewhat established my legal career by that point, and while it wasn’t so far along that changing my name would be detrimental (especially if I moved my maiden name to a second middle name), it also meant even MORE paperwork and effort to change my name.

    I like the way my first, middle, last sound together. I like that my last name is common, people know how to spell and pronounce it, and it’s not easily googleable. None of these things were true with my original last name, so maybe I would have changed it if I’d still had it when I got married (especially if I still didn’t have any ties to my bio-dad). Who knows.

    I don’t feel like not changing my name was a particularly feminist stance for me, other than the fact that it’s pretty darn feminist to do whatever you please – keep, change, hyphenate, make a whole new last name. I don’t think one way or the other about anyone for their decision. I just didn’t want to change mine, that’s all.

    Our kids will have my husband’s last name. This was his preference, although I really didn’t care at all. Even though I like the fact that my last name is easy to spell/pronounce and is common, sometimes it is TOO common and I like that his is more unique. (But it does bug me that 50% of people pronounce it incorrectly.) We may use my name as a middle name for a kid (or maybe all, if we have more than one), but I’m not dead set on it – only if it works with the first name we choose. It’s not like the name is going to die out with me. There are nearly a million people in the U.S. alone with my last name.

  35. says

    I changed my name when we got married almost two years ago…except I also kind of didn’t. I still haven’t fixed my driver’s license or passport or even email settings, and while a lot of that (A LOT) is laziness, a lot is also that it’s taken me a while to feel comfortable with the new last name. For at least a year, it just didn’t sound like ME and I felt like such an imposter when I’d fill out forms with my new name. Ultimately, though, I wanted us to all have the same last name as a family, and my husband’s name is BEAUTIFUL, and we’d already had one kid and given him his father’s name, so it all just happened to work out for us in the traditional way. But we didn’t do it BECAUSE it was tradition, if that makes sense. Mostly, I just wanted to be identifiable as a family unit, and my husband was open to changing his last name to my maiden name, but it just felt better to do it the other way around, even though it’s taken a while to get used to it.

    (To each his own and all that, but I have a friend who kept her name when she married and then ended up giving her last name to their first daughter and *his* last name to their second daughter, and maybe I’m just annoying and rigid, but it drives me nuts that these two full sisters don’t have the same last name!)

    Another factor is that my only sibling, my brother, won’t be having any kids, so I felt like if I couldn’t pass down my family name I could at least hold onto it for a while, you know? People in my family actually seemed shocked that I DID change my name, since they all had me pegged as some sort of hardcore feminist, which, uh, probably says more about them than it does about me, since I’m not really hardcore ANYTHING to anyone who lives outside of Utah. Whatever. But along those lines, what I regret more is not giving either of my sons my maiden name as a middle name. That’s something I really would have loved, but I didn’t want to force if my husband wasn’t crazy about it, which he wasn’t, unfortunately. Regrets!

  36. mutantreptile says

    It’s interesting that most of the comments here talk about this being a feminist issue when to me it’s always been a cultural issue. Most women in Latin America don’t take their husband’s last name, and if they do, they just add it after their maiden name: if Maria Cruz marries José Pérez, she would become Maria Cruz de Pérez. This is an extremely old tradition that became unfashionable when Latin America broke their ties with Spain. Nowadays, everyone, male and female keeps their names, plus they use their father’s and mother’s last names without any hyphenation. To take your husband’s last name is considered offensive to your family, even, because it’s like you’re denying where you came from.

    I think it’s weird that anyone should go through this dilemma when getting married. Isn’t marriage hard enough already without having to worry about your identity as well? I suppose those are my cultural beliefs talking, but they make sense to me.

    Whatever your reasons are, feminist, cultural, or traditional, I would like to think that everyone should have a right to choose their own names. Whatever makes you feel comfortable. It’s your identity, so go with what you identify as yourself.

    A friend of mine had to legally change her name back to her own after her divorce. Upset with having to waste time in court and $300, she decided she might as well change her middle name to AWESOME. So she did.

  37. says

    As you can see, I have a ridiculously long name. I couldn’t give up my maiden name, and I wasn’t content to make it my middle name either. I actually wrote a post about this on my blog back on our anniversary — a non-traditional wedding anniversary post. Hubby and I have been together for almost 19 years now. Everyone calls me Nay. Or Nay-Nay. And strangers call me Mrs. Jacobson, which is fine. My son has my husband’s name, which is fine be me. Bottom line, all this stuff is personal. We are fortunate to be able to make these choices today where women of the past did not have the ability to do so. That is the beauty of the feminist movement: We have the choice.

  38. says

    Holy comments, batman! And I read every single one.

    I changed my name, because I was a Jones and does the world really need that many Joneses in the world? I kept my middle name which has meaning to me (it’s my mom’s). My husband’s name is easy to mispronounce and hard to spell, but I love it. I also love that if ever I run into someone with my last name, it’s almost definite that they are relat to my husband’s family.

    I felt none of the feminist angst associated w asking my husband’s name – my husband and my children and I are all one family, and we all have the same last name. I do not answer to Mrs. C B though.

  39. says

    “And I have always felt a little bit ick about it.”


    I took my husband’s last name, stupid feud and all. At the time, I really, really wanted to. Now? It’s not that I don’t like being part of the family that Kevin Costner made look awesome. It’s just… I’m also my maiden name. It’s very… odd… to automatically be identified as part of a feud instead of part of who I am deep in my bloodline.

    It’s all just odd. A little bit ick. But it’s the way it is now. And here we are.

  40. says

    I got married just before I turned 20, and it honestly never occurred to me not change my name. (I also identify with what Ashley said re: the wedding not really being about my choices. I just kinda… went along with everything because I was too young to know better.)

    Getting married when and to whom I did was probably the best decision I ever made, but a decade later I still think about the name thing sometimes. It surprised me after I got married how much I missed my old name, and I was wistful about it.

    There are a number of reasons that it makes sense for my little family to have my husband’s last name, including that he’s the only male Mosher in his generation (and so were his father and grandfather). Whereas there are many many Thomases, and it would’ve been silly (and almost like a slap in the face to his family) for him and our children to have my name.

    But it was really important to me that my family share a name, I think what I wish I’d done was drop my middle name and then use three names as often as I could. I love Arwen Elizabeth, but being Arwen Thomas Mosher would feel more like me, y’know? It’s weird that the name on my Facebook profile, of all things, is the one I most identify with. But I’ve been Arwen Elizabeth Mosher for 10 years now and I really think it’d be too much hassle to change. Although I sort I want to now that I’m filled with weepy ennui-type feelings for what might have been.

    (Ha. Dramatic much?)

    Incidentally, I agree that – on an individual basis, and certainly in situations like yours, Shalini – this is not so much a feminist issue for any woman who really does have a choice about it. The conventions have changed, in our demographic at least, enough that I think we can make the decisions for ourselves without worrying that we’re letting down the cause, y’know? It’s about having the choice more than about whatever particular solution you pick.

    And I also agree with Caitlin that there is no good one.

  41. says

    Living in the Deep South, we made a weirdo decision and hypenated the whole family. He took my name, I took his. The kids all have the hyphenated Last-Name. I had a child from a previous relationship and wasn’t willing to negate the years I spent being a single mom or the years I spent having MY NAME. But I wanted our family to have the same last name, like we all belonged to one another. So, this is what we did. Other than the kids complaining it is too long when they have to learn to write in Kindergarten, it has really been fine.

    And we bullied the driver’s license and social security people into changing my husband’s name because we went together to do it. If they were going to change mine, they were going to change his. Regardless of what is in our britches.

  42. says

    You know what’s funny – my mom didn’t change her last name. Because in Chinese, you don’t change your name when you get married and she didn’t see why she had to change her English name when her Chinese name would stay the same. Who knew she was so modern? And it was never an issue growing up

  43. says

    I changed my name. We never really discussed it–one day while we were engaged, I said, “I want to change my last name,” and Mr. Sandwich said, “Okay.” Seriously, he was that nonchalant about it. Later he said it really meant a lot to him, and that he was just not expecting it to come up right then.

    While I like the symbolism of having the same name, though, the real reason I did it was for the practicality. I have friends who didn’t change their names, and when they had kids, they had to constantly explain to doctors, day cares, etc. that, yes, they were the mother of that child. Which is ridiculous in this day and age, if you ask me. But I figured it would be easier if we all had the same name.

    But, you know, I don’t much care what other people do. I just want to know what their name is, so I can call them by it.

  44. says

    I wrote a really long, detailed response that got eaten by the Internet! So, for now: a numbered list.

    1) I kept my name upon marriage. Never in my life did I believe that I would change my name. I don’t know why this is, since my mom and dad and brother and I all share a last name, but there it is.

    2) I have a hypothesis that people in mixed-cultural/mixed-race marriages have a higher incidence of women keeping their last names than the general population. I would like to commision and young bright sociology or anthropology to study this and report back, please.

    3) My hypothesis comes from my own belief that my name absolutely puts important context into myself as a person. Runa Husband’sWeirdPolishName would be, and is, WRONG. It just is. I am Runa MuslimBengaliLastName.

    3a) Also — my MuslimBengaliLastName is my father’s, but it’s not my paternal grandfather’s — my grandparents actually had completely different last names than their children. This is because the concept of “family name” in our part of Bengal doesn’t really exist, or at least is a lot more fluid than in Western society. Therefore, I also don’t really associate a shared last name with the concept of shared nuclear family.

    4) Re: children. My son has my husband’s last name. If we are blessed with daughters, my husband would like for them to have my last name. This is because my husband is a geneticist, and it makes a weird kind of sense to him that the male parent’s last name follows the Y chromosome, and the female parent’s last name follows the mitochondrial DNA. At the very least, it is no less arbitrary than the current “traditional” system. I used to think he was completely bonkers with this thought, but you know what? Over time, I’m kind of coming around to it.

    5) Believe it or not — aside from the interracial/intercultural/interreligious marriage, my husband and I are totally lame, mainstream, downright conservative people. We don’t make waves just to make them. But on this issue of names — we find the tradition to be SO ARBITRARY that we actually do hate it, a little bit, and thus have taken a weirdly vocal (if asked — we’re not standing on soapboxes on the middle of the street or anything) stance.

    6) I don’t believe that your feminist card should be taken away from you if you, a woman, have opted to change your name in your marriage. However, I do believe if you get married and change your name without even considering alternative options — feminism has failed you, and that makes me sad.

    Oh look, I kept it novel length anyway. Whee!

    • Lenna says

      Single data point!

      My mom is of Chinese descent and my dad is of Swedish descent. She did First GenericMaiden SwedishMarried. People expect her to be tall and blonde, which has led to a lot of amusing but awkward anecdotes.

  45. says

    Yes, I changed my name, it never occurred to me not to? I don’t regret changing it, I’m happy to have take. My Husbands name.

  46. Kathy says

    I did not take my husband’s last name and our kids have my last name as well. My husband has 3 brothers and I have none so it felt like a way for my name to be carried on in a way that it otherwise wouldn’t be. And yes, it felt like our own little stand against patriarchy as well and I do feel proud of it. I do understand that it was my father’s last name but it was mine also, for my whole life even. Once I read an essay that said that if every time a person of color and a white person formed a business together, the business always took the name of the while person then that would be blatently unfair and many would want to change that tradition. It stuck with me and I wanted to keep my name from quite a young age. I’m very glad that my desires weren’t tested by not liking my name and liking his more, that would have made my decision more difficult but we both had kind of average last names. There have been zero problems and not many comments or questions about it either.

  47. says

    I didn’t take my husband’s name for the very sophisticated reason that I didn’t like the way it sounded with my first name. I sometimes regret that I don’t have the same last name as my kids, but overall I don’t care much and it doesn’t come up much. I actually sometimes use his last name for, say, mailings from internet strangers and stuff because my name is Google-unique, while his last name is Google-common.

  48. says

    I think the main objective of feminism is for freedom and choice, not for everyone choose the same thing or the thing dictated by society or expectations, just the thing you as an individual want. If someone happens to want something supported by society, it doesn’t mean they’re not supporting women.

    When I was married, I did not change my name but that was because I felt like I had a strong identity already established. If I were to get married again, I may change it, I don’t know. I’m not against changing it. So it would depend on how I felt at the time. A choice is only wrong if it’s wrong for you, not wrong for society or feminists or any other group.

  49. Erica says

    We got married 5 years ago when we lived in Quebec. There, the government will not approve a legal name change just to take a married name, so I wasn’t really “allowed.” I would’ve loved to take his name (or have him take mine!) – I really like the idea of being The ____ Family. Once we moved out of Quebec I considered applying for a name change, but my husband feels like so much time has passed now that it’d be weird and random. It’s still on the table, though, particularly if we have kids.

    • says

      In the other provinces, you can just ‘assume’ your husband’s name and get it on your driver’s license, etc. All you need is a marriage license. It’s the most common way, I think. I was born in QC and if I’d wanted to change my name legally, it would have been EXPENSIVE.

  50. says

    I changed my name because I am lazy and it seemed easier for me + husband + kids to have the same name. I honestly have not given it much thought since.

  51. Anagha says

    I changed my last name to my husband’s because a) I knew it would cause a rift with his family if I didn’t b) we shared exactly the same initials, so it wasn’t a huge transition c) his last name is actually beautifully and matched my first name perfectly d) he asked nicely.

    That said, I do have some problems with it. My last name instantly identified me as Maharashtrian-Konkani, which I’m pretty darn proud of being. My new last name is actually an Indian first name and makes us seem South Indian, even though my husband is North Indian (Bihari). Basically it’s the result of an administrative mistake, and my husband’s family does not have the same last name as any other members of their family (it should be the more generic Sharma but it’s not). This, for me, is the weirdest part of their last name. It’s an Ellis island name, whereas my maiden name was thousands of years old and told any new acquaintance a mini-history of my family.

    I think for me the shock factor of name switching at 33 was made worse by the fact that we got legally married before our religious wedding in India, so I had to go ahead and do my Social Security, Driver’s License and Passport in about a week to get my papers filed in time to get a visa for the Indian wedding. So there was no slow movement into “Anagha NewLast,” it happened practically overnight.

  52. says

    Oh man, I struggled with this SO MUCH. I didn’t want to change my last name; I had a pretty last name, and my husband’s is…so-so. Plus, I didn’t want to for all the reasons you mentioned – my husband doesn’t own me, I didn’t magically become Italian when we got married, so it doesn’t really fit with me. But part of me knew deep down he would be hurt if I didn’t take his name (you know, with Italians being so non-patriarchal and forward-thinking feminists, lol). So at the last minute, like, the SECOND I signed the marriage license, I moved my maiden name to my middle name and took his name, all without asking him Turns out? He was pretty mad. He thought I was being disloyal to him, like I didn’t truly want to be married to him . He’s not at all sexist, honestly, but he IS traditional about family and his heritage. I mean, c’mon, this is a man who learned to make his Nona’s spaghetti and meatballs FROM SCRATCH. At least he doesn’t make me do it.
    ANYHOW, now I use my maiden name as my pen name. It feels like a super-hero identity, which I am okay with. Sometimes that feels mostly like my real-self, anyway.

  53. says

    I hyphenated, for very practical reasons:

    - I am an only child and we travel internationally with my parents all the time. It has been very helpful on many occasions to have someone in the group with BOTH last names.
    - I wanted to have the same last name as my kids. They have their father’s last name, but their 2nd middle name is my maiden name.

    My hyphenated last name is SUPER LONG, so I used my maiden name at work. Then, when I came back from parental leave, they activated…my full legal name. So that’s what I am using now. People ask “oh, when did you get married?” Um…8.5 years ago… :)

  54. says

    I did change my name to his, and I’ve never regretted it for a few reasons. (Though, I do not think this is a one-size-fits-all type situation by any means.)

    I sort of felt like it was “us against the world” for awhile in our youths. And it was our team, and we were together and one last name seemed right. I love my family, and family is really important to me, but the local tradition is to keep your family name as a middle name and take his last name. I know that’s not a standard thing, but I never felt like I was “dropping” my family name, I felt like I was adding a new part to my life. I didn’t see any need to hyphenate, because it’s there, legally, as my second middle name. (Michelle is my middle name, I hate my first name, I wanted to drop it when I added his last name, but since it’s my “legal identity” or something, I couldn’t just drop my first name without the lawyer and name change process and lame. So, I have 4 names.)

    He is the last male descendant of his grandfather’s family line, so to us, it made sense to keep that going. I don’t know if I would have felt differently if there weren’t any more family members to carry on my family name.

    I also wanted to share the same name with any children we had, as one big unit together. I did consider that taking his name was part of a sexist patriarchy, but our personal relationship wasn’t like that at all, so I didn’t think it mattered what it looked like to someone else.

  55. grammy says

    I had to make that decision twice. The first I did as a matter of course–keeping my maiden name as my middle name. That was easy. I felt like that made us “one”. (although I liked my “simple” maiden name better than that confusing last name you are using!)
    The second time was harder because I had 3 children with my same last name, but I continued to feel that it made us a unit so I did. I still am proud of my maiden name and still like it…after all, I feel one with Simon Peter and Simon the Cyreanian (sp?) AND Simon the Pieman!
    hugs, Grammy

  56. says

    I did not change my last name when i married. I know my husband would want me too, but its not negotiable.
    MY high school, bachelors, masters diplomas are all with my maiden name and besides in SPANISH it not only becomes your last name but it is preceded by “DE” which practically claims ownership – it means belonging to.
    For example, for you it would be Shalini DE HUSBAND’s LAST NAME- i don’t think i could sleep.

  57. Amanda says

    Hi there! First, I love your blog–always makes me smile. :) Second, in relation to changing my last name, I had qualms at first about changing it mostly because of my profession. I got married shortly after getting my PhD in chemistry and all my publications were under my maiden name. Most lady scientists tend to change their last names only if they got married BEFORE the were being published/starting their career. Typically they keep their maiden name or hyphenate if it’s after. I was considering hyphenating, but then decided not to pursue a faculty career so publications and making a name for myself were not crucial. I do, however, have a job at a university which is more along the lines of customer service and I meet new people all the time who will refer to me as Dr. LastName. My maiden name was difficult to pronounce and my husband’s last name is ridiculously easy/normal, so it has been a good move for me in that respect. I haven’t had any publications since, but if I do, I’ve decided to throw in a technically-not-my-legal-last-name hyphen if and when that happens. Plus, my last name is now at the end of the alphabet, which I never perceived as a glorious thing until I had to stand in alphabetical lines based on last names and the back of the alphabet is always short. Hooray!

  58. Jenine says

    I was 30 when I got married and I kept my uncommon last name instead of taking my husband’s fairly common last name. I didn’t see why I needed to go through that hassle. On the advice of an elementary school teacher friend we gave our kids hyphenated last names so that it’s obvious we’re both related to them. (Mine’s first because a. it sounds better, b. alphabetical order and c. because it was my uterus.) I though it was far easier changing the name of the unborn than changing my name as an adult. I’ve told the kids that once they are of legal age they are welcome to change their last name if the hyphen is too much trouble. I won’t be bothered if they choose their dad’s last name at that point.

  59. says

    I took his because it was easier and I moved up in the alphabet. Mine became my middle name, and he took it as a middle name, too (though not legally, but when he publishes he uses it as a second middle initial). Our kids have it as a second middle name, too, so we all have second middle names that are the same (though his hasn’t been made legal yet). I just asked my 2 year old “are you a princess?” and she answered, “No! I’m Susie Antoinette Smith Jones!” (Except not that, because her name’s way better.) The only time I regret it is when dealing with taxes and voting and stuff, because when other bureaucrats are involved, you never know how they wrote it down and it becomes a guessing game as to where my name is located in the book. (When we moved, they changed it in the voting books, so I’m listed as a hyphen, even though I’ve never hyphened. Sigh.)

  60. says

    I’ve been married nearly 17 years, and I took his because it was easier and I moved up in the alphabet. Mine became my middle name, and he took it as a middle name, too (though not legally, but when he publishes he uses it as a second middle initial). Our kids have it as a second middle name, too, so we all have second middle names that are the same (though his hasn’t been made legal yet for him). I just asked my 2 year old “are you a princess?” and she answered, “No! I’m Susie Antoinette Smith Jones!” (Except not that, because her name’s way better.) The only time I regret it is when dealing with taxes and voting and stuff, because when other bureaucrats are involved, you never know how they wrote it down and it becomes a guessing game as to where my name is located in the book. (When we moved, they changed it in the voting books, so I’m listed as a hyphen, even though I’ve never hyphened. Sigh.) When our kids have kids, they can decide for themselves, but we like that we all share both names, though it’s kept mostly simple for us with one last name.

  61. Gillian says

    I just want to say that I don’t believe it ‘sexist’ or ‘un-feminist’ to change your last name for a guy. It’s tradition. It shows commitment not in a ‘my husband owns me’ sort of way, but a ‘we’re coming together as one’ sort of way.


    • Allie says

      Yes and No. If this thread has shown anything – it’s that it tends to go one direction. A large number of women don’t think it’s a big deal to change their names and a large number of men expect women to change their names. That is a prime example of engrained sexism. Add to it the institutional sexism that makes it easy/cheap for a woman to change her name when getting married and yet difficult/expensive for men to change their names when getting married and that’s where the real issue is. I firmly believe that feminism’s goal to to give us all an equal choice regarding what is best for us as individuals — but clearly there is still work to do. And I don’t mean that every woman should keep her maiden name or every man should take his wife’s name or anything like that. But we should keep having the conversations and keep thinking about what it means or doesn’t mean to us. And we should try to pass on to the next generation that it’s ok for women to change their name or not (should not be expected!) and that it’s also ok for a man to change is name or not (should not be weirdest thing eva!). And clearly the laws that keep sexism de jure need to go!

    • says

      “It’s tradition. It shows commitment not in a ‘my husband owns me’ sort of way, but a ‘we’re coming together as one’ sort of way.”

      But that’s exactly the point. It IS a tradition, and that tradition is rooted in “my father owned me, now my husband owns” sort of way. For some people, that’s enough to turn them off changing their name. And/or there are also a whole host of other reasons not to change one’s name. For some other people, the history doesn’t matter to them enough to change their name. And/or there are also a whole host of other reasons TO change their name.

      If changing YOUR name represents to YOU simply coming together as a commitment, then great! But for other people there are other things to weigh, including the history of the tradition.

  62. says

    I used to think I might keep my maiden name. I liked it. I balked at “having” to change my name. But, when I got married I didn’t think twice about changing my name and was surprised by how quickly my new name felt like my name. I thought it wouldn’t feel like “me”, but it did. I like that I have the same last name as my (new) family.