Why Being an Immigrant Makes a Name Change Complicated


My decision is mine alone

by Irina Gonzalez

2017-04-19_0001

For the first time in my adult life, (and after fifteen grueling years of dating all the wrong people), I am in a great, stable relationship with the wonderful man I plan to marry someday. And while I am thrilled to tie my life forever to his, there’s one thing I will definitely not be doing: changing my last name to his.

I’ve had many conversations with married friends—both those who have changed their names and those who haven’t—and (at least in my circle of friends) I’ve found that the main reason for changing your name seems to be wanting to create a unified family unit (say, “The Smith Family”) and the main reason for not changing your name is a strong belief in feminist ideals and wanting to keep your own identity.

For me, keeping my own last name boils down to one thing: I’m an immigrant.

what’s in a name? sometimes… a whole lot

My family, a blend of Cuban and Russian, came to the United States of America when I was only eight years old. We quickly settled in Florida, and I grew up constantly bridging the gap between being an immigrant and being an American. Although I consider myself quite integrated into American culture (no accent when I speak, even), I never forget where I came from. And my name–a perfect combination of my heritage–is a symbol of that. Having my Russian grandmother’s first name and my Cuban father’s last name (or part of it, anyway, since it was chopped up from its original González de la Barrera when we crossed the border and filled out our political asylum paperwork) is a source of pride and a constant reminder of who I am and where I come from.

Growing up as an immigrant wasn’t easy. As a young kid thrust in a new environment, it took a lot to learn what being an American meant. I was constantly faced with the fact that I was an outsider and, eventually, even came to hate my name for a period of time. I hated the fact that I could never find “Irina” on any souvenir mugs or key chains whenever we traveled, and I hated that “Gonzalez” constantly gave away that I was different than everyone else.

But eventually, I started to embrace my own differences. I came out as bisexual, I accepted my J.Lo booty (another source of embarrassment when I was younger) and I learned what it meant to be Latina. Embracing my differences meant acknowledging every part of me that made me who I am: half-Russian, half-Cuban, and all-American. Seeing my name in my U.S. passport after my parents and I became citizens was the ultimate badge of honor.

Now that I am planning to get married, however, how can I let all of that pride go?

MY FAMILY HISTORY + HIS FAMILY HISTORY = ?

I love my future husband’s family and his family name. It’s every bit a part of who he is in the same way that my family name is a part of who I am. But that’s precisely the point: How could I ask him to give up who he is, and how could he ask me to give up who I am?

I don’t feel that it’s necessary for me to give up my immigrant status after I have a ring on my finger. I want us to be a blended family who embraces our differences as well as our similarities. Will I one day regret not filling out all of the extensive paperwork, including my citizenship papers, to change my name? I am sure that I will continue to come across people who think I should have changed my name, and people who support my decision not to.

In the meantime, I am going to continue to celebrate who I am: a woman in love, an immigrant, a proud U.S. citizen, a bisexual Latina, and someone fiercely proud of where she came from. As my naturalization certificate states, my name is Irina Gonzalez, and it will remain that way even after I say the words “I do.”

Irina Gonzalez

Irina Gonzalez is a freelance writer and editor, focusing primarily on all things food, healthy living, relationships, and cultural identity. When she’s not writing her memoir about growing up Russian and Cuban or posting #healthylatinfood photos on Instagram, you can find her work on IrinaGonzalez.com.

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  • savannnah

    I love seeing this post on apw because I feel like the concept of identity, not just as an independent woman but also in all the ways first and last names signify ethnicity and where someone comes from, is really lacking in many writings about the name change question. I also feel like it should be included in naming of children conversations as well. My fiance has an incredibly intense Irish last name and it was just never going to fit into my identity as a Jewish American- and our kids will probably have more Jewish-ish first names if we go with his last name, much like the authors Russian- Cuban name.

    • Mjh

      Completely agree with you on the importance of considering whether or not/how cultural implications of names are important when deciding what to do with names for kids and with marriage.

    • Her Lindsayship

      I never really thought about this, but I’m so glad you’ve brought it up. I’m not taking my fiancé’s German last name, but he seems to assume that our kids would take it. (We don’t even know if we want kids, so this could be a moot point, but still worth discussing while we’re unsure.) But the other thing is, he has also stated that our kids would need to have first names his German family can easily pronounce. I’ve always agreed because I think German names sound cool. But when I really think about it, our kids would most likely grow up in the U.S. and be closer to their American family. Shouldn’t they also celebrate that part of their identity? I think it seems more important to emphasize their German identity *because* we’ll be living in the U.S. and they won’t have as much exposure to their heritage. But I don’t want that to erase my half of the equation. Interesting.

      • Amy March

        What’s more “American” than a name that comes from somewhere else? Unless you’re talking about honoring Native heritage nearly all of our names have foreign roots, and there are lots of German names that are common here.

        • Her Lindsayship

          Fair point. His last name is extremely uncommon in the U.S. so it seems like a more immediate connection, but there are plenty of German first names that also sound English. I think it just raised my concern because I don’t want our reasoning behind names to be rooted in the patriarchy. But as long as we’re approaching it thoughtfully, I guess I don’t need to be that worried.

        • savannnah

          To this effect, I am trying to explain to my fiance that I don’t need super Jewish names for our kids but just not ‘not Jewish’ names. (think something like Faigel, Faye, and Francis) There are many Americanized version of ethnic names to chose from that could nod to ethnicity or heritage without causing pronunciation problems in either the US or Germany.

          • Anon

            We had a similar approach to naming our son. We opted to not choose a Nigerian First or Middle, as our son is 3/4 White and culturally Canadian (and has a Nigerian surname), but we were very uncomfortable choosing something after any of my relatives who all have super British names. Didn’t want to name him for the colonizer… ☺️

      • stephanie

        Our son has a Hawaiian middle name to kind of solve this dilemma—I love Hawaiian names in general, but my husband and I both felt really strongly that giving our mostly white kid (my family has been in the States for ages but has European origins in Poland, Italy, and Scotland, my husband’s dad’s family is Hawaiian/Chinese/Portugese, but his mom’s family origins are in England and Scotland before the US) a Hawaiian name was not the best path to take. His family has a tradition of giving babies Hawaiian middle names (and the families who are more ethnically and culturually Hawaiian/Pacific Islander tend to go with first & middle names) anyway, so it was a great way for us to marry the multitude of cultures and experiences into a name. I’m not sure if a German middle name is a solution for you or not (the German family could even call the kids by that name when you or they visit? Some of the Hawaiian family refers to our son by his middle name, and we often use a shortened version of the middle name as a nickname), but it might be one idea!

      • Meg Keene

        I just want to note that it makes me CRAZZYYYYYY when men assume the kids will have their last name. There were a whole lot of tears in our house (and my husband almost never cries) over that fight, but tears or no, the patriarchy wasn’t going to win that round under my roof. It’s not everyone’s fight, but it’s for sure mine.

        • Her Lindsayship

          Yes, as someone else noted above, they assume it so hard they don’t even realize it’s rooted in the patriarchy when it SO OBVIOUSLY IS. My fiancé is more feminist than any other guy I’ve dated, but it’s clear to me he hasn’t had enough of his assumptions challenged. It doesn’t necessarily mean any kids should *automatically* get my name either, but it at least needs to be a discussion and not just a default.

          • Anna

            Although I also often want to tell my fiance that yes, shit SHOULD *automatically* go against default patriarchal tradition sometimes without further discussion, because for fuck’s sake, it’s been going along with said tradition without further discussion for how long?

            But more realistically, at the very least, that discussion needs to take place under the assumption that every argument being made in favor of sticking to the default patriarchal tradition should be VERY CAREFULLY inspected for patriarchal bullshit reasoning. Because generally, if you’re the privileged one in the scenario, your arguments for why you should get to uphold your privilege are not as well thought through as you think they are.

            [For context: I told fiance that I’d be willing to change any part of my name that he’d make the equivalent change in his own name and proposed as one option that we each take each other’s last name as a second middle name; he threw a hissy fit about how important his name is to him; I said great, sounds like neither of us is changing our name; he had a sad that I wasn’t going to take his name; eventually he came around and now is pretty comfortable with the idea that we’re both keeping our names, but it took a lot of OKAY DUDE BUT YOU JUST ASSUMED THAT WOULD BE HOW IT WORKS BECAUSE PATRIARCHAL BULLSHIT – and then breaking that down in specifics – to get there. As far as children, they’ll have his last name because 1. he cares about his last name “continuing” or some bullshit like that, and more importantly 2. I want him to be the primary caregiver for our children and them having my last name would make that certainly symbolically harder and at least occasionally logistically harder.]

          • Eve

            I just want to say that logistically, as long as your husband’s name is on all the forms, it doesn’t matter a bit what his last name is. Don’t be like the one family I experienced while working at a summer camp where the mom, filling out forms, neglected to put dad’s name on there as someone allowed to pick up his child. It didn’t matter if the dad’s name matched the kid’s at all; when he came to pick up the kid we legally couldn’t allow him to take his child until we called his wife and got permission.

          • Anna

            I mean, sure (and he’ll be the one filling out that form), but I can easily imagine other cases where it will make it easier for people who are already mind-boggled at the idea of a father being the primary parent to accept that yes, he is supposed to be caring for these children, if they have his last name rather than mine. I care a lot more about removing any possible obstacle to him doing >50% of the parenting than I care about our children having my last name. His last name sounds perfectly nice, is somewhat less generic than mine, and I already love one person who has that name; also, my identity isn’t tied up in my children’s names in anything resembling the way it is in my own name.

          • BSM

            Exactly. It’s the *automatic* part that needs to be challenged. You can both be feminists and have a feminist partnership and come to the decision that kids get dad’s last name, but it should be a discussion, not an assumption.

        • Stars

          A lot can be attributed to how men have been raised. They’ve never been presented with the challenging of having to think about their names being different than what they were born with. But heck, you want a fun afternoon activity? Use their name casually in a sentence, paired with your surname.

          Jane Smith: “Hey John, I can’t wait until you’re Mr. Smith! And our kids will be Smiths.”

          John Doe: “Wait… what?”

          Jane Smith: “… what?”

          • Her Lindsayship

            I occasionally get mail addressed to “Mr. Lindsay MyLast” and I thoroughly enjoy tossing that over to my fiancé.

    • rg223

      Yeah, I felt this hard with my son – he took my last name, has a Greek/Hebrew roots first name, and though he has an Asian middle name, I really worried about my husband’s background being erased. But I left the name choice up to my husband, and he wasn’t as concerned as I was about that.

    • Meg Keene

      Why not give them your last name? Or both last names? My husband is Jewish and has a pretty rare Jewish last name. I converted and our kids are Jewish. Their firsts and middle are one Jewish and one Wasp each, and then we hyphenated with my name last. My name is last for a lot of reasons, mostly feminist. But given that our whole family is now Jewish, keeping the WASP part of their heritage obvious also mattered.

      • savannnah

        We are absolutely still working it all out- my fiance is not converting and our kids will be Jewish so I feel like it’s all a balancing act honoring our backgrounds. Hyphenating is off the table for us personally because we both feel like its just punting on the situation for the next generation to figure out, so it will be either hislastname mylastname as middle and last or vice versa. My mother last name is my middle name so I didn’t grow up with any expectation of a family unit but my fiance did- though he is very supportive on me keeping my name. My fiance is also a fourth of his name and we won’t be following with a fifth per Jewish tradition which has caused major issues with my inlaws so we are looking for other compromises with each other.

        • Anna

          Oof, yeah. My fiance and his dad have the same middle name, which is also his grandfather’s first name (grandfather is still living). Fiance in this case was glad to have Jewish tradition as an excuse to not give a hypothetical future male child of ours that same middle name, but we expect to get some flak on that from his grandfather, who seems to really like the idea of his name continuing this way. (If his grandfather is no longer alive when we have children, the point is pretty much moot from both sides, but we still won’t give our child that middle name because meh.)

          • Lisa

            I’m really curious about this. Is there a Jewish tradition where you can’t name your child for another person?

          • savannnah

            You can name a child for a person who has died to honor that person- but naming a child for someone who is still alive is like wishing death upon the older person. That is the basic idea at least. You can also choose to honor a person just by matching the first letter of their name, like Blanche and Bella.

          • Lisa

            Interesting! I had never heard of this before. Thank you for sharing.

          • Anna

            My understanding is that even a non-identical name in honor of a living person is considered at best sketchy. Naming children for family members who are no longer alive is also a very traditional honor. We plan to give a hypothetical future daughter my grandmother’s name as a middle name, for example.

            Related: one of my parents’ close friends from grad school (who became my “godmother”, or some secular variant of that kind of relationship) – let’s call her Alice – and her roommate – let’s call her Beth – were fighting over whether they wanted my parents to name me Alice Beth or Beth Alice, until my parents explained that they wouldn’t be doing either of those since they actually quite liked both of them alive :-)

          • savannnah

            Agreed- and to clarify yes, Blanche would have to have passed for the scenario above.

          • Guest

            I may or may not have said no to going out with guys who had the same name as either of my grandfathers because I feel very strongly about being able to name a future son after my grandfathers. (Have totally done this.) The same with my grandmother, but I haven’t quite worked out how to make sure none of the women in his family share her name before even going out!

          • Liz

            +1 on all the answers explaining the tradition below, but I also like to think it’s out of Jewish pragmatism – if you can’t name a kid after a living person, no living relative can get crabby that you didn’t name the kid after them. :)

          • Anna

            Heh, something to be said for that. I actually have no idea where the tradition comes from (I don’t think it’s biblical, could be Talmudic or just cultural like most of the “evil eye” stuff?).

          • Liz

            I don’t know for sure, but you must be right!

    • Totch

      Agreed about naming children. For my husband keeping his Chinese surname and having kids with Chinese names as middle names is important, and luckily what matters most to me is naming kids after specific family members. That means I get the kid’s​ first name and he gets their middle and last name. I think that math balances.

      To be honest, my husband isn’t really a huge fan of the arrangement (aka my family’s German/Polish names). But he started it by declaring that 2/3 of a kid’s name needed to come from his background, so he can suck it.

    • idkmybffjill

      Love that compromise of first & last.

  • theteenygirl

    I love this. Growing up I was embarrassed by my last name because it’s the same as a disease… but now that I have the opportunity to change it I don’t want to! Everyone used to say, “It’s okay, when you get married you can upgrade to your husband’s name!” but ultimately I’m keeping my last name. In some ways it’s because I’ve grown to like it, and it’s part of my identity but mostly.. to be honest.. it just seems like a HUGE HASSLE to change. It’s probably a bad reason to not change your last name, but ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    • Her Lindsayship

      I know what you mean – because of social norms, it seems like you have to have a really deep, meaningful connection to your last name as a justification of not changing it. But in reality, you don’t need a reason to not do something! If you don’t feel by any reason compelled to do it, don’t do it! I’m keeping my last name even though it was a source of pun teasing when I was a kid, and came from a grandfather I never knew and a culture I’m not particularly rooted in. The thing is, it’s *mine*.

      • Kaitlyn

        Exactly! When people ask why I’m not changing my name, I just say “I don’t want to” and they are always surprised by the simplicity of my answer haha

        • theteenygirl

          I should start saying “I don’t want to!” I just keep thinking I need a reason and then it becomes word vomit of excuses…

        • Antonia

          Yes! Ironically, this is also, to me, the only legit reason for changing one’s name.

        • SS Express

          That’s my reason too! I don’t know if people really get it though – sometimes they keep pressing like they just genuinely don’t understand that a married woman can have the same surname her entire life without a huge compelling reason. Even though men do it all the time.

        • Would you have a simple reply for “how does your husband feel about it”? Asking for a friend.

          • Kaitlyn

            “He supports me”. Surprisingly, I get asked more what my fiancé’ family thinks about it rather than him. My fiancé has said it’s not his name so I get to choose what I want to do with it, which would also work (if I felt like having a discussion on it).

          • That sounds much simpler then my uncontrollable urge to scream “I WOULDN’T MARRY SOMEONE THAT DOESN’T SUPPORT ME” which says more about me than the asker.

          • Lisa

            I had a co-worker at LastJob who always used to say that her husband would have killed her/wouldn’t have married her if she didn’t change her name. I don’t think he’s prone to violence so clearly she meant it as a joke, but I wouldn’t want to marry someone who couldn’t (even begrudgingly as my husband was at first) support my choices around part of my autonomy.

          • Kaitlyn

            Hey, sometimes you gotta let it out haha My greatest frustration is that my FRIENDS keep forgetting that I’m not changing my name so I get mail address to “Future Mrs. His Last Name” and comments like, “Soon you’ll be Mrs. His Last Name” when I came to decision pretty early on in our relationship so they DEFINITELY know. I definitely get exasperated with them haha

      • S

        This is actually really hard for me contemplating having kids. It feels like there’s all these social norms against me, making me feel that because I don’t have a good enough on paper reason, it’s unfair that our kids will have my surname. I have brothers with my surname with sons, so my name has already been “passed down”. He only has a sister, who is fairly traditional, so their name on their immediate family tree will most likely end with their generation. That’s a big thing to feel responsible for when you know it matters to other people. So it’s like: if we were making a pro/con list, his name would probably “win”. But we’re not doing that, and they’re getting my name. Which, great: but because of how the pro/con list would weigh up? I feel so selfish and guilty just thinking about breaking it to his parents.

        • PurplePeopleEater

          We actually have a sort of accidental workaround (that will probably only work for us). Our kid is multi-nationality. Like he has three passports. On his American birth certificate, for some reason, his last name is myname husbandsname. No hypen. Could have been a typo, but that’s also what’s on his social, and consequently on his American passport. His British passport has husbandsname as his last name, because that’s what we actually thought his last name was when we were applying for it. So just to complete the circle, when we applied for a Philippine passport, we put in my name as his last name. It’s a bit complicated, but it should make for a nice story as he grows up?

          • Amy March

            Or a total nightmare because his legal documents do not match? This seems designed to get him constantly flagged at border crossings.

          • SarahRose472

            Dual citizen here with some interestingly mismatched info in my documents (not name tho) — you generally don’t show any one authority multiple documents anyhow, so I can’t really see it being an issue. E.g. if you’re traveling to the US you always show your American passport, if you’re traveling to the Philippines you show your Philippine passport.

          • Amy March

            Until US border control asks to see your other passport, which happens to me frequently. It shouldn’t, but it does!

          • SarahRose472

            Interesting, I was just extrapolating from that it’s never happened to me, but I guess that’s why sample size of one is bad for drawing conclusions. In any case you’re right that it probably doesn’t make things simpler to have mismatched names or info ;)

          • PurplePeopleEater

            All his documents from one country match all the documents in that country. Like all his American documents have the same name. I live with this now (all American papers in my ex’s name, British papers in my new husband’s name and Philippine papers in my original name) BECAUSE of immigration (long story) so I know it’s do-able and actually not that hard. I feel like this happens a lot to the very exotic ethnic names, actually, especially if it’s a romanized name.

          • What name will you book his return flights under? It’ll work one way but not the other? I feel nervous just thinking about it.

          • PurplePeopleEater

            We mostly use his American passport, since we live here, so usually his American name. He can enter the UK and the Philippines (and most countries) without a visa with an American passport, so that’s not really a problem. And both the Philippines and the UK legally recognize dual/multiple citizenship, so again, that’s not a problem. (I’m dual and I will enter the Philippines with an American passport with no problems.) If we were travelling to Indonesia though, we’d probably book under with his Phil name and travel with a Phil passport for the visa-free entry.

            And yep, he has travelled – a lot! We travel internationally at least three times a year! He’s been to ten countries (and he’s only 3!) and we’ve never had problems!

          • So interesting! Thank you! I have dual Aus/UK and almost always get pulled up, as UK folk need a visa for Australia, so on the way back the airline needs to sight my Australian passport and see a name match. Love that your son is travelling the world and being whoever he wants to be :-)

        • ssha

          I feel you. But it’s kind of how you can’t explain why you love someone. It’s more, deeper than logic and pros and cons. I don’t know how to explain it either.

      • BSM

        The only reason dudes have is “it’s tradition” ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    • Eenie

      This was my husband’s reason for not changing – the paperwork. I will say I’ve had multiple times paper work has asked for any other names and I’m able to leave it blank!

  • Mjh

    Totally feel you on the cultural implications of names and how the name choice stakes are raised by living in a country where your culture(s) is(/are) not dominant. I’m glad you’re doing what works for you, and glad that you’re writing about it. Plus, you have a great name :)

    I’m from a culture in which the standard is for everyone to keep their birth names after marriage and for children to be given the father’s name. I grew up in the US, but my family maintained our culture hard enough that my friends have often teased that I grew up in a different country (we didn’t use the Gregorian calendar, etc). My mother’s last name being different from mine never caused me any grief or seemed strange to me. I didn’t associate having one name in the household with being a family unit. Like many kids from immigrant families, as I grew older, I started to feel that cultural identity was important to maintain. I know that different people have different views on the importance of names, but for me personally, I see them as hugely important. I see the names chosen for my self and family as our chosen outward identifiers to the world. I always knew I’d keep my birth name, but when I pondered names and culture, marriage, children and all that as an adult, I came to realize that I’d like my kids (if I were to have any) to have my last name. I figured my spouse would keep their birth name.

    As it turned out, I married someone who cares about sharing a last name with his spouse. He grew up with it as a standard in his home and those around him, and he felt like sharing a name was a part of being a family. Since my last name was important to me and a shared name wasn’t, and a shared name was important to him and his last name wasn’t particularly, he ended up taking my name when we got married and using his birth last name as his middle. Being so attached to my own last name, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that he actually *wanted* to make the change. But once I understood that he didn’t see it as a loss at all and simply saw it as a happy gain, I was glad that even though our feelings and needs on the name thing were so different from one another’s, they worked well together.

  • Amy March

    I just do not understand why people care about being able to be referred to as “The Smith Family.” How often does that usage even come up? An easy printable Christmas card option and household tchotchkes? Poorly addressed wedding invitations?

    • Sara

      I think its mostly the household tchochkes.

    • Kaitlyn

      Or why it can’t be hypenated. We refer to ourselves as The Smith-Johnsons and it works out just fine.

    • S

      I always felt a great deal of comfort about my surname. I feel a sense of fondness and belonging when I see other people with my surname. I didn’t feel like I was any less of a cousin to the cousins on the other side of my family, but there is that connection with the cousins who do have the same surname – it feels really nice, just like it feels really great in a way I can’t explain that my nephew and I share a surname. It made me feel good when my mother would roll her eyes jokingly when one of us did something particular and say, “Can you tell he’s a ‘Smith’?” It made us belong to each other. That is not to say I wouldn’t have felt like I “belonged” any less to either parent if they didn’t have my surname, nor am I an advocate for women changing their names – I won’t be, and if my partner didn’t change his like he currently intends to, whatever, it’s his name, I won’t lose any sleep over it. Just to say that I get why people care about sharing names with their families. Identity and names matter to people. They connect us to others, and to our families and histories. It’s literally the point of this post.

      • Amy March

        I get that there are reasons why people want to change their names. I just don’t get why, specifically, being able to refer to yourselves as “The Smith Family” is one of them.

        • S

          What I’m trying to get at is that when people say, “Oh, I changed my name because I wanted us all to be the Smiths” or “I want my fiancé to change her name so we can all be the Smiths” they’re NOT saying, “Oh I changed my name so that everyone can refer to us officially as The Smith Family”, they’re saying, “I want us all to have the same name.” Unless you’re not talking about that and are encountering a lot of people who are telling you how they want their future family to be addressed on all future correspondence?

          • Violet

            This describes me- I wanted to have the same name, period. How we’d be referred to never came into it (because I’m with Amy March, this comes up so rarely, I can’t see how it would be the main deciding factor). But because I could give a crap about my birth surname, it mattered to me more that we have the same name than me keeping the name I was born with. The name I was born with didn’t say much of anything about me, but our shared name says that we’re a team. Now, can couples be a team without having the same last name? Duh, yes, of course. Can a hetero couple arrive at a team name that is not the man’s, such as by hyphenating, both using the woman’s birth surname, or creating a new one? Again, duh, yes. At the end of the day, I changed my name because I wanted to share a name and was never fond of my birth name. Basically, because I wanted to. Same reasoning that I’d find just as valid if a woman DIDN’T want to change her name.

          • laddibugg

            ” but our shared name says that we’re a team.”

            OUR shared name say’s that WE’RE a team. Emphasis because that’s what’s important for you and your family. Like you said, everyone else is a team, but every couple has different things that make them feel joined, and that’s just one for you—and me too ;-).

          • Violet

            Exactly. There are so many different ways to show your team-iness other than names, that people who side-eye couples with different last names strike me as being intentionally obtuse.

          • idkmybffjill

            It’s so funny – I think I run in PARTICULARLY progressive circles because the only people who get side eye ever in my world have been the ones who’ve changed their last names. People are funny!

          • Totch

            I was thinking the same thing. I spend more time defending my choice to change my name than I would if I’d kept my name. And that feels like a good direction to head in.

          • idkmybffjill

            Totally agree. I’d much rather be on the end of “I did it because it was my choice”, then having to defend that it is a choice, and not just something that’s the “done” thing.

          • Antonia

            “The name I was born with didn’t say much of anything about me,” except the fact that IT’S YOUR NAME.

          • Anna

            Okay, but different people have a wide range in terms of how much their identity is associated with their birth names – from people who feel it’s central to who they are, to people who actively eschew their birth name (e.g., many trans people). I don’t think there’s a mandate that everyone must feel that their name says much about them.

          • rg223

            Yep. I did this really interesting activity once as part of diversity training. We all had to write our different “identities” on notecards (name, sex, age, straight/gay/etc, one of our own choosing, etc) and then slowly discard them, only keeping our most important identities. I kept my name down to the last two cards (the other was “writer” and that won out), but other people got rid of their names right away. VERY thought-provoking!

          • Violet

            Oh, I did that one once, too!!! (Name went right away, haha.) It’s amazing to see how differently people perceive different parts of themselves as being really core to their identity.

          • honeycomehome

            This is so interesting! I’d love to go through that exercise. What kinds of questions did they ask you when “discarding” identities? How is “important” defined?

            I always feel like “American” is such a strong identity of mine, not because I value it or am proud of it, but because I’ve done so much traveling and working across cultures that I’ve had to think about and explain it a lot. Whereas a chosen identity, like feminist, feels much more crucial to how I think of myself.

          • Anna

            Yeah, I’d also really like to hear how this was set up (or if you have a link to a description of this activity or something, that’d be great). It sounds like it would be useful to do on one’s own just to think about one’s own identity but also a really good way of illustrating in a group that not only do people have different components of their identity but also prioritize those differently.

          • rg223

            I haven’t had time to Google this – but yeah, SO useful to do in a very diverse group, especially as a bonding tool (we were training to be RAs for a high school summer program at our college and it definitely helped us support each other when we started the program and the kids were driving us crazy).

          • rg223

            So I realized it’s been TEN YEARS since I was in college doing this activity (insert crazy face emoji) but as I remember it, the moderator just said, “Take a card. Write your name. Write your sex on the next one” etc, for ten cards. I think it was like, 8 cards of demographic-type stuff, then two of our own choosing (and at that point it was obvious we were talking about identities). Then she said, “Ok, look at the cards and take away the one least important to you,” not defining important at all. And then just kept telling us to take away “the least important to you.” The biggest thing was that we discussed how we chose what we did and how we ourselves defined “important.” I remember a lot of instances loke yours where people were torn between two, where one meant more personally but the other was something they grappled with more. Sorry I don’t remember more detail! One very general trend I remember was that for our group, the more marginalized/marked the indentity, the longer you held onto it (for example, I think I got rid of “straight” immediately and kept “woman” as my 3rd most important card).

          • Mjh

            It’s super interesting how we all relate to our names and identifiers differently. One thing that my partner and I did just for fun before getting married (and I proceeded to do with some friends later) was evaluate our first, middle and last names and see how much we felt invested in and represented by each one, and how we would feel if some circumstance forced us to change or lose each part (separately).

            For me, my first name was by far the least important to me. I’m cool with it, it just doesn’t feel like it holds my identity in a special way that needs to be protected. I am called by my last name at work, often by familial titles among family, at least half the time by nicknames by friends, and nearly always nicknames by my husband. I don’t have a real middle name; they’re not a thing in my culture and thanks to immigration paperwork and cultural differences, my middle name slot holds the larger umbrella family name that is considered my last name in my culture. The last name slot holds another part of my last name, the less major one. My middle name and last name are the same as my father’s and brothers’ and they’re *hugely* important to me.

            My husband’s first name is a common and simple name, but he’s very attached to it and feels it holds his identity. His middle name is his father’s first name, and he had always felt like it wasn’t his own. He actively disliked his middle name, and he didn’t have any feelings in either direction about his (birth) last name, he felt it was a fine name but nothing special and it didn’t hold any identity significance. He always respected my strong feelings about how changing my last name would feel like giving up a huge chunk of my identity, but he could never relate to it until he imagined circumstances pushing him to change his first name.

          • Violet

            Good for you, not for me. I felt exactly zero emotional connection to my name. It’s just the way it is, and no amount of caps lock can make me feel something I don’t.

          • Antonia

            Gotcha. I just think your name absolutely says something about you (the Social Security Administration would back me up here), regardless of your “emotional connection” to it.

          • Anna

            It’s not really your decision whether Violet’s name “says something about [her]”. I mean, you may well derive some information about Violet from her name (names tend to connote gender – if we’re talking first names as well – and national origin, often also race/ethnicity, social class, etc etc), and there’s nothing Violet can really do about that. But she can decide to take on a different name, for WHATEVER reason, and at that point she is declaring that she prefers to be represented by the new name; if you met her after that point, you’d presumably only be aware of the new name, and you’d derive a different set of associated information from it.

            The Social Security Administration, and other government agencies, are only relevant insofar as some of them have rules that might constrain your ability to make changes to your legal name – but legal names aren’t everything (I mean, for one thing, when was the last time you introduced yourself as First Middle Last?). I don’t think the Social Security Administration has an official position on the cultural importance of names, which is mostly what’s under discussion in this thread; any preference they have for people retaining the names they were given at birth is presumably administrative/logistical/regulatory rather than based on an assumed significance of one’s original name.

            In my opinion, the decision of what name to go by says a lot more about a person than the name they were given at birth (even if those names are one and the same), but my opinion is also not the important part when someone else’s name is under discussion :-)

          • Violet

            It says as much about me as my Social Security Number does, in that it identifies me as a specific person. But my individual personhood is not tied to that specific name, no. I could have been named anything, and I’d still feel about myself exactly as I do. That’s what I meant when I said it doesn’t say anything about me.

          • BSM

            We have a team name, but we have different last names; it doesn’t have to be an either/or!

          • Violet

            Y’all rock.

          • BSM

            Thanks. I hope you feel more connected to your name now :)

          • CMT

            It’s somehow, for some strange reason, usually never the man changing his name so that the family can have the same last name.

          • Violet

            Honestly, one of the reasons why I even felt comfortable changing my name to my spouse’s is that his first suggestion was to create a whole new name for the two of us. We didn’t for legal reasons that are complicated to go into here, but… yeah. It meant a lot to me that he didn’t automatically assume I’d change to his.

          • Antonia

            Right. Even if the man’s family of origin is sh*tty or his last name sucks.

          • Ashlah

            Seriously. Female friend changed hers to her husband’s ostensibly because her dad wasn’t super involved in her life, so she felt little connection to her name. Fine. Except her husband’s dad was abusive to the point of causing his mom massive brain damage. The history of a name only seems to matter when it’s women making/defending their choice, and often isn’t considered by men (maybe related to the gross idea that a man’s name is his own and a woman’s name is her father’s?). I would never claim to know better than them what the “right” choice for them was, but it’s obvious they went along with patriarchal tradition because it’s just what you do. And now that he has two daughters, he talks about convincing them to keep their name–not, I’m sure, because he realized the patriarchy is bullshit and women should do what they want, but because he realized he couldn’t otherwise “pass on” his (super generic, sorry) name.

          • Antonia

            “The history of a name only seems to matter when it’s women making/defending their choice.” This, exactly.

          • rg223

            Hehe, my kid has my last name in part because my husband’s family of origin is sh*tty AND his last name sucks! But having a “family” name wasn’t super important to either of us, so my husband didn’t take my name.

          • idkmybffjill

            I’ve also noticed though, that with many of the women I know who didn’t change their last name – their children are still getting their husband’s last name. So from an outsiders perspective, kinda feels like there IS a family name, the wife just doesn’t share it. Big fan of hyphens as it seems to communicate the message of, “we are individuals and have joined to make these kids”… But i changed my last name so *shrug*.

          • BSM

            Yes, I also don’t understand this.

            When one of my former co-workers was pregnant, we were talking about potential baby names. She herself has a double-barreled name (with her mom’s last and dad’s last) that she’s emphatic about people using correctly and did not change when she got married, but she looked at me like I was crazy when I asked her what last name they were planning to give her kid.

          • idkmybffjill

            That’s so bonkers to me! Unpopular opinion – feels like what’s the point even?

          • Lisa

            Wow…just goes to show how deep the patriarchy cuts if someone whose parents intentionally gave her two names to promote equality doesn’t consider giving a child all or part of her last name.

        • CII

          This is a pet peeve of mine — the reference to “the X family,” not the name changing itself.

          In my family of origin, while most friends and family did have a single last name (the husband’s, obv.), we never referred to people like this. Instead, discussions referred to people by their actual freaking names — cards came addressed to people by their names, i.e., “John, Jane, and Jessica Smith,” and we would ask “Are John, Jane, and the kids coming to the party on Sunday?” In my husband’s family, it’s always are “the Smith’s coming?” or, even more annoying, qualities are attributed to family members based on their family-of-origin name. So if I point out that someone is late, for example, then the excuse is “well, you know, she’s a Johnson, and they are all so scatter-brained *guffaw guffaw.*” It makes me so frustrated — a person’s identity should not be subsumed within a family of origin, and certainly not when that person is a full-grown adult capable of making their own decisions. It also makes me feel like a outsider, given that I am (1) the first spouse in this generation, and (2) didn’t take my husband’s name (with full husband support).

      • penguin

        Yeah my family does a lot of joking around about things like “oh that’s the Smith woman look, watch out!” or “they’re definitely part of the Smith family now” or whatever. It’s well meaning and it’s nice to have a shared identity that way, although I definitely see why people keep their names (I’m planning to, and it won’t make my fiancé and I any less of a family).

        • Anna

          Yeah, it’s interesting, because my enormous extended family makes similar jokes/comments (“You can totally see she has the Smith nose”, etc), and we don’t all share the same last name (in fact, just one family out of the larger family tree still has the last name we use to refer to ourselves, and they’re hyphenated, largely – I think – to preserve this last name). It’s the last name that was sort of the root of our family tree, at least as of immigration to the US around the turn of the 20th century (the family name was changed upon immigration in a way sort of like a Schmidt to Smith conversion). It was my grandmother’s maiden name. I even briefly considered proposing that fiance and I take on this last name when we get married, but New York doesn’t let you pick a totally different name upon marriage – it has to at least be a combination of your existing names.

          • Rose

            I’ll do the same thing, pretty much–I’ll refer to the “Smiths” (if Smith was my mother’s name) and definitely include myself in that group, even though it isn’t my last name. I get that for some people sharing the actual name is part of sharing the family identity, but it never really has been for me.

      • Lorri Lewis

        I was so jealous of my cousins that had my maternal grandparent’s last name. I associated my last name with an abusive family – my dad’s whole family is dysfunctional. I wanted my mother’s maiden name because that side of the family was the beautiful side, so I changed it. Names do carry emotional meanings.

        • stephanie

          Yes! Neither side of my family of origin has great stories, and that’s a huge reason why I happily changed my name when I married my husband. It’s not like his family history is picture perfect, but for me it was a chance to build a life around a name that we shared, instead of bringing on the emotional baggage I had attached to both my parent’s names.

          • Totch

            I’m a bit in the opposite position. My maiden name comes from my deadbeat grandfather, and my husband’s last name comes from his (much worse) deadbeat dad. So I always thought that leaving my family name behind would be like it is with you, but instead it’s picking up new baggage.

            That said, if we didn’t use husband’s last name then it’d die out with this generation. And in the choice between taking a stand against his dad or keeping the line going, we decided on the latter. So we’re consciously sharing the baggage and making an effort to rehab the name.

          • Lorri Lewis

            My feelings about my father’s last name have only gotten worse since Facebook. Now I can look up extended family on that side that I’ve never met. You wouldn’t believe how many of them look dead-eyed. They were disadvantaged from birth. It’s painful to see.

            It only adds to my decision.

    • Jessica

      The only time I’ve wanted one family name is when I realized we couldn’t get a self-inking return address stamp with both last names on it.

      It only comes up at Christmas. Then I blame my husband for not taking my name.

      • Lisa

        Yes, ours just has our first names on the stamp because I couldn’t find a design that would put both on there. Sometimes I think this just reinforces to some people that we must have the same last name, but those same people haven’t picked up on the fact that I’ve signed our Christmas cards with our full names (complete with different lasts) for the past three years so I doubt this is the one thing that would have convinced them otherwise.

        • flashphase

          I found a two name self-inking stamp on etsy! This was a Big Deal for invite addressing. the shop is packagery.

          • Jessica

            I can see two first name ones in the shop, but not examples of two last name ones (our last names are 10 letters each)

            https://www.etsy.com/shop/packagery/items?ref=pagination&section_id=15833007&page=2

          • flashphase
          • Lisa

            Ah, I see what you’re saying. Instead of the first names, people are using their last names instead.

          • flashphase

            They have ones with last names too! You just have to sort through cause there are a lot. I’ve been very happy with mine – we used it for all the save the dates, return addresses, and RSVP addresses

          • Jessica

            Thanks! Also what does it say about me that I read that as “Romeo and Gracia” while skimming through the shop??

          • Lisa

            Yes, I was noticing the same thing as @disqus_9BoTKi109o:disqus. I do have a two first name stamp, but I’d love one with both of our last names!

      • wannabee

        I have a self-inking return stamp but we just say “A. Smith & B. Johnson.” Got it on Amazon.

    • Eh

      We play board games with my inlaws and if we playing a game that involves teams and those teams end up being divided by the family lines then the team names are the family names. This is super confusing since they all have the same last name (well except me and my daughter). Yep the team names are The HisLasts against The HisLasts. After we got married my inlaws started referring to use as The HisLasts in this situation, even though I kept my last name. This offended my husband (more than it offended me because I wasn’t going to get into it with my MIL). He said that calling us The HisLasts cut me out and then on the spot decided to hyphenate our name for our team name. We now use our hyphenated name as our family name (we have return address stickers with it and a family name sign in our front hall) and our daughter has that as her last name.

      • Katelyn

        Curious – did you legally keep your original surnames, then? I kind of like the idea of socially going by something but not really changing anything from a legal standpoint. But I’m not sure if there are consequences/implications of that method.

        • AmandaBee

          Just jumping in. This is what we do – socially we refer to ourselves by our hyphenated name when we do family stuff, but legally we have separate names. Our hypothetical kids will probably have hyphenated names. So far, no ramifications. A few confused family members, but they were already confused that I wasn’t going by HisLast so *shrug*

          • Eh

            So many confused people! We get mail all the time addressed to Mr and Mrs [HisLast]. And I get mail to [MyFirst] [HisLast] or [Myfirst] [Hislast]-[Mylast] or [Myfirst] [mylast]-[Hislast] (which is a very awkward sounding combination of our last names). One of my aunts has given up and just wrote [Hislast]-[Mylast] on the envelope for our Christmas card last year.

          • Jessica

            We’ve had a rash of wedding invitation that just have our first names on it–one clearly had the start of his last name scratched out!

          • AmandaBee

            I will take that over the mail I keep getting addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. Argh! And from people who asked and were told that I kept my last name (much less my first name). Bah.

          • Eh

            Oh so much mail that removed me totally as a person after we were married (I think people think it’s cute or sweet or something). My aunt mailed me a parcel (our wedding gift) to Mrs HisFirstInitial HisLast (not Mr and Mrs, just Mrs). I had to pick it up at the depot. The person asked for my ID and then said that there was no parcel under my name. I had the tracking number for it so she was able to find it but then said “Your name doesn’t start with [HisFirstInitial] and your last name isn’t [HisLast]”. I explained that it was my husband’s name and that we had just got married. This aunt is on FB and knows that I haven’t changed my name on there, and still years later addresses mail to me in the oddest ways (I think she’s done it right once in the last 4 years).

          • AmandaBee

            Oy, I get that this is a tradition but that doesn’t make it less obnoxious. Especially since facebook, etc. make it so much easier to double-check a person’s name. In my case, it was also an aunt (c’mon, aunts) who had *specifically asked* what I wanted to be called and now proceeds to send all mail to Mr. And Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. Why ask if you’re going to completely ignore my preferences?

            The other weird one was my 20-something cousin who sent her wedding invitation to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast even though she also knows I didn’t change my name, but I’m kind of chalking that one up to the pressure of “tradition” (or, possibly, some aunt filling out the envelopes for her).

          • Eh

            It’s super annoying that people address things that way ‘because tradition’. There are three that stand out to me:
            1. Husband’s uncle got remarried. I am pretty sure that my husband’s grandmother gave them our names. His wife (person that addressed the invitations) did not change her name.
            2. My cousin got remarried. My aunt probably gave his wife my info. His wife (also the person who addressed the envelopes) hyphenated her name.
            3. My husband’s 20-something cousin. (Really? I get she is from a small town but it’s 2017.)
            In all three cases the people are FB friends with at least one of us (which means that they can see both of our names since we are listed as married).

          • AmandaBee

            It is the worst, and it just makes the sender look hella lazy/uncaring because it’s SO EASY to look me up and figure out what I didn’t change my name.

            Though I’ll also note that elsewhere on the internet there is still a ton of pressure to send wedding invitations to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. I even got a handy little advice card with my invitations that stated you should “never write Mrs. Herfirst Hislast for a married woman unless she is a widow”…which I shredded before proceeding to put all the women’s names first on my invitations. Thank goodness for APW!!

          • Eh

            I have been told that even though I kept my name that it’s perfectly fine to write Mr and Mrs [HisFirst] [HisLast] on invitations because we’re married so that is my “married name” and it’s the formal way to address a married couple. I resisted from punching the person in the face.

            There was only one woman who I screwed up addressing our invitations for and it was my dad’s friend’s wife (my dad did not tell me she had a different last name). (That was better than my MIL who forgot to include the names of her friend’s husband and relatives partner, even after we made it clear to her that we weren’t giving people plus ones.)

          • AmandaBee

            Eye rolling so hard at the “married name” BS.

          • Em

            Ah but I have a lot of friends who have changed their names on social media but not otherwise (and in large part the social media name change is often because they are in professions where you don’t necessarily want people to be able to find you on social media – eg doctors). So that complicates matters a little bit too!

          • Eh

            Since we’ve been married (almost four years), only two wedding invitation were addressed properly. One was my sister’s wedding and the other is for my friend’s wedding that I’m a bridesmaid this weekend. All the others have said either Mr and Mrs [Hislast] or our first names [HisLast]. If we are attending we always correct them and then our names are correct on the seating chart.

        • Eh

          I legally and, usually, socially go by my maiden name. I never write [Myfirst] [Hislast]-[Mylast] on papers or refer to myself as that (other people address mail to me that way all the time though). We use the hyphenated name in situations where it’s causal and we are referring to our family as a group (and we gave it to our daughter as her last name).

          Where I live, you can assume your spouses’s last name or assume the hyphenated combination without legally changing anything. For example, you can change your name on your drivers license with just you marriage certificate and you don’t have to change your birth certificate – and having documents in different names is not an issue. But you can also go by your spouse’s name socially without having any documents in that name. One of my step-sisters has not changed her name on any of her documentation and still goes by her maiden name for professional purposes but socially goes by her husband’s last name. Where I live, it’s only an issue if you are using different names for fraudulent purposes.

      • rg223

        I hope you don’t mind me LOLing over here about this all going down over board games. And of course it’s more than just board games! But I’m just imagining all this happening over Trivial Pursuit and cracking up.

        • Eh

          lol the game did take an unexpected serious turn before even getting started.

      • Eve

        It’s really interesting to hear about so many people who hyphenate their different last names socially! My mom didn’t take my dad’s name when they got married, and not being called Mrs. Hislast was her first hill to die on, the second being that their names were NOT HYPHENATED THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

        • Eh

          I think that either (any) way it’s very personal, so people should just call the person what they want to be called without assumptions or judgement. For us, hyphenating for a family name (and for our daughter) was a compromise we were both willing to live with. My husband was actually willing to change his last name if it was important to me that we all have the same last name.

          • Eve

            Definitely yes to it being very personal and call people what they want to be called. I just realize that I’ve been very careful when addressing things to families that I know have different names and aren’t legally hyphenated and have opted for “The Smith and Jones Family” or “The Smith/Jones Family” rather than using a hyphen. I’ve also never been told by any of those families to please use a hyphen, but certainly would if that’s what they wanted.

            I do wonder though if part of my mom’s insistence and annoyance with the whole thing was because my mom’s last is my second middle name, and she and I were asked all the time if I’d forgotten to add a hyphen while filling out paperwork where all the names were required.

          • Eh

            That’s kind of funny (in a painful kind of way). I’ve had to correct people who don’t hyphenate my daughter’s last name (drop one of the names, or put my husband’s name as a middle name), and we live in a place where it is common for women to keep their last names and for children to have hyphenate names. That said, I am used to people spelling my name wrong so I have to correct people all the time (first name has two common spellings, last name is a homophone for an English adjective that is spelled slightly differently – my middle name is the only name that is normal and someone how it was spelled wrong when our marriage was registered).

      • Rose

        Yeah, my parents’ names tend to get informally socially hyphenated, in a holiday card address or something. Nobody would refer to them individually by the hyphenated name, but it works for the household. It doesn’t confuse anyone who doesn’t want to make a point out of being confused by it (which has happened, but only from the kind of person would would find something to make an issue out of regardless of the options presented). My wife and I haven’t started doing that with our two different names, because it hasn’t really come up, but I could see going that route a bit more deliberately.

    • Eenie

      Dish Network loves sending advertising mail to “The HisLast Family”.

    • laddibugg

      I’m not sure why you feel you need to understand why people want what they want. Just because you don’t ‘get it’ doesn’t mean it’s not a valid thing for them to think about.

      I liked having the same name as both my parents, and my fiance said that was one thing he wished he had. That’s our reason, but everyone has a different story to tell.

      I also do refer to some of our married friends (esp ones with kids) as ‘The Smiths’…again, just because *you* don’t do something doesn’t mean no one does.

      • Amy March

        Because what is the point of any of this if not trying understand other people? Literally why bother talking about name changes at all if the answer is just people want what they want and that’s awesome and not something the rest of us get to have opinions about?

        • Lorri Lewis

          Well, I think the narrative on APW has been a bit one-sided on this issue. Keeping one’s name is more celebrated here than the alternative. What I think is being said, and has been ignored, is that people make choices for emotional reasons.

          Just as someone might have a negative emotional reaction at the thought of losing their name, some people have an emotional reaction towards wanting a shared name. It makes them feel warm inside.

          Since we are dealing with emotions, what is there to understand? It’s not always possible to share another person’s emotions when we want something different than them.

          • Meg Keene

            That’s 100% on purpose. The rest of the world pushes women very hard to give up their names. A long time ago I made a firm editorial choice that the world didn’t need one more place pushing that.

            When men start changing their names for emotional reasons just as often as women do, we’ll change our editorial policy.

          • Megan

            BOOM.

          • Rosie

            Thanks Meg. This rocks, and this is one of the many reasons why I love APW <3

            Personally I am not changing my name. My name also reflects my ethnicity and I would feel I would be losing part of my identity by removing that. Even more importantly, dozens of people have asked me, "Are you changing your name?" (or just assumed I was changing it) and my FH has, unsurprisingly, gotten the same question exactly zero times. Until that changes, I feel a feminist duty to buck the patriarchal tradition and add to the normalization of keeping my name after marriage.

          • CP2011

            This captures how I feel too. Although I’ve been surprised at the internal sentimental pulls I’ve had in the last few years since getting married to have a shared name. I think that’s why I’ve become less outspoken/vehement about name-keeping, because I’ve realized that stuff can run pretty deep.

          • SS Express

            Nobody asked my husband whether he was changing his name :( I enlisted one bridesmaid, whose official role in the wedding was Minister for Women’s Rights (though technically she managed the entire equality portfolio), to make sure that whenever she heard someone ask if I was changing my name, she chimed in to ask if he was changing his.

            Our official line was “we’re both keeping our names” – I said this to a colleague who asked whether I’d changed mine and he literally said “haha, well obviously he has to keep his!”. Says who mate.

          • Not Sarah

            I put a FAQ on our wedding website with this question and answer :) I told a friend this who has gotten tired of getting Mr. HerLast mail and he said that he wished they had done that too.

          • SS Express

            I did too! Didn’t stop some people though. It’s 2017 ffs!

          • Not Sarah

            I figured it was a good start at least for the people who would read it. We have gotten a zillion questions on this…

          • Lisa

            I originally stole that line from a commenter here when I got married back in 2014. I was at a wedding in October, and one of my high school friends asked about my name and how I’d kept it. I repeated the “We both kept our names” line, and another friend at the table (one of my closest in high school, who changed her name when she married) said very snarkily, “And how often have you used that phrase?”

            It made me angry because clearly I’m trying to challenge the assumptions of my Midwestern friends that all women must take the husband’s name when they marry, and it felt like my friend was undermining and deriding that work.

          • SS Express

            What the fuck? Like seriously, what the fuck? I imagine you’ve used that phrase exactly as many times as you’ve been asked that question, because it’s literally just the correct answer. If she feels like you’re giving that answer too often, maybe people should stop asking sexist bullshit questions. Man this makes me so angry too! I’m sorry your friend was such a butthead. Keep up the good (and hard) work of challenging assumptions.

          • Totch

            I did (slash-am-doing-the-forms-to) change my name, but I really appreciated the APW perspective in the process of deciding. We made this choice for a lot of reasons, and I honestly find my choice to change my name aligned more closely with the your really thoughtful work on the topic than the more generic “of course you change your name!” stuff.

    • AmandaBee

      There is something fun about calling us The FamilyName Name. I don’t think it’s reason enough alone to change your name, but as someone who grew up in a family full of different last names, it’s nice to have a “family name” to go by when folks refer to us as a unit.

      Neither of us changed our names when we got married, but we started calling ourselves by our hyphenated name (The MyLast-HisLast Family) for fun and it caught on. This is also weirdly common in our friend group – lots of couples that didn’t change their last names legally, but have started going by some version of a hyphenated or combined family name casually.

      • Jessica

        My friends have been doing mash up names–like if they are Smith and Johnson they go by Smithson, or Cooper and Hill they’d be Chill. It’s fun and only used when making plans with friends or on pets.

        • AmandaBee

          Oh yeah, we have a mash up name that I tried to make happen but it’s really silly sounding so my husband wasn’t into it. Some close friends still call us that.

          The pets we adopted together have our combined last name, the cat I had for 10+ years before my husband just has my last name. I also call her my husband’s stepcat, which he thinks is weird but tolerates.

          • Jessica

            That made me literally lol

        • sofar

          We also use a mash-up name. Our families thought it was inappropriate at first, but now they get into it, too.

          And it’s fun to be able to make Facebook events like “Game night at House MashupName.”

        • Eh

          When we were considering what to use as a family name we considered a mash up but the combinations weren’t that great so we decided to hyphenate.

          • penguin

            I wish our last names combined nicely! My last name is very short, and a common word in English, and his last name is long and no mashup of them I’ve come up with sounds good. Also hyphenating would be weird with our last names I think (because my last name is a common English word), but oh well.

          • Eh

            Our last names hyphenate well because they are both 6 letters and two syllables (i.e., it’s balanced and not too long). That said, we can only hyphenate [HisLast]-[MyLast] because my last name is a homophone for a English adjective that has negative connotations. So if my last name was first it would seem like it was modifying his last name which doesn’t sound good (I just received a birthday card yesterday that was addressed with that combination).

          • BSM

            My husband’s last name is very short, too, (3 letters) and I actually think it helped us combine, but it really does depend a bunch on what you have to work with.

        • Anna

          My parents’, sister’s, and my initials of our first names spell out GANG, so we referred to ourselves as “the GANG” or occasionally “the GANG Lastname” (we did all have the same last name at least in some contexts; my mother changed her name legally and socially but kept her maiden name professionally). Which I still think is adorable (although my parents are now divorced, so it doesn’t get much use anymore). But excluding the last name part, there’s always the “see if you can make a word with your initials” option for how to refer to yourselves socially :-)

          Although presumably that doesn’t work all that often, haha. Fiance’s first name starts with the same letter as my last name, and it’s not a very common letter in English words, so we’re pretty much out of luck there – at least until we have kids with strategically-chosen names*.

          * We don’t actually plan to name our children this way. But it’s a little tempting xD

          • BSM

            My friend’s wife’s name starts with an A. His starts with a B. They have 3 kids whose names start with C, D, and E in the order of their birth. I think it’s super cute!

          • Lisa

            It’s like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers!

        • Eve

          My last name is the first syllable of a vegetable, so in high school my sister and I were fondly referred to as The (Vegetables). FH, on the other hand, has candy in his last name, and one of my friends totally addresses mail to both of us as “The Vegetable-Candies” and I love it. I haven’t quite been able to talk FH into springing for a return address stamp with it though.

          • BSM

            Um, that is awesome.

        • SS Express

          Our friendship group has always been into mash up names, and fortunately my husband and I have a pretty good one, so we use it alllll the time. Even our parents call us by it now. Wish we could instead be the Chills though.

    • sofar

      I get it in a sentimental way. Like, when it comes to Christmas cards and going to The Smiths’ house for Thanksgiving and having the family name on the mailbox and matching family tshirts for the trip to Disney. It makes a lot of people (including many people I know) very happy.

      I kept my last name, though. So my husband and I have unofficially combined our names into a funny “family” name. And that’s what we put on dinner party invitations and even our address labels. We even have a Game of Thrones-esque “family” crest banner and House Words with our goofy combined name. A few other couples we know (where the wife kept her name) have funny made-up house/family names too (and art to correspond).

      I never thought I’d care about a shared name, but I did, turns out. So we found a way to do that without me changing my official last name.

      • Eenie

        We did the same! It was our wedding hashtag and we mostly use it to refer to our home or family activities. I think it will fade away as kid(s) enter the picture since they will have my last name.

        • Her Lindsayship

          Our wedding hashtag is going to be a portmanteau of our first names, and it’s been how we refer to ourselves for years already. We just got it engraved in fiancé’s wedding band, we’re that attached to it. Who knows, maybe if we have kids we’ll just keep adding their names to it. ;P

      • macrain

        I actually know a couple who did this for real- combined their last names and then changed it legally, too, for both of them.

      • Eh

        “matching family tshirts for the trip to Disney” – That reminded me… My MIL’s family is having a reunion this summer. We all get to wear colour coordinated shirts with her maiden on it.

      • BSM

        Yes! I get that it’s sentimental (I like having a team name, myself), but there are lots of options available that aren’t change your last name.

    • CMT

      I really bristle at this argument, too. And I quietly even get offended by it, although I know that’s my own problem. My mom didn’t change her name and I have my dad’s last name. The three of us are not any less of a family because of it and I hate it when people imply otherwise.

    • Meg Keene

      Hard agree. Mostly because people always throw that at me like we’re somehow less of a family because we can’t do that.

      • Mjh

        It’s absurd (but sadly not shocking) that people even try with that; names can’t stop a family from being a family.

        But I always thought families with your situation could totally still do that thing. In my mind, each spouse keeping their birth name in no way stops them from being the Xname-Yname family or the Xname-Ynames. IMO, a family having a hyphenated name doesn’t require the individual family members to have hyphenated names.

        • Eh

          That is the route we choose. And most of the couples I know that have different last names do this, but it is the couples choice. And I know in some situations it doens’t work to be called by hyphenated family names when it’s not the presons legal or assumed name. I have a friend where both spouses kept their last name, the kids have his last name, but they hyphenate as their family name. The family recently booked a vacation at a family resort. The wife booked the vacation so the Wecolme package said “The [HerLast] Family”. She had to book it in her name (she couldn’t use the hyphenated name) because the name it was booked under has to match her ID for check in.

    • Anna

      Hey, hey, not necessarily “poorly addressed” wedding invitations, just informally addressed wedding invitations :-) We definitely had several cases where we wanted to make it clear that everyone in the household was invited, and we did not have inner envelopes (I already felt like our stationery was crazy fancy with included RSVP cards and envelopes). We addressed these invitations to “The X Family” (we also did not include Mr./Mrs./Ms/Dr. except in a very few cases where we knew it was important to people, so clearly we were overall going for a pretty casual addressing scheme). But as it happens, all the cases where we were addressing an invitation to “The X Family”, the family in question did not all have the same last name, so it became the equivalent of “The Smith-Jones Family”. So it doesn’t really answer your question about people wanting to be referred to as “The X Family”, but just wanted to push back on the idea that “The X Family” is necessarily a hallmark of poor addressing :-)

    • HarrietVane

      As a gay couple (two women) having the same last name was very important to us because we plan to have kids. We are actually going to be hyphenating both of our surnames, but it was very important that they be the same. If your ‘family unit’ is constantly under threat both legally and ideologically, having something as simple as one name that unites us makes it just that much harder for people to perceive our family as less ‘real’. I know you are mostly referring to opposite sex couples, but being “The Vane-Wimsey Family” is one more thing that reinforces to people that we ARE a family.

      • LazyMountain

        Thank you for saying this. We ran into the “real” issue not only with name changes but some of our other wedding choices- we skewed more traditional than I had expected because it lent legitimacy to our wedding and marriage. We are keeping our names, but our kids will get both so that it’s clear they belong to both of us.

      • Betty Gemma

        The Vane-Wimsey family :D

    • Sarah

      It’s not that big of a deal, but for us it comes up a lot just in conversation and inviting people to do stuff, like “hey wanna invite the Jones’ for dinner tonight?” instead of like “hey wanna invite Jack and Nicole and the baby,” or whatever. But that’s assuming your friend group consists of families of two or more and who share a name. For our friends who do not fit that, we just say “hey let’s invite Maria and Dave” or whatever. Comes up in gift-giving, too. “Happy Anniversary, I hope you enjoy this tea set. Love, the Torres.” But we could easily just sing our individual names I suppose. It’s a matter of minor convenience.

      • Amy March

        Yeah that’s exactly what bugs me. Change you name for a reason that matters (and plenty of people have them) not minor convenience.

        • Sarah

          eh, change your name for whatever reason, minor convenience included. I thought I wouldn’t want to change my name. In fact I was pretty adamant that no woman, including myself, should change her name. But when I got married, convenience won (and my husband didn’t care, was willing to hyphenate if I wanted). My husband’s last name/my new last name is just much easier to pronounce and write. I’m in a job where I get clients by referrals. Clients couldn’t pronounce let alone remember my last name. Now they easily can. It’s been better for business and it’s way easier to sign my name.

          I could have stuck to my guns and kept my name, but it would have been less convenient, so I didn’t. It wasn’t worth it to me the way other feminist issues are. It came down to “wait, so I can have a name that is quicker for me to write and easier for everyone to pronounce and spell, and our kids can have that same name and there’s never any confusion or inconvenience? Sign me up!”

        • Totch

          I understand your line of questioning a lot better now. For us, being referred to as the Smiths specifically rather than the MyNames or the NewNames is what matters most.

          Wanting to share one name is for the more generic reasons. Wanting to specifically share the last name Smith is validation for both of us, because both of us feel more separate from my husband’s family than we’d like. Being happily greeted by his family as the Smiths is an assertion that we have as much right to the name and deciding what it means as they do. And yes, for me it makes a difference to do that as a united front and just be the Smiths rather than the Doe Smiths.

      • BSM

        I guess I just don’t get what’s more convenient about writing or saying “the Johnsons” vs. “Jack and Diane” or “the Smith-Johnsons” or “the Smohnsons” or whatever.

        Fewer letters? Less words? Is that really more convenient? What does that say about those of us with long or phonetically-difficult or non-Americanized names (often names are all three)? Are we inherently inconvenient?

        I think people should do whatever they want with their names so long as they consider their options, but I’m not going to pretend that I don’t find the convenience argument to be dumb and flawed*, especially when talking about other people’s names.

        *I didn’t mention it, but other people in this thread have done a good job of addressing the fact that it’s mostly women who take their husbands’ last names for the sake of convenience.

        • Sarah

          that last point is a good one and absolutely right. In my particular case, both of us were willing to take or hyphenate, and his happened to be the most convenient to use. But many times it’s just that the man WON’T and the woman is ok doing it because it seems convenient. And that needs to change.

          But meanwhile, I love the convenience of my new name. I sign my name a LOT. I love that it has half the letters it used to. I truly do. I used to complain a lot about how cumbersome it was to sign my last name. In theory I never wanted to change my name but in reality I always wanted a shorter one. I also love that people can pronounce it and remember it. When my clients would call my office and our receptionist would ask which attorney they wanted to speak to they could not identify me by name (because my first name is also white-sounding and my clients are not white). Now I have a name that they can use and remember. It’s good for business! It’s not terribly more convenient in other contexts, only minorly so.

          Honestly one of the reasons I decided to change my name, which I never thought I’d do, is because my husband was willing to change his if I wanted him to. So I felt more freedom to really think about what I wanted my/our name to be. So I was faced with:
          1. I keep mine, he keeps his, we figure out the kids later (hyphenate or pick one)
          2. we both hyphenate, as do the children
          3. he hyphenates
          4. I hyphenate
          5. he takes mine
          6. I take his

          #1, 2, 3, and 4 seemed like a pain in the ass given that my name is already long and hard to spell/pronounce. Plus what do we do with the kids? Whose do we choose? Do we hyphenate? What happens when he next generation marries and has kids? Like if our Baby F——– hyphen T—– marries Baby X—hyphen Y—, are they or their kids gonna be Baby F—T—X—Y—?

          #5 was tempting in an “eff you to the patriarchy” way, but then we’re stuck with a name that neither of us likes. My name stays just as inconvenient, his becomes moreso. Plus he would be whitewashing his name and the kids’ names.

          With #6 we share a name, the kids can have the same name, it’s easier for me at work, it doesn’t further remove him or the kids from my husband’s cultural background – it worked for us. The only reason to do 1-5 would be to explicitly reject a sexist tradition…which is great and maybe we should do more of, but not everything I do has to be a political statement. I have to choose my battles. Convenience won.

          And to address your question about folks with long or phonetically-difficult or non-Americanized names – no, you’re not inherently difficult. If people find your name difficult, they need to figure it out and chill. I’m talking about convenience to the person who owns the name, not to the people around her.

          • BSM

            Your perspective is more clear in this response, so thanks for that.

            But it does sound like you’re talking about the inconvenience of using other people’s preferred names in your initial comment, which is why I pointed out that people can have long, cumbersome, difficult-to-spell/pronounce, non-Anglicized/American names regardless of any name change decisions they make upon getting married.

          • Sarah

            oh yeah, not at all. I will happily call someone whatever they want to be called (I mean within reason. If they want to be called like Lord Senior Grandmaster the Great and Eighth I might judge and abbreviate)

    • Too lazy to log out of my husband’s disquis account but I kept my name and we gave our child my husband’s last name. I have pangs that I don’t share a common name with her. We thought through both decisions (me keeping my name and her having her dad’s name). I wouldn’t do anything differently, but it does bum me out from time to time.

      • penguin

        This is what I’m afraid of.

        • idkmybffjill

          This is a HUGE part of why I changed mine.

    • BSM

      And how is being known as “The Smith Family” any different than being “The Smith-Johnson Family?” Or “The Smohnson Family?” Seriously, this is dumb.

      • Shirley Schmidt

        This! I know and knew growing up plenty of people whose parents didn’t share a last name. “The HerLast HisLasts” ain’t hard!

    • idkmybffjill

      Doctors & Schools! This is the only reason I wanted to change my name. If we hadn’t wanted to have children I wouldn’t have changed it. I grew up with a mom who didn’t change her name after divorce (MyLast) and a stepmom who didn’t change hers after marriage (HerLast, not MyLast or MyDadsLast or MyBrothersLast), each of whom was very involved in my upbringing. SO MANY PEOPLE WERE CONFUSED ABOUT WHO WAS MARRIED TO WHO AND WHO WAS MY PARENT. I wanted to have the same last name as everyone else in my family.

      You might say, “people figure it out!”… but honestly in my experience they really never did, and it added to the whole slew of weird feelings that come along with having a blended family.

      • RNLindsay

        Being a child of divorce with 3 different last names in my household is also my reason for changing my name! I always wanted to be one family name growing up. It never caused any huge problems but just made me feel awkward as a child

        • idkmybffjill

          Yes. I think, specifically for children of divorce, there are often really big feelings of belonging associated with sharing one family name. I don’t think it’s as complicated for my friends whose parents are together – and I also think that many of my friends whose parents are together partly are attached to their last name due to their feelings about their family of origin. I have one friend in particular whose entire reasoning was that she still felt more like her primary family was her family of origin and wanted to remain that way in name as well . I have my own feelings about that POV on marriage and family but that’s not my marriage.

  • Mim86

    I love my whole name. Like so much. Its African, and translates to a woman who comes from royalty and wears a crown. And my middle and last name rhyme and basically my parents kicked ass with names. But my husband, who is usually the most laidback, and is super duper woke, really wants me to take his last name. And I feel guilty (and i recognize this as stupid),cause not only do i not want that, but i also don’t want kids, so ive got this sexist ass voice in my head saying since Ive taken away his opportunity to spread his genes, I should at least take his name. Its so fucking gross.

    Im an actress, so I know ill keep my real name as my stage name anyway, so maybe I just hyphenate our last names but never use it…blah its hard. Its literally the first time he has ever ever ever wanted something that was traditional and im definitely having a hard time with it.

    • Amy March

      Who cares if it’s the first time he’s asked you to give away a piece of your identity to suit his needs? It’s still not okay and you don’t have to go along with it. Does he even want an opportunity to spread his genes?

      • Mim86

        He’d want kids if i wanted kids. He’s less anti children than I am. And I dont think he understands how important keeping my name is culturally either. Like ive said to him that i love it and dont wanna change it but never emphasized how much keeping this part of my African identity means. Or that i feel some guilt over not wanting kid.

    • Lisa

      It’s one thing for a man to be supportive in theory and another to challenge his patriarchal/societal “rights” in reality. The patriarchy falls with a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. The worst fights of our engagement were around the name issue; now that we have two different last names, it’s just the way things are. It doesn’t matter anymore.

      • stephanie

        THIS TRUTH: “It’s one thing for a man to be supportive in theory and another to challenge his patriarchal/societal “rights” in reality. “

    • S

      At the end of the day, you know what you want, and that’s to not change your name. He wants you to. Sometimes I hear these “Should I just give him what he wants??” type questions (which, gross, but also understandable) from women who are on the fence, but you REALLY don’t sound on the fence, you know what you want. Here’s the thing: it’s not a toss a coin, compromise type deal, because it’s your name, your signature, your forms for the rest of your life. There are plenty of big decisions in life where if a husband and wife (or husband and husband, etc) disagree, it’s a conversation, a meet-in-the-middle, type compromise where each partner’s feelings are as valid. Like giving your kid a name or choosing between two favourite houses to buy. But when it comes to one person’s identity, that person’s feelings are the ones who should be prioritised. I understand making him happy, but if making someone happy means doing something you actively don’t want to do that has to do with a massive part of your identity, with you making a massive legal identity change he has never even had to contemplate making himself….I don’t know, I feel like that tips the scale from healthy to unhealthy “compromise” to me. Think of it like an outfit. If you have an outfit that you love, would you feel comfortable being the kind of person to just throw those clothes in the trash because your husband only wants you to wear the clothes he likes on you and thinks that it’s “right” for you to wear what he likes? Maybe that’s an unfair or extreme comparison, but I think it only sounds like an extreme comparison because telling your wife you want or expect her to take your name and feeling like those feelings are the valid ones is socially acceptable, whereas expecting her to compromise her identity for the sake of your own in other ways is not socially acceptable.

      I’m not sure about where you’re at with the children thing. I’m assuming he married you knowing you don’t want kids, so clearly he’s made the choice that he’s happy to live child-free as well. He signed up for that. That’s not something you need to feel like you took away from him. You have your terms and he signed up for them. You’re not spreading your genes either. If there’s a part of you that feels like he resents you or may int the future, then that’s maybe more to do with you feeling as though he didn’t enter into the marriage with honesty about what he wanted – I want to stress that you haven’t done anything wrong and you don’t have to make it up to him or even any scores because you’re a person who likes her name and doesn’t want to populate.

      • Mim86

        I think youre right in that these are mostly my insecurities projected on him. He has literally given me no sign that not having kids has/will ruin life as we know it, and honestly would be disappointed but not angry if the last name thing didnt happen.

        • S

          It’s easy to project our own stuff onto others! I 100% understand. (For instance, I constantly worry about all manner of nonsense around my future in-laws – for instance, about whether they’d prefer a daughter in law without tattoos, or who was skinner, or who dressed better, or was more extroverted, etc. But they’ve never given any indication they care and have never been anything but nice! I just get all in my head about societal expectations. It’s ridiculous! But at the end of the day, instead of trying to tailor my actions to try and please them, I try and tailor my feelings so that’s I’m not so worried about whether they’re pleased, and remind myself that I’m an individual and not to compromise on that. I hope that makes sense.)

      • Greta

        Agreed! I really want to stress that compromise is not you having to change something you don’t want to and him having to do nothing. This doesn’t feel like compromise at all. I just have a really really hard time with acquiescing to a HUGE thing that you and only you would have to deal with for the rest of your life that literally does not affect his life in any way. That doesn’t feel like a compromise.

    • Greta

      It might just take him some time to get used to it. I’ve found that some guys have literally been raised their whole lives to think that their future partner is going to take their last name. It may be multiple conversations and it may take time for him to get used to it, simply because he’s spent decades thinking something different was going to happen. This happened to a good friend of mine. Her husband really wanted her to take his name, she really didn’t want to. Eventually they “compromised” and she said she would, but it’s been 3 years since they’ve gotten married and she still hasn’t changed. They’ve now agreed that yes, it’s just not going to happen, and her husband has just adjusted.

      • Katelyn

        Same thing with a lot of wedding traditions. I feel like many men have less exposure to certain things in the WIC but on the flip side, also don’t get exposure to a lot of tradition-challenging discussion. My fiance is really in my corner feminism-wise, but hasn’t spent any time really scratching his noggin when it comes to weddings. So every wedding detail that I don’t want to follow tradition on involves a discussion about why I feel that way (hint: the patriarchy).

      • BSM

        It used to be a dealbreaker for my husband, which was fine, since I used to want to change my last name. We both changed our minds, and now he’s almost as excited as I am for our kids to get a combination last name.

  • Nope.

    I’ve gone through cycles in how I feel about my name — neither my husband nor I changed our name when we got married. But his last name is actually more representative of my culture than mine is — we are both half the same ethnicity, but his father is the ethnicity, while my mother is the ethnicity. I feel a little inclined to add his last name in some capacity, because having my dad’s very common/bland/English last name doesn’t actually convey the ethnicity I primarily identify with. While I appreciate never having to spell or clarify my last name, I’m a little envious of him having a name that clearly connects him to the culture we both share.

  • K. is skittish about disqus

    This isn’t the most popular opinion on APW, but the reasoning in this beautifully written piece is very similar to why my daughter will be taking my husband’s last name. My last name has a connection to a mish-mashed white heritage that means nothing significant to me beyond my personal identity, whereas my first gen husband’s directly connects him to his indigenous Latin American roots. Connecting my daughter to that in a tangible way is important enough to me that if it means I have to give into the patriarchy in this case, then so be it.

    • penguin

      I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. My fiancé is Jewish, and has a Jewish last name. My last name is from my dad’s abusive adoptive father (who has been dead a long time). I always liked my last name (and didn’t know the history behind it until I was an adult), but I talked it through with my dad and neither he nor I are particularly attached to it now. That makes me think we should give any future kids just my fiancé’s last name, but it kinda grates on me that most people wouldn’t know the history behind it, so they would just think that “of course the kid gets his last name because he’s the man” or whatever.

      • Lexipedia

        SO MUCH THIS. I’m going to change my name, due to similar crappy family reasons, but it grates on me that people will just feel I took the “patriarchal path of least resistance” because I don’t care to tell every single person why I’m switching.

        • Totch

          Yeah, I’ve felt that too. It feels so reflective of other common feminist things, like gender norms hurting​ both men and women. The patriarchal assumption definitely burdens women who don’t change their names more, but it also sucks for the many families that make a careful choice that ends with the wife changing her name.

          • Lexipedia

            I think that’s definitely true, and very much impacted by social circle/location. I have friends in the Midwest who’ve gotten a lot of flack for keeping their last name, and friends in the Northeast who’ve gotten some side-eye for changing it. Ultimately I have some serious privilege on this one because I’m making the choice that is seen as more “traditional” vs. paving my own way, but I still feel like I need to wear a sign explaining my choice to hold onto my feminist cred. Like “I know this choice screams patriarchy and I’m sorry for perpetuating this – please don’t silently judge me!”

    • S

      I mean, I believe very strongly that I want my kids to have my surname – but my partner is as white mishmash as I am, probably more so. My strong feelings would TOTALLY be reassessed if I were in your position! Please don’t feel judged or like you’re giving into the patriarchy! Too often white feminism ignores women who are in situations that don’t reflect their own. It’s always good to be reminded to check-in with these militant ideas (I say that fondly as someone who feels militant about the baby surname thing in regards to how it applies to my own life) and remind yourself that you don’t know why other people are making the choices they’re making, so thank you. My white-ass feminist feels don’t and shouldn’t by default trump (ew) POC feminist feels, or the feels of white feminists marrying into POC cultures/families.

    • Katelyn

      I’m with you on this. Heritage is one of the considerations as I’m trying to decide about my last name as well. Mine is generic white farmers who have been around for eons (the farthest back I can get is 1785), while his parents are mostly Italian and that culture is very influential in their lives. I feel weird “appropriating” that culture (probably not the right term but hopefully the intent is clear).

      I definitely want my future children to share that “Italian-ness”, so would 100% be on board with their last names being his. But for me, I’ve just been “generic white person” my whole life, and changing my name seems like I’m trying to take on something more significant than that.

      Besides, a monosyllabic last name is much easier for dinner reservations.

      • CMT

        You would think, but nobody can ever spell or even apparently hear my monosyllabic last name correctly.

        • Violet

          It’s so funny- partner’s monosyllabic name is apparently impossible to decipher over the phone. Every takeout person ever has been utterly confused by his very simple-sounding name.

        • BSM

          This is how my first name is! It’s weird, so I cut people slack, but there’s seriously almost no other way to spell it.

      • Totch

        I struggled with this deciding to take my husband’s clearly Chinese name (I’m white) and now that I’m in my first month of having that new name I’m feeling it a bit. You’re right that it’s not quite appropriation, but having just hired 4 new people… many of the folks who came in to interview we’re surprised that I wasn’t Chinese.

      • Lorri Lewis

        I am not sure I understand the phrase “generic white person” and that by taking on your husband’s name you would be taking on “something more significant”.

        It sounds like you devalue your own heritage and consider his to be more important? I hope I’m reading that wrong.

        I changed my last name to my mother’s maiden name because of the history of abuse associated with my dad’s last name. His family was/is a cluster fuck. My mother’s maiden name is more common than my dad’s last name, but this signifies nothing as far as it’s value to me.

        • Katelyn

          I’ve been thinking about your comment since you posted it, and trying to solidify my thoughts as well as challenge them.

          I think in the end (and I’m not a sociology scholar so please try to find my “intent” rather than my actual words) – it comes down to culture versus heritage. I have no heritage to speak of. A lot of other women in this section of the post feel the same exact way. Taking on a heritage is a big part of one’s identity, and that is where my discomfort in changing my name lays.

          However, I certainly feel a deep connection to my family in the sense of a culture. We are farmers, and every branch of my family tree back several generations were farmers. Being blue-collar, salt of the earth people is my culture. But my name isn’t tied to that. My fiance’s culture and heritage are closely tied together, so that’s maybe where my point wasn’t clear.

          So I have some Really Good Reasons, in my book, to both keep or change my last name.

          In the end, the idea of going by certain surnames depending on the situation (legally versus socially) is super appealing to me and will definitely be where I start, then put out feelers and adjust accordingly. So all of this waxing philosophical is just a mental exercise and the decision will likely be something born simply out of convenience rather than sociopolitical implications.

    • CMT

      I, like a lot of folks here, have STRONG FEELINGS about name changes, but they’re not STRONG FEELINGS with no room for nuance. Important consideration of your own personal situation is definitely the most important thing when making these decisions.

      • Meg Keene

        Agreed.

    • stephanie

      I feel this! I took my husband’s last name for many reasons, and always knew I wanted our kid to have it because it is one of my husband’s tangible connections to his Hawaiian ancestry. Not everyone gets on board with that reasoning, but I do. :)

    • Antonia

      Awesome, and you do you, but I’m sure if you go back far enough, your “mish-mashed white heritage” is every bit as interesting as your husband’s.

  • Bsquillo

    I’m just here to say that I’m so glad “Reclaiming Wife” is back as a category!!!

  • Liz

    I didn’t get a lot of pushback on the fact that I didn’t change my name – most women in my area don’t – but I’ve gotten a TON of pushback on the fact that my daughter doesn’t have my husband’s last name. (We created a portmanteau out of the first few letters of each, as our names hyphenated would have been a MOUTHFUL.) It’s strange to me that it is still such a default that kids get their father’s surname, leaving, often, the mother as the only person in the family who does not share that surname.

    My husband felt similarly about wanting to be a family unit with the same name; I didn’t care. Since neither of us were willing to change our own surnames, or have our daughter have only the others, we now all three have different surnames; if/when we have more children, they will all share one. Ultimately, this was the best choice for us. Our histories and the cultural weight of our names meant too much to us to give up.

    • BSM

      This is what we’re doing, and I love it, but I am gearing up for the pushback once we announce the baby’s name when he’s born.

      • Liz

        Feel you. I found that announcing her name, and the reasoning behind it, with a giant smile and a pithy statement about how excited we were about it, held off some of the pushback – most people won’t want to interrupt your happiness with their disapproval. Most.

        • BSM

          Thank you :) Big smiles and lots of joy when announcing is the plan. Also relying a bit on the fact that the baby’s name will be a done deal at that point.

          Our families know we’re somewhat unconventional, so I’m not super concerned about them, but every so often my easygoing FIL has a random conniption and sends my husband a rude, needling email to vent his frustrations. This of course sends my husband into kind of a tizzy. I don’t think that something like this would bug him, but it’s probably worth mentioning to my husband so that we’re not caught off guard if it does.

          • penguin

            Also A+ on just announcing the name once it’s done, rather than bringing it up earlier where they may think it’s debatable.

          • BSM

            Thanks! This has been the plan for the first name for a long time, too. Much harder to make a comment about your obnoxious former classmate with the same name as my baby when I’m holding him in front of your face, ya know?

      • Liz

        Oh and one more thing – find out in advance if the state where you live allows you to do this. It turns out mine doesn’t (DC) – the only allowable names are 1) one of the parents’ surnames or 2) a hyphenation (either first) or 3) a “cultural” name (so… Lizdottir? Dunno) or 4) a “family” name, like a grandparent’s name. We had to give her a temporary hyphenation, then go to family court and do an official name change. It wasn’t a big deal – 10 minutes of court time, $60 in filing fees, and a trip to the DVR and the social security office to update her documents – but man, if there’s anytime I did not want to hear “no” it was ten hours after pushing a giant baby out of my ::ahem::. Better to be prepared!

        • BSM

          GOOD TIP. I just did a google, and it looks like we’re fine in CA.

          • Liz

            Phew!

  • Lisa

    It’s interesting to me to hear Irina’s take on this subject because most of the immigrant women I know have felt strong pressure to change and ended up taking their husband’s names. They were concerned that, if they kept their names–even if that was their cultural tradition–, it would read to US Immigration that they weren’t committed enough to their marriages. Irina’s situation is different because she was already a naturalized citizen, but I think it’s interesting to consider the people who feel they have no choice but to give up their names in order to prove something to the governmental bureaucracy.

    • Eileen

      My story is a bit different because I’m an immigrant of privilege… but moving abroad and marrying a Frenchman both made it tempting to take his name and reinforced my desire to keep mine. My Irish Americanness is so DIFFERENT here, I cling to it even more. We gave our son his dad’s last name, but his first name is as Irish as we could get without spelling it weird… and I still almost wish we had!

      • Lisa

        That’s so interesting! One of our good friends is from Brazil and had an Italian last name that showcased her family’s own immigration story. (Her name was a lot like Irina’s but in reverse.) When she married an American of German descent, she felt pressured to change her name to add legitimacy to their relationship. (They got married pretty quickly after starting to date for immigration reasons.) She really wishes she could change back, but it would be another expensive process so she’s grieving the loss of her name instead.

  • Victoria L

    Thank you for this! Both my parents immigrated from Spain, and although I was born here, I consider myself Spanish American and it’s a large part of my identity. When I did get married, I took my ex’s last name – Murphy – and it was SO hard. Murphy is it’s own ethnic name and everyone just assumes you’re Irish. I was literally in mourning for my last name and the death of my Spanish identity. When my daughter was born, I didn’t want her to have a middle name (as Spanish people never do), but I also lost that battle. Now I am divorced, older, happier and wiser, and I plan to keep my last name if I ever get remarried again!

  • Laura

    Name changes were the #1 biggest cause of fights during our engagement and early marriage. At the time, I just knew that I wanted to keep my last as part of my name. It didn’t even occur to me to push back on my now-husband for not wanting to change his last. I ended up legally changing my name to Mylast Hislast (no hyphen) and using Mylast as my professional name.

    Fast forward five years, and I decided it was time to have another knock-down, drag-out fight about potential baby names (not pregnant but maybe going for it within a couple of years). My husband just looked at me and said, “I guess I just assume that they’ll have Mylast Hislast as their last names. And at that point, I’ll change my legal last name to Mylast Hislast so we’re all consistent.”

    It’s not a perfect feminist solution, as Hislast still goes last and Mylast is most likely to get dropped. But it’s a solution we’re comfortable with. And he’s promised to be just as militant as I am about people calling our future family by our proper last name, not dropping Mylast to call us the Hislasts just because “tradition” or whatever.

  • Amandala

    I have really struggled with whether I’m going to change my name. It’s been almost a year since our wedding and I still haven’t decided one way or another. I really wanted my husband to change his name to mine but that was a no-go for him. To be fair, he is perfectly fine with me keeping mine and has encouraged me to do what I want.

    Part of the issue is that he has a really common Chinese-identified last name. I have a more English/French last name that is not common. Part of me wants (and really likes the idea of) us to have the same name and, more importantly, both have the same name as our (future) children, which will be his name as we’ve already decided. This is partly because I know that our kids will look much more like him than me (at least at first glance). But, I also feel sometimes that his name doesn’t really “represent” me, for lack of a better term (like if they call out my name in a waiting room, they would always be looking for a Chinese woman).

    I don’t really like the look of our names hyphenated together. I like the idea of double barrelling, but I’ve heard that can cause problems with lots of forms etc. So now I’m stuck in this holding pattern while I decide ugh.

    • Laura

      As someone with a double barrelled, non-hyphenated last name, I can attest that it leads to confusion. However, I’ve cognitively reframed this for myself: every time I need to patiently explain my last name to someone, every negative or incredulous comment I get about it (both names are rather long), is an opportunity to educate someone about the variety of naming choices that women and men make.

    • Lisa

      I think it’s natural that you want some kind of connection to your children, especially since, as you pointed out, they’ll probably look more like him than you. Double barreling gives you both the “name” connection and allows you to create a sort-of family name for your children.

  • Pingback: Why Being an Immigrant Makes a Name Change Complicated | Wedding Adviser()

  • Anya

    All of this! My name has a history rooted in the Polish and Russian Jews. It connects me to my grandfather who fought against the Nazis at the age of 16. It connects me to my grandma who fought for her students’ rights. It connects me to my parents who left their lives and moved us to NYC so that my brother and I would have a better life. My mom had to learn English and a whole new culture at the age of 43. That’s impressive.

    And when we have kids, one of the kids will have my last name and the other one his. And my MIL’s comment of “but how will they know they are siblings?” just sounds hollow. Oh and they’ll be speaking Russian too.

    But yes: our family marches in gay pride parades, and my husband makes sure I have rainbow flags around me as I refuse to hide my bi identity. We make russian food, and we celebrate New Year’s with a New Year’s tree – like is proper. As he has not given up Hannukah, my traditions don’t need to disappear.

    So, thanks for sharing this essay. it was powerful!

    • Eh

      WOW! So my three neices all had different last names until recently when the older two were legally adopted by my BIL. Now they all have the same last name but having different last names did not make them less of siblings and no body was confused.

      I even have a coworker who has done exactly what you are planning on doing.

  • Totch

    I took my husband’s name, for some parallel reasons. He’s an immigrant with a clearly ethnic last name, and also is the only person in his family in a position to have kids and pass the name down. We agreed that we wanted a shared last name, and making up a new one or taking mine felt like a much bigger erasure.

    There are a bunch of other really personal reasons that changing names was right for me, but it is a particular kind of weird to have my last name no longer match my ethnicity. It’s only been a month, so I’m still getting used to it.

    • Violet

      My ethnic-sounding married last name is not my ethnicity, but it seems like it could be. Which is a little weird, knowing people are probably assuming something about my cultural background that ain’t so. Whereas my birth last name didn’t come from the side of the family I identify with ethnically at ALL. Honestly, if I ever divorced, I think I’d change my name to my mom’s last name. Names are weird.

      • Totch

        Yeah, they are. There are quite a few threads on here that really get into the intersectionality of feminist feelings about name changes vs. ethnic identity. What you mention about your mom’s name definitely folds into my logic: my kids will look more like my husband and be more raised in his background than mine (hopefully we can balance it, but we live by his family so I’m trying to be realistic). So it makes sense to me that they should get the last name that matches. And because I know my kids will probably look less like me, I feel even more strongly about sharing a last name with them!

        Side note: the other day someone told me that with my new last name I “pass for mixed.” Definitely weird.

  • j_essim_ac

    I will be taking my fiances name due to the very convoluted etiology of my last name – my parents were teenagers when I was born and not in a committed relationship so I got my mom’s last name. However, her last name was her mom’s married name (who was not married to my mom’s dad), which she had taken when she was 12 to have share a name with her siblings. So my last name is not from my ancestors, each of my younger siblings has a different name than me, and my mom took my stepdad’s last name – so I’m the only one. I’m really excited to have a last name that connects me directly to someone that I care about (other than my grandmother’s estranged husband who was not my grandfather), and it’s empowering to be able to make that choice. Plus my fiance has a cool, three-letter last name that will make my email address so much easier to write out!

  • BSM

    Not totally name-related, but I’m 1/4 Japanese, but my mom grew up in Japan surrounded by her Japanese extended family and was totally disconnected from her (white) dad’s side of the family, so I’ve always felt really, really culturally, and somewhat ethnically (since my brother and I don’t look white), connected to that part of my ancestry. I also have a Japanese middle name.

    My husband is white, so my kiddo will only be 1/8 Japanese, and it makes me sad. I want him to feel connected that part of his identity, too, and I’m worried that as the Japanese % gets further diluted, he won’t, and maybe his kids will even less.

    I’m planning on keeping up with the cultural traditions from my childhood (and will honestly probably be even more gung ho about it than my mom was), and I hope he looks like me, but I’m still bummed.

  • penguin

    We just mailed our Save the Dates, and I realized after getting our guest names and addresses printed on the envelopes (thanks Minted!) that we forgot to address the Save the Date to my future in-laws the way they (she) wanted. MIL was VERY adamant that the “only proper” way to address a married couple was Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, and I hate that. I was planning on addressing just hers that way, and doing everyone else’s as either
    Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst and HerFirst TheirLast,
    so like Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Smith
    or
    Mr. HisFirst HisLast and Ms. HerFirst HerLast,
    so like Mr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Doe

    Accidentally kept that syntax for everyone, so we’ll see if FMIL throws a fit about it. My fiancé (bless him) said that if she makes a fuss about it, he’ll say he addressed them and move on.

  • EF

    YES!

    also, can we mention how fucking complicated it is for immigrants to change names? like, i would have to on my passport first, which means turning in my passport, then i have a limited amount of time to change it on my visa, which is also very expensive, and oh yeah i’m not allowed to have any mail used for official things (like my next visa) that doesn’t match.

    so like, that’s a reason not to.

    but remembering heritage? claiming a part of you that forced ‘assimilation’ can’t take away? oh man, yeah, that can be pretty priceless.

    • Lexipedia

      Ugh – I looked into it and I’d have to do so much paperwork, in two different countries, simultaneously, to *hopefully* not fuck up my visa status. So, solidarity. I want to ditch my last name SO badly because it is basically my last tie to my abusive father’s family, but I think I’ll have to wait until my green card comes through so I’m not in immigration limbo anymore.

      But it I had heritage that I was holding onto and not running from – hell yeah I’d keep my awesome last name.

      • Not Sarah

        It’s so expensive! I looked into it just out of curiosity. It’s $455* to replace your permanent resident card, plus $85 for biometrics, so $540 total for a new green card. Canadians also need to apply for a full new passport, which is $260 CAD ($190 USD today) for a new passport, plus photos and mailing fees which I think was around $20-40 total last time I renewed my passport. So all in all that would be $780 USD to change my name, on top of all the logistics of needing to change my Social Security card, my Social Insurance card, my driver’s license ($10 for a new card in Washington state), my passport, my green card, and update it with everywhere that has my name.

        Definitely don’t change it while you’re in the middle of the green card process! When I went for my biometrics appointment, someone else had gotten married and changed their name in the middle of the process. I was there for ~30 minutes or so and they were still there trying to figure out how to proceed when I left…

        Good luck! I hope you get your green card soon so you can change your name to what you want :)

        *https://www.uscis.gov/i-90

      • EF

        MMHMM. so same, re: abusive family. complicated by the fact i never really wanted to get married and definitely don’t want to succomb to a patriarchal system, and no way am i taking my partner’s name. but i also don’t want my effing father’s name. i’ve pretty much decided, once immigration is all settled, to change to an ancestral name on my mother’s side, and just deal with anyone who complains about the change.

  • disqus_WlMS6oXIcN

    We didn’t have any fights about our names (we’re keeping ours, will hyphenate for kids) but I’m still pretty “meh” about it. No part of our families have been in the US for more than 2 generations, but we have our dad’s names (which are pretty brutally anglicized from Italian and Norwegian). Our mothers share an ethnicity and our kids will probably have more of their cultural identity and I kind of wish we had their names instead of our dad’s.

  • We still haven’t got anywhere on the name front. We want a ‘team’ name for symbolic reasons, but neither of us is massively attached to our own name, neither adores the other’s name, he doesn’t like double barrelled, i don’t like made up, and the portmanteau names all sound weirdly close to famous brand names (not even for products we like!). I feel like we’re going to end up keeping our own names out of inertia, and that really rubs me the wrong way: we’re making an active choice to form a family unit, and passively sticking to names we don’t care for is so contrary to that. But waiting for lightning to strike and solve this for us is a passive approach as well, and we need to stop doing that.

    • Ella

      Same here. I’m trying to approach it from what last name we want to give our kids and work backwards to us. (Will definitely not be his last name only, but I’m open to any other situation.)

    • Lisa

      Have you considered looking through your family trees to see if there are any names that stick out to you there? Another commenter said that was what she and her husband had done for their daughter, and it’s something we’re considering for our hypothetical children. (We’ve found some pretty fantastic names in ours; one of my far-back German relations had the name Sprinkel, which just makes me think of dessert and smile. It is not a front runner for the hypotheticals though.)

      • We’ve both done quite a lot of family tree work (which also factors into this, because we don’t want to make life harder for future historians like my OH!) and it’s a bit mixed. A lot of very common names, and some uncommon ones with unpleasant connotations. It’s definitely something to mull over though; we can probably find a few good eggs in there!

  • Wren

    Working with immigrant families actually changed a lot of my perspective on changing last names. I spent five years working on supporting Spanish speaking families with preschool aged children. Almost non of the mamas changed their last name. After a while, that became the norm for me and it would startle me when parents would have the same last name. When I got married, keeping my last name didn’t seem like a feminist statement as much as just another option.

  • eichalex

    APW can you do a round up of the name-change apps and services that are out there? I’m about 6 weeks away from having to go through it and I’d rather just pay a nominal fee to have someone do the legwork for me.