Caught Between a Name Change and a Hard Place


I didn’t want my birth last name, but what comes with this new one?

by Chelsea Risley

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I no longer share a last name with my father. I carry another man’s name, and it still tastes strange in my mouth. On legal documents, I check the married box, and I had to change all my emergency contact information. No one prepares you for the paper trail that comes with marriage. No one says, “Congratulations on your engagement! Have you thought about writing your wills?” At least, no one did for me. No one told me that I’d have to pay extra attention when signing my name. No one told me I would look at my driver’s license, my passport, my social security card, and see a different person. No one told me I’d have a mini identity crisis and forget who I am because so many parts of me are changing. No one told me I’d have to work so hard to remember where I came from.

At the time I was angry; I didn’t want my birth last name or anything that came with it, so I was eager for a new one. I didn’t want to inherit the Fryar family propensity towards anger, drama, and judgment. It even sounds dumb—who wants to have the same name as a kitchen appliance? But now, I feel sometimes like I’ve lost a connection with my Grandmother and my Poppy. I’ve somehow disconnected myself from all that they were and stood for.

My family once lived together in a place some jokingly called the Fryar Commune because my father’s three siblings and mother lived on the same hill, property surrounded by a goat fence to keep the dogs in. Now, the family has splintered. They all still live on that same hill, but they don’t speak. My grandmother, she used to sit at the head of the table at our big family dinners, but now her seat is empty. Nobody knew she was what kept us all together. She tried to make sure we’d all stay the same after she was gone, but greed got in the way and the siblings fought over what was left of her. Sometimes I wish something more solid than blood and property lines tied me to my grandmother, and sometimes I’m glad I can distance myself from the mess those people have created.

I wonder about what comes with my new name. What messes have I unknowingly stepped into? My in-laws have a huge family of thirteen children, five biological and eight adopted, and two grandparents in the downstairs apartment. Their house is full of noise and motion and naked children. There are wounds in my heart from realizing that families aren’t always what they’re supposed to be, but I’ve felt them heal as I sat around the dinner table with my new family, squished between two tiny bodies, holding hands and praying together; as I sat on a porch swing watching the moon lazily float up over the mountain’s edge, speaking in raw honesty with my husband’s parents; as I baked brownies with the little sister I never knew I wanted; as I fell in love with people who are everything I hoped family could be. I’ve also felt new fissures form as I begin to see that this family isn’t perfect either.

I remember moments from my wedding: not bringing enough tablecloths for the reception, my bridesmaids complaining about being barefoot, friends praying over me before the ceremony, my mother staying up all night worrying, putting my husband’s ring on too soon—and I remember the sun coming out from behind the clouds in a very cinematic kind of way to shine on us just as we said our vows. The preacher spoke to me at my wedding. He said that marriage was true freedom—a freedom that comes from being fully known, and being loved in spite of all that is known.

No one told me that marriage would cause such upheaval in my heart. Or maybe they did, and I didn’t believe them. So, here I am with one old name, one new name, and two families, each wrapped in their own darknesses. Here I am, chasing freedom, desperately trying to fully know and fully love.

Chelsea Risley

Chelsea is a writer and student who plans to graduate and spend the rest of her life neck-deep in flowers and weddings and poems. She lives in Tennessee with her potter husband, his beautiful vases, and several dying plants (despite her undying affection for them).

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  • Brigid

    Thank you. Yes. I’m planning to change my name, in four short months, and I can’t articulate why I’m having a hard time with it. It’s my choice, it’s something I want to do, it makes sense for us, and it’s hard.

  • Amanda L

    I always planned to change my name. My top-5-most-common maiden name felt generic, and I was ready for something more specific. Until the day I actually changed it, that is. I felt the same sense of confusion as you mentioned when looking at my new drivers license, social security card, credit cards. A month after we got married, I competed in a small triathlon. My husband sweetly had the MC announce my full name as I crossed the finish line, and I almost missed it as I thought ‘who is Amanda Lxyz? Oh wait, that’s me.’ Instead of pride and excitement, I felt sadness.

    In short, I never knew how much of my identity was wrapped up in my name until it wasn’t my name anymore. Three+ years later, and I still don’t always recognize my full name as mine, and I no longer associate myself with my old name either. I think it’s a great lesson for me that those things do not make me who I am. It is the people I love, the dogs I raise, the impact I have on those around me that is important… not what I sign on the dotted line.

    • Angela

      I’ve totally had that experience with my new name–“Oh wait, that’s me.” It can be pretty jarring!

      • Emily

        Ah, me too! I also still get really confused when I get mail addressed to Emily XXXX or Mr and Mrs XXXX.

    • ktmarie

      I felt the same confusion and kind of sadness at the legal change of name after we were married. I chose to keep using my maiden name (which is fairly unique) for work due to published papers, etc and I think that has helped. It seems apropos that things I do at work, which are not really related to my partner, are attached to my maiden name and the things we do as a couple are attached to my married name. At least that’s what’s helped me mentally transition :)

      • justme

        I am planning to do this too. I want the same last name as my kids, but professionally it would hurt to lose my maiden name. How did you manage this legally? I am thinking my legal name might be hyphenated, then my work name is my maiden name, and my social name is my fiances last name? It feels so confusing.

        • ktmarie

          I know how you feel! I just legally made the jump completely so all my legal items are just my new married name. Any payroll or ‘official’ stuff I had to change with HR but I asked IT to not change my email or IM name or anything else visible to my coworkers. My LinkedIn stayed the same (maiden name) but my facebook switched my to married name. I use my married name socially and my maiden name at work and conferences etc. It’s been pretty easy so far (maybe the HR and IT logistics would be harder with larger corporations though?) It’s mostly just a little confusing for people who know me professionally and personally :) For me I kind of wanted the complete separate from work life to personal life so I didn’t do any hypenating or anything like that. I definitely have moments where I forget which name to use though! I’ve enjoyed doing it like this so far… good luck!

          • L R

            Ktmarie – How does it work when you register for conferences? Do you have any trouble since your maiden name isn’t on your legal documents anymore? Or did you keep your maiden name as your middle name? Your option has felt the most right to me from the beginning, but I’m nervous about the logistics of it all.

          • ktmarie

            I’ve always just registered for conferences with my maiden name and have never had a problem actually. And my maiden name is not legally any part of my name now (kept my original middle name). I do usually book the hotel under my married name because credit cards are involved

          • ktmarie

            And honestly I’m surprised but Ive never really had issues. Outside of things like government IDs and payroll, very few people ever seem to need any legal documentation. I do keep my old drivers license just in case Id need to show I’m the same person but have never used it in 2 years

          • L R

            Interesting. Thank you – you have given me hope that I can make this work!

        • laurasmash

          I thought about doing this! In the end, I didn’t change. I didn’t want to lose my name, and honestly that feels kinda weird too. None of my married friends kept their names, so I sometimes feel like maybe I did the wrong thing? How will people know we’re married if we don’t share a name, do I need to carry a copy of our marriage certificate in case one of us ends up in the hospital? What name will future children have? It’s all very confusing. It helps that in our profession, couples often start businesses together and the ones who do almost never share a last name. But I’m still hung up on the kids thing.

          • neighborhoodmap

            My state has recently instituted an option to get a wallet-sized copy of the marriage certificate (it has to be in response to civil unions and same sex marriage being legalized and people needing an easy way to prove their legally-married status). My husband and I decided that was totally worth the 10 bucks or so it cost, since I had some of those same concerns (I kept my name).

            The kids thing, though — yeah. We’re getting close to trying, so that’ll become a real thing that we have to figure out soon. Because not a single existing option feels right to me right now, and I’m very sensitive to it.

          • laurasmash

            Oooh, what state is that? (Please say California! edited: oh wait, New York because that’s where we actually got married)

            I’m with you re: none of the kid-name-options feeling quite right :(

          • neighborhoodmap

            Sorry, Illinois (and now that I look into it further, maybe specifically Cook County? http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/vitalrecords/marriagecertificates/Pages/default.aspx). But maybe California has something similar? It was something we didn’t know a thing about until we went in to get the marriage license. They had posters in the room where you wait in line, but I hadn’t seen any other kind of advertising around it, which we both thought was weird. As soon as we saw it, though, it became super clear that we could potentially benefit from it. It’s stamped/certified and everything. I’ve thought about laminating it, but then I’m concerned it’ll flatten the certification stamp and therefore cancel out the whole point.

          • Tanya

            I kept my last name and for kids we’ve decided any daughters will have my last name and sons will have my husband’s.

        • MDBethann

          The federal government and some states let you “double barrel” your last name without hyphening it. Maryland is one of those states, so that’s exactly what I did (I write & publish in my job too). So my name is Bethann Middle Name LastMine LastHis. I did this because I want the same last name as my husband & my children.

          Here’s how it usually plays out: At work, most people still call me Bethann MyLast even after 3 years of marriage, but that makes sense because I had that job 9 years before my marriage. Everywhere else, I tend to go by Bethann HisLast – it’s easier. Legally, when I sign things, I use my full first name, my middle initial, the first letter of my last name, and then his full last name (we both have 7 letter last names, so signing would be a problem if I didn’t abbreviate). Are there challenges when I sign up for stuff? Yes, and computer systems for insurance & medical offices (among other places) seem to freak out when my name isn’t hyphenated. but as you can see, I have a compound first name which causes problems anyway so I figure what’s one more name problem?

          I have found it very easy, over the last 3 years, to switch between the two. It took some time, but I don’t feel weird going by both or either name. They are both me, depending on the hat I’m wearing.

    • I also have one of those top-5-most common maiden names, and I used to think that I’d like to change it. But, now that the decision is imminent, I cannot imagine doing it. All my academic and professional successes are attached to this name. And, as silly as it sounds when I articulate it, I am my father’s only child. So, if feels like I’m letting him down somehow (even though he probably expects me to change my name). I think, on balance, I am not going to change it.

  • 39bride

    Beautiful. I’ve never seen this articulated anywhere and I’m so glad to know I’m not alone. I adore the family of my origin (and we are amazingly drama-free, at least in the squabbling/skeletons kind of way), but I was deeply conscious–from the moment we began to talk about marriage—of the fact that I would be integrating myself into a new family and that that family was full of drama, skeletons and dysfunction. But it was also full of love and warmth, and embracing my role as daughter-in-law and aunt has completely changed my life. I am raising two nieces now, and I am married to the patriarch of a large and complicated family that will need guidance and tending for the rest of our lives. I’m not turning from a family of origin that is painful, but expanding my family to include some very difficult realities that DO cause pain and added responsibility. But there’s added joy as well, and discovering who I am in this new family is a never-ending process.

  • Sosuli

    This coincidentally touches on a lot of what I’ve been thinking about this morning. I have never wanted to change my name and have declared to my family since being a teenager that I would not change it for any man. My last name is weird and rare and special and links me so closely to my family that I love so much. Now that I’m overseas it’s even more important in connecting me very visibly to my home and my language. My FH fully supports that, and we’ve talked about mutual double-barreling.

    But my sisters changed their names when they got married, and my parents have recently got divorced and my mum has been talking about changing her name. So while I still don’t want to change my name completely, a part of me feels like it will be linking me to the tatters of a non-existent family rather than the stronghold I always thought I had. Still figuring this one out, but luckily I have a year to do it. But thank you to this post for recognising just how much of an emotional impact a name can have – I feel slightly less silly now about how the decision has been affecting me.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for this post. The subject has been on my mind recently.

    Until literally yesterday, I thought I was just going to change my name, because I didn’t have any particular attachment to my current last name (it actually has connotations of a shady political character). And then yesterday I started thinking about how for the first quarter-century of my life, I’ve been this person, and it doesn’t seem right to just wipe it clean and start over, like none of that mattered. Long story short, I’ve decided to take my current last name as a second middle name, keeping my original one, so I’ll be Sarah Middlename Currentlastname Newlastname. It sounds right to me now.

    • Casey

      This is exactly the thought process I went through! I didn’t want to *change* my name, just add to it, because I wasn’t totally changing who I was as a person but rather adding on a new dimension. I did the same as you and have no regrets, although it is a tiny bit inconvenient to fill out paperwork asking for my middle initial :)

      • Eh, I’ve had two middle names my whole life and middle initial isn’t bad. I just do the first one. It can get a bit long when forms ask for your full name though and sometimes they get confused by which name is a last name or not (I have both my parents names but my mom’s is my second middle kiname because they wanted me to be alphabetically earlier since my mom hated being at the end of the line always. But also they almost misspelled my (not uncommon, 4 letter) name so that may just be an explanation for the result of how the form filling turned out).

        • But also I think I want to tack his last name onto the end when we get married (maybe? possibly?) and then that would be five names and maybe getting a little out of control. (also my names are relatively short… Only 20 letters combined in all 4 and he had a 3 syllable last name so it would really make things long. Idk)

          • Lauren from NH

            5 names? MEH! You are in good company with Dumbledore ;)

          • Haha Yes! It would be a lot, which is my one real hesitation. But realistically most of the time I would just have to do first name middle initial last name which wouldn’t be much different than now. Although taking up so much space elsewhere. (complicated thoughts but I guess I still have 4 months left to decide the exact details)

          • Dal

            I’m in the same bucket as you, two middle names but wanting to add on his last name to my last name which would result in two middle names and two last names. A total of 37 letters though.. I’m beginning to think I might lose one of my middle names (the second has no significance, just a name my parents liked) and then having one middle name and two last names.
            I guess having two middle names growing up and a hard to pronounce last name, I’m so used to people messing up on forms and things that I really don’t mind anymore. I’m more excited at the prospect of keeping my family name as there are only girls in our family with that last name and I very strongly want to keep it going for more generations.

    • Kayjayoh

      I tried that (unofficially, see above) and I wish I could make it work. I like the idea of it, but the reality is a little too much for me.

    • Alyssa M

      That’s what I did and it really works for me! I still feel totally connected to my old last name, I even kept my old email and usernames. Cause, you know, that’s still my name, even if it’s not my WHOLE name.

    • I really wanted to do this. The problem is that his last name is hyphenated with 4 syllabes in total (not because his parents both wanted to keep their names, his Dad’s name was just like that). So keeping all of my names and tacking on his would be Cassandra M**** T****** F******-B*****.

      So far I’ve kept my maiden name. I kind of want to change it to his and keep my name professionally, but soon I’ll be travelling a lot for work, so my company would have to book travel under my legal name that matches my passport, but my work email address would have my maiden name… It’s a bloody mess :(

  • Lauren

    Beautiful, thank you for writing this! I spent Easter with my FILs and was reflecting on “belonging” to their family via our soon-to-be-shared name. It’s a weird thing – they’re very, very different from my family and bring along a lot of their own baggage, but there are perks too, like having BILs and a granny-in-law, which are all relationships that are very weak in my family of origin.

    • Eh

      My family is also very different from my husband’s family. My in-laws believe that when you get married that family is extended to you. My BIL/SIL decided on the baby family theory and my in-laws feel very excluded from their other son’s life. Before my husband and I were married, my in-laws had many discussions with me about how I was marrying into the family and the responsibility that involved (including keeping family secrets – they have a narcissistic family dynamic so there are quite a few family secrets). (My family is more of a patchwork of people who care about each other and aren’t just people who are related by blood or marriage but also close friends. There is the feeling of belonging but not the stress my in-laws have on expectations.) I kept my last name which is a bit subversive to my in-laws idea of family (at least from their perspective). I am not saying that I disagree with their theory of family, and I am not saying that I believe that my husband and I (and soon-to-be-baby) are a totally serperate family but their needs to be a balance between his family, my family and our family (my in-laws family obligations would take up all of our time if we didn’t set boundaries). My in-laws have realized over the last year and a half that me keeping my name was not a shot at them that it was a personal decision (note: my SIL did take their name, and my BIL/SIL exclude my in-laws from their life).

  • KiwiSarah

    This really resonates – I have long assumed that I would change my name when I married, partly as I have limited relationships with my dad’s family, and identify myself more as a “Mum’s birth name”, which she reverted to years ago when my parents divorced. But now that I’m engaged, I’m starting to intermittently freak out about suddenly being a different person. I’m also finally at the point in my career where I understand why people want to keep their birth names for career purposes – I had previously thought that was kind of lame unless you had some kind of public persona, but I’ve developed a good reputation within my organisation and I can imagine that people who don’t know me well but have heard that I do good work are going to think “Sarah who?” when they see my new name.
    I think I’ll probably go through with it, because the original reasons still stand, but I also think I’m at the point where any weird pressure from FH or his family will be enough to push me in the other direction. I have some time to decide, especially since I won’t be changing official documents until we move back from overseas a year after the wedding…

  • Jillian

    Beautifully put.

  • emmers

    Growing up, I always thought I’d be happy to abandon my original surname, since it’s kind of awkward. But when it actually came time to make the choice, I didn’t want to leave it, it was a harder transition than I thought. I ultimately decided to keep my surname as a middle name, and to take my partner’s last name. It took awhile to get used to signing with my new name, but it helped that I went all in, and changed everything all at once.

    I’m really glad I have my original surname as a middle name. I’m surprised at how glad I am about that. I feel like it acknowledges where I came from, and my new last name acknowledges this change in my life, where I am now. It gives me such joy to see my middle initial in my work email, along with my new last name.

    • Alyssa M

      That’s what I did too and I love it. I actually didn’t get rid of my old middle name (my great grandmother’s name) either. I just have four names now! I love that on my license it says

      Newlast
      first middle oldlast

      I love seeing ALL my names together.

  • Sarah

    “The preacher spoke to me at my wedding. He said that marriage was true freedom—a freedom that comes from being fully known, and being loved in spite of all that is known.”

    This is the best :-)

    • Moe

      I love that part too, and it’s really true…for me anyways. There’s a certain security in knowing I have a place where I can fall apart, be flawed, be wrong and still be loved.

  • Kayjayoh

    Oh, my heart! This speaks to me.

    I wanted to change my name for a long, long time. I am on good terms with my family, for for the longest time I’ve dreamt of being something else. Maybe Anderson. Maybe O’Neil. Maybe…anything that didn’t sound like my name. But what?

    I didn’t want to let the side down, feminism-wise. I loved the idea of being a Lucy Stoner. If only it didn’t mean that I’d have to keep hearing the same sounds when I introduced myself.

    When my husband and I decided to marry, I thought maybe we could both change our names. He could take mine and I could take his, but he wanted no part of name changing, and didn’t see any reason for me to do so either. And so, the struggle. I decided to take last last name and add it to mine. Four names, no hyphen. But… I wasn’t sure.

    So I’ve spent most of the past year with my legal, original 3-name name, but have been going by an AKA with the 4-name name, of just by his. Of course, not having this as a legal name means I keep having to explain things, in case something needs to be compared with my ID, with my medical records, with my taxes, with my credit card. I’ve been forgetting what name I made reservations under.

    And I’ve realized exactly how much my original name is me. My initials, kjo, which have become my username and signature on pretty much every possible thing since college. My big looping signature. I’ve also realized how averse I am to legal hoop jumping. I may dislike the sound of my name, but for me I’m realizing that it is like disliking the shape of your nose: you can change it, but it won’t be cheap or painless. Surgery is surgery.

    I am waiting until my first anniversary to make a final decision, but I already know which way I’m sliding. My name on my email, on my social media, and on my office door are going to drop his name. I’m still perfectly happy to be called by that name, provided they aren’t calling me Mrs. His Fullname. I think of his last name is a nickname, if you were allowed to have nicknames for your surname. But since you aren’t…

    • Kayjayoh

      Ultimately, I think if my husband had been on board with us both changing our names, I would have happily gone to 4-name name right away. Since it is just me, I also feel a small bit of resentment mixed up in it: “you can simply dismiss this without a thought but I still have to wrestle with it, and that’s not fair.” And then I feel bad about that, because he isn’t exactly pressuring me to take his name. And then I dismiss that, because it is still his privilege to not have to think about it.

      Oh, feelings. So complicated.

      • Alyssa M

        I was(still am really) pretty resentful about the same thing. He didn’t pressure me one way or the other, but he also just shrugged his shoulders about it all. I did what you’ve considered, and I’m actually really happy with it, but I still hate that he didn’t have to put so much emotion into it. Like he doesn’t recognize what a BIG deal it is.

        • Kayjayoh

          I think this is why I’m slipping away from the idea and back to my still-legal name. I don’t want to carry even a sliver of that resentment around with me. Maybe it would dissipate, but I’m not thrilled about taking that chance. I know myself, and I hang onto shit like that when I’m mad about other things.

      • Sara P

        This exactly. I’m not planning on changing my last name for a number of reasons, but one deciding factor was FH’s immediate dismissal of the idea of changing his name in any way.

        • Mary Stevens

          Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t changed my name, for that exact reason. But, I did, and I’m getting to a place of being at peace with it, especially since I use my maiden name at work. What bugs me is that while my husband did not pressure me at all to change my name pre-marriage, he tells me fairly often how happy it makes him that I did change, and that we share a name. And he’s being genuine, and trying to be supportive, and I love that. But when I was grappling with whether to un-change, it just made me feel like, “Great, so I would be taking an action that I KNOW would make you sad. Awesome.” Which I’m certain was not his intent.

        • Eh

          That is something that I find very frustrating too. I am really lucky. I told my husband long before we were engaged I was keeping my last name. When we discussed it again while wedding planning he offered to change his (I didn even suggest it). We decided to both keep ours because his mother would have been upset if he changed his name. Originally I was planning on giving our kid his last name but then we discussed things because I felt conflicted about being the only person in the family with a different last name so we decided to hyphenate our kids names.

          • Sara P

            I’m currently planning on hyphenating our kids’ names for exactly that reason :). I am expecting that to be a tougher sell, though, unfortunately. It’s awesome that your husband offered to change his name.

          • Eh

            He comes from a naracistic family and he was the scapegoat so I think he wouldn’t have minded cutting that tie.

            My in-laws don’t get a vote but I think it would be a bigger issue if we were having a boy. My MIL really wants their name to continue through their family line (there three male cousins, my husband’s cousin has a son with that name, my husband’s brother has three girls so my husband is her only hope for this and we are hyphenating). We haven’t ‘announced’ that we are hyphenating but we do refer to ourselves as ‘the HisLast-MyLast family’ so it shouldn’t be a shock when our daughter is born this summer.

          • laurasmash

            This is the solution I’m leaning towards too. Unfortunately our names don’t flow together very smoothly, too many “k” sounds.

        • Anna

          I definitely feel that. The one thing I insist on is symmetry. I’m happy to change as much of my name as he’s willing to change of his (I really want to keep my last name, but it’s pretty safe to just go all in and say I’d go for it if he changed his last name as well since so far his position has been that he won’t change any aspect of his name at all).

          My current favorite compromise suggestion is that we each take the other’s last name as a second middle name. His last name has the same initial as my current middle name, so I’d go from ALW to ALLW, which I kind of like; and he’d go from WHL to WHWL, so there’s some pleasant letter symmetry there too. But he’s extremely resistant to even this (essentially publicly invisible) name change. Which hugely bothers me, because he really wants me to change my name (although he does recognize that what I do with my name is not his choice).

      • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

        I feel you! My name is Firstname Mom’sLast Dad’sLast. So even though my husband was willing to take Shay (Dad’sLast) as his middle name, I didn’t change. 1. I didn’t want to lose the connection to my mom’s family, with whom I’ve always been close. And 2. If my husband and I both took Shay as middle names and Husband’sLast (let’s say “Biden” – a girl can dream) as last names, my husband’s name doesn’t change to the same degree that mine does. That seemed unfair, and I wasn’t about that.

        About a year later, I still feel like I made the right choice, but there I times I second guess it. I like that my identity is now connected to his family, and there are times I feel like people think I’m crazy for not wanting to “be” a Biden. I may be projecting that. But also of course I want to be a Biden, but just the name does not a Biden make. My husband and I have come to be referred to as the “Biden Shay Family,” which I like. I actually think that not just being the Bidens helps strengthen our identity as a baby family separate from both of our families of origin. And we’ve talked about revisiting it when/if we have kids. Because we’re the “Biden Shays,” I think he’d tack on Shay to the end of his name, and I’d be Lindsay Carlisle Biden Shay.

  • AGCourtney

    Thanks for this! This has been on my mind a lot lately. After a great deal of thinking, I decided I’d change my name to his – Our daughter has his last name, and while it’s not terribly unusual in our community for a mother to keep her name, for the sake of ease, I’d like us to just share a name. But man, I’ve been having doubts lately. Like everyone’s been saying, it’s my identity. Every time I sign my name I realize it’s one of the last times I’ll do so – and I’ll miss those two little y flourishes at the end of each name. I signed a rent check last month and on a whim, took out a piece of scrap paper and started practicing my married name. It felt so odd. Once, my daughter was joking around, reciting people’s last names switched with others’ on purpose, and one of them was mine with her last name. And it sounded so bizarre coming out of her mouth, but one day, that’s all she’ll ever remember me as – precisely what she said, only without the giggle afterward. So perhaps I have a bit more thinking yet to do.

  • Kate M

    This was really beautiful, and so important. I think many of us don’t see marriage as taking on a new family too, I have both last names and I think it really fits for me because I am part of both families. Marriage is the creation of a baby family, but the families of origin are part of the bigger picture and learning to embrace both, taking the good and leaving the bad is an ongoing lesson. To disregard either side is to remove a piece of the whole picture.

  • anon

    I took my original surname as a middle name, which was definitely the right choice for us. But now that we’re thinking very seriously about having kids, I’m realizing that I have a very surprising desire to give our (still future, still hypothetical) kids my original name as a middle name…which is only an issue because it’s also very important to my husband to give our (still future, still hypothetical kids) his mother’s very significant cultural original name as a middle name, as is tradition in his family. My original name is only cultural if white Eastern European 3x removed from the country of origin counts as cultural (spoiler: it doesn’t), so I’m really shocked how strongly I feel about this.

    I’m sort of recognizing it as a delayed response to feeling like my past deserves(?) tangible remembrance, beyond even just MY name. It’s the same as his mother and foremothers feel and felt, I suppose, only that’s directly tied to Latin American culture and deep pride and history, rather than this individualistic hissy fit I’m having (that’s how it feels, anyway). I wholeheartedly respect my husband’s family’s culture and very much want to honor such an important tradition, but I can’t help feeling bubbles of desire for my family name to be tangibly honored as well. It’s weird and unexpected, since I’ve NEVER been sentimental about my original name, ever.

    All this to say that even well after the fact and when you’re solidly happy with your choice, complexities around can still creep up and surprise you.

    • Kate M

      We are expecting our second child, and my family names, maiden names are middle names because I want that tie in. Also my family is much larger and we live closer to them, so my kids are also considered part of the McMahons although that is not their last name. It makes me smile.

    • Alyssa M

      I really don’t think it’s an individualistic hissy fit! Wanting your children to carry that part of you is totally and completely reasonable. Your husband gets to pass on his TWO surnames and no one is questioning that desire. Also, two middle names is also completely legit.

      • Sara P

        Just seconding Alyssa here – I don’t think you sound like you’re having a hissy fit at all :)

    • qj

      This makes such sense to me!! Part of my relative comfort changing my name (which was something I NEVER thought I’d do) was enhanced x500 when my partner a) suggested that we both change our middle names to be my former last name, and b) was super excited about (when he came up with it) giving our kids my former/our new middle name as their middle name too. I’m having our first baby this summer, and we never batted our eye about the decision of the new human’s middle name. So —> no! I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all, and have been hugely comforted by the automatic inclusion of that piece of my former solo identity into our baby family’s collective one.

    • Bernice

      I did the same as you (took my maiden as a middle), but we made a different choice re kids. I have a very unique eastern European name and I’m only 2nd generation American, my family is the only family in the United States with this name. In the next generation, there are currently only three children with this name and only one boy. So, even though I wanted to take my husband’s name (for career reasons, it’s a complicated, hard to spell and say name and I work in a field that requires people to say my name frequently), I wanted my name to continue. He has a very generic, Anglo Saxon name. There are already more than ten kids in the next generation with his name. So, we agreed to give our kids alternating names. I get the first one (because childbirth and because I’m a little afraid he’ll change his mind otherwise, but the more we talk about it the more confidence I have in him), he gets the next and so on. We want four kids, so we’ll each have two with our name. We plan to talk to our kids about why we made these choices and the importance of family and identity. People have asked us about how it will work re not having all the same name, but I know lots of families that make it work, and since I carry both names on all legal and medical documents I don’t think it will be as much of a hassle as some people think.

      • Amy March

        It’s all fun and games until surprise triplets.

  • Kate

    I fully changed my last name and, as many are saying below, it was harder than I thought. We didn’t really talk about changing/combining names, though we jokingly refer to ourselves as the McHisname family (Mc being the start of my pre-married name). He is the last man with his last name though and I felt like it was important for our family to have his last name and reflect his family’s history (no pressure from him at all).

    The week of the wedding my sisters kept telling me “you’re not going to be OurFamilyName anymore.” It made me so upset that I turned to my Dad like a 7 year old and demand that he tell them to stop and say it wasn’t true. I never really considered how changing my name would be strange for my family of origin as well, though I don’t think it came as a surprise to them.

    The strangest thing is that it’s only been 6 months and there are already people who only know me as Kate Mynewname.

    • Ashlah

      The idea of future people only knowing me by a different last name was one of the biggest things that made me not want to lose my last name. The thought totally weirded me out. I hope it’s something you’re okay with, and that you’ve found/are finding peace with your new name.

      • Kate

        Yes, I’d say I’m more than peaceful and actually happy, though it is weird. One of the reasons I was so excited to send our Thank You’s was because we got to stamp it with our new return address of The Ourlastname Family :)

        Those future (err…current) people are actually one of the things that helped me internalize that my last name doesn’t define who I am, since these people don’t treat me any differently despite never knowing me by my birth name.

  • Moe

    I know this conversation has been a recurring theme here and it’s often discussed. I just don’t relate to it at all. I changed my name as quickly as possible upon getting married and never looked back. My attachment to my father or family of origin isn’t associated in his name. I love him and miss him very much. I like to think he would have liked my husband if they had met.
    I recently ran into someone I knew many years ago and he referred to me by my former last name. “Monica P! Is that you? How are you?” and with a smile I responded by showing him my ring and said “It’s Monica N. now!”
    To me, my new name represents a fresh start, a new chapter in my life…a partnership with my husband. He’s become a part of my family too, as much as I’m a part of his. I’m still very much “me” though. Still stubborn, artistic, kinda nerdy, chubby, glam, loving, and talkative. I just don’t link all those things back to a name.

    • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

      Thank you for adding your experience to the mix. I have friends who changed their names without a second thought, and it’s interesting to hear that perspective. It can be such a complex thing, I sometimes worry about talking to IRL friends about it because I don’t want them to think I’m judging them. There are so many different feelings about so many different choices. Thanks for being willing to share, even if you don’t relate to the feelings in the post!

    • Jess

      This is the first post regarding name changes that I’ve actually partially identified with – because of the second half. It’s the first one to talk about how taking a new name means to join into a new family, which really, is my only hang up and has less to do with names than to do with what being part of a family is.

      Yours is an interesting perspective, and it seems pretty close to mine, which is that the removing the last name I have now won’t change the person I am.

  • Anon

    I’m struggling with this right now. I mentioned considering changing
    my name some time ago, and was shocked. He sees no reason for anyone to
    change their name, since his relatives are from Quebec.

    However, we do plan to have children and he has also dismissed the idea that they will not have his last name. I feel like I’m stuck between two options that I hate, and he won’t acknowledge how hard this is for me. When I brought it up again his response was “well sure, you can change your name if you want”

    I don’t want to change my name. But I also don’t want not to..

  • Katie

    I so appreciate this post! I changed my name in my first marriage, and regretted it tremendously for so many reasons. I hadn’t had a moment’s hesitation in changing it, and was blind-sided with how lost I felt (this also had to do with things going on in the marriage, though). I was very happy to retake my maiden name upon my divorce.

    I’m getting married again to a really wonderful man, and I suddenly find myself torn about taking his name! I assumed I’d never change it again, but my last name, which is fairly unique, came from my sweet dad’s abusive adoptive father with whom he’s had zero relationship since he was a child. The name has no positive family association, but it’s my name, and my dad’s name. I’m hesitant to change it because it’s mine, and because I’m 30, and because I know how much it hurt the first time. HOWEVER, my SO comes from a great family, and it’s a really cool last name (IMO). I’m considering taking it to associate myself with SO and his family, but I’m just so torn! I don’t want to hyphenate because of length/sound. This is so hard!

    • Sara P

      I hear you on the paternal grandfather thing – that’s where my name comes from, and he wasn’t a very nice guy (and I only met him once). But it’s still been my name for 27 years, which is going to have to be reason enough :). It is hard, though – good luck!

  • Cathy (One-Two) Three

    My mom hyphenated my name when I was born, Cathy One-Two, but registered me for school as Cathy Two. I didn’t fully realize what she had done until I was about to start college (who looks that closely at their birth certificate, after all), so I slowly started the process of becoming Cathy One-Two. It was weird and I kind of hated it. My now-husband and I used to joke that if we married, I’d become Cathy One-Two-Three, but really I knew I’d just take his name and become Cathy Three. I’m not a fan of the historical implications of a woman changing her name, but I longed for the convenience of having just one name again.

    We married last month, and I quickly started to realize that even though I made a traditional decision for a non-traditional reason, everyone was only seeing the tradition. We got wedding gifts addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Husband Three, and I was suddenly being called Mrs. Three by family and co-workers. Family were suddenly telling me how excited they were that I was “taking the Three name,” like I was winning a Nobel prize or doing something that would make my mark on history. I started to feel like I didn’t exist anymore. For me, I was just looking forward to not having my name mangle, or misfiled, or having to spell it out “onehyphentwo” every time I called a business. I don’t know how to explain that to people without sounding callous or like I’m devaluing another person’s choice. I know many people find value and meaning in the newly shared name, and I don’t want to sound dismissive or disrespectful to that. But for me, that isn’t there, and I’m struggling to deal with the people who are putting that assumption on me.

    I’m still mid-name-transition. I have a list of places I need to call, and every two or three days I tackle another one. In the meantime, to make myself feel better, I made mailing labels for my husband and I that say “Ms. & Mr. Cathy Three.” He loves the idea, and we’re looking forward to attaching them to our thank you notes.

    • Manda9339

      I went through the same college transition as you! As in, “hey, give me the name my parents intended when I was born.” I’ve never encountered someone else who dealt with that. It’s a mess, huh?

      Funnily enough, we have reacted the opposite way. I’m all, “I had to work for that name, no way am I giving it up. And also, damned if my offspring won’t be hyphenated.”

      People are different even when they are the same. :-P

      • Cathy (One-Two) Three

        It was definitely a mess! A lot of my transition happened as I was starting grad school, alongside a lot of other challenges in my life, which definitely colors the name adjustment process. New city, new school, new friends, and suddenly a new name that was so long that it wouldn’t even fit in my student record. When I hear people are hyphenating their kids’ names I always inwardly flinch, so it’s good for me to hear about people like you that had a similar, but positive experience. I’m glad to know that you found strength and identity in it and are sharing it forward.

        • MDBethann

          That’s why I double barreled my last name (without the hyphen). That way, hubby and I have the same last name as our kids but I’m the only one with the long name headache.

    • Ashlah

      “Ms. & Mr. Cathy Three.”

      Yessssss. <3

    • Becca

      Yes! This is *exactly* what my parents did with my last name. one-two, then two for school, then I slowly went back to one-two post college and especially in grad school once I realized it was my actual legal name. I appreciate my mom’s feminist name choices, but that was very much a one-generation solution, wasn’t it? I’ll be keeping one-two rather than switching to three, but it does make the name choice for future-hypothetical-potential small people a little trickier.

  • farmgirl13

    oh this. I have been struggling with changing my name or not changing it. My father passed away two years ago and I feel like my last name his last name the one he gave me is part of my legacy. It’s who I am. Who I have been for nearly 33 years. I feel like giving that up is giving up a part of him. and that is so hard. But I am marrying into a lovely family with a lovely last name and marrying the absolute love of my life. I would love to take his name and give it to our someday children…

  • Guest

    I’m very torn about this, not only from the usual feminist reluctance, but also with race mixed in as well. As an Asian-American, do I take a name that is overwhelmingly white sounding? It seems not only to affect my personal identity, but there’s a larger cultural issue at play as well.

    • Kate M

      This was a huge thing for both me and my sister. We have a strong tie to our Irish heritage and last name (my sister is Colleen) and both our husbands’ last names are very much not. That was the actually the hardest part for me to decide about, was loosing the ethnic identity.

      • Violet

        This makes a lot of sense to me. Like Moe, I don’t affix much of my identity to my name. But that’s probably an outcome of the fact that my ethnic identity (such as it is) comes from my mom’s side, anyway. So my last name at birth never matched my ethnic identity. Now that I’m married with a different name (that has a clear ethnic distinction that is not actually mine), it just feels like more of the same. But if you’re used to having the name match the identity, I can imagine this is REALLY tough.

    • Samesies (similar-sies?), except both me and my last name are Jewish-ish, and my partner and his name are not. I plan to keep my name partly for this reason, but mostly because… it’s my name. It’s been my name for 36 years and even though it’s not perfect, it would be strange to change it now.

    • Anon

      Late to this conversation, but I am also Asian American and did not change my last name for the reason you mentioned. My last name is a super common Vietnamese one, so I never thought I was attached to it, but then when I thought about taking a European last name, it just didn’t sit right with how I feel about my cultural identity and how I want to be seen by others. This is not at all to say that people need to have a last name that “matches” their ethnicity or appearance or whatnot, but I think there can be a real sense of loss when giving up a last name that reflects your heritage. Good luck in making the decision that’s right for you!

  • Eh

    I kept my name. It was a decision I made years ago (in university). I didn’t realize that I would be so conflicted with the decision when I got married (that said when I made that decision I was dating a guy whose mother kept her name and I was in an environment where many women kept their name). We have been married 1.5 years and about this time last year I was very conflicted about the decision to keep my name. My husband and I were discussing our plans about children, we had just bought a house, my sister had decided she was changing her name when she got married, and I realized that I am the only married woman on either side (my family and my husband’s family) that kept her maiden name (though one hyphenated and another only uses her name professionally but her husband’s socially). I read a post on APW about last names and after discussing things with my husband we decided to have a family name and we settled on HisLast-MyLast. We also decided that our children would have that name.

  • Aubry

    What a beautiful piece! I love how you captured some complicated emotions.

    I am in a funny limbo right now. I had always wanted to keep my last name as a kid, mostly cause feminism I think. But then my previous partner was really into having a family name the same for all members, so I started thinking. Many years later and with my now husband I thought changing my name isnt so bad. I don’t share my name with any family members and dont know my father so there isn’t a family connection. I considered changing it to my moms maiden name when I was a teenager but never got around to it.

    C had been contemplating changing his name to his moms family name since before we met. I told him I would change mine if he did (I hated his previous/current last name) and so it was decided. He had a very drawn out divorce from his first (long ago and short lived) marriage and didnt want to start the name change process while that was going on in case it complicated things. Then we got married (July), old name still intact.

    He has still not gotten started on the name change, mostly because of the money. I really want to make this a priority soon, because it is messing me up. We both socially go by our new name, but legally we are both still original name.

    Every time someone askes my name I have a pause moment while I quickly calculate what the weight of this question is. Yarn store membership? Married name. Pharmacy? Birth name. The in betweens get me though. Its like i dont know who i am and i just want to be settled.

    Also re: signatures – I had fun thinking up a new one that I still havent used, but realized I sign my “s” exactly like my mom does. And I can’t stop no matter how hard I try!

  • Jess

    Now I’m feeling guilty that my (male) fiancé is taking my last name.

    We just wanted the same last name, and we discussed which to take. He doesn’t have a good relationship with his father, whereas I am close to mine, so we chose mine!

    I hope he doesn’t feel too strange after he changes it. Especially given that taking a wife’s name isn’t exactly common…

    • Mae

      My husband took my last name. I’m not particularly close to my dad (or at all) but my last name is unique, highly spell able and pronounceable and since I was 12, I’ve been determined that I was never changing it. There’s also no one else to carry the name forward since my sister changed hers. My husband was adopted by his stepfather at age 11 and had his last name changed then from a beautiful last name to one that is harder and less pretty. After he decided to take my name, that was it. I kept wanting to discuss it to make sure he was really okay with it and he was like, “Why are we still discussing this?” In the end, he’s happy and I’m happy (and always thrilled when I look through the mail and see his name plus mail addressed as Mrs. HisFullName is still part my name so I don’t get quite as angry). I think he enjoys that he bucked tradition and sometimes I get a little sad when I realize that people who are just meeting us now must assume that I took his name. So I brag about how awesome he is any chance I get.

    • VKD_Vee

      LOSE THAT GUILT, GIRL, AND LOSE IT *QUICK*!

  • disqus_shjxil52yw

    Taking my FH’s last name and leaving mine was never
    on the table, but whether to hyphenate our last names or just keep mine has
    been a matter of much debate and soul searching. I had never intended to hyphenate,
    but during a conversation that we had years before we were engaged I revealed
    that I planned on keeping my last name, and his super-surprised “Oh…really?”
    shocked me. And I’ve never forgotten it. So years later, in the pure joy of our
    engagement, when he said he’d support whatever decision I made about my name, I
    only loved him more for saying it (and I wanted to make the gesture for his
    sake) and hastily told him that I would hyphenate. As that sunk in over the
    coming months though, I realized that I may have been too quick to decide, and
    have since recanted on that decision, which…he didn’t take as well as I would
    have hoped and a huge fight ensued. For whatever reason, my dear liberal FH
    gets really stuck on my feminist ideals (I think he thinks (unfairly!) that I
    make feminist decisions for the sake of making a statement rather than because
    it is actually how I feel) and it’s now a sore spot between us, but when I
    explained to him that I didn’t want to make a decision about my last name until
    we decided one way or another on having children, and what our children’s last
    names will be if we do decide to have them he got it.

    So now I’m back to, I don’t know what I’m going to do about my
    last name. Both options feel dishonest – either I feel like I’m being dishonest
    to myself or to us. I made the mistake of telling one person the truth about
    where my thoughts are on my last name, and her head almost exploded, so now
    when people ask about my plans for my last name, I just say “When I’ve made a
    decision to change my name, I’ll let you know.”

    • Ashlah

      Unfortunately men, even liberal-minded and feminist-identified men, are never expected to think about name changes upon marriage. It is such an ingrained expectation that a wife takes her husband’s name that many never consider anything different. I’ve heard many stories of men reacting with surprise, or even anger, when their partner first casually mentions keeping her name. It’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s where we are as a culture, unfortunately. My then-boyfriend now-husband was quite surprised when I first mentioned I wasn’t comfortable with losing my name upon marriage. But he quickly understood when I turned the tables on him. At the time, I said I might make my last name my middle name and take his as my last. But I changed my mind. I wasn’t comfortable with that. It was too much loss for me, and I wasn’t comfortable making such a change when he wasn’t. We ended up both hyphenating, and while it can be kind of annoying at times, the sentiment and meaning behind it more than makes up for it for us. This shouldn’t just be a decision for the woman in a relationship. It should be a decision both partners grapple with.

      • qj

        For this reason, I always make a point of asking male friends & colleagues who are getting married, “What are y’all planning to do with your names afterwards?”

      • Suzanne

        With my guy, his response to me keeping my name at first was, “but what about our future children?? Whose name will they have? And wouldn’t it be weird for them to have a different name for you?” He thinks much more about them idea of a family unit, but fails to see how wrapped up personal identity is with names.

    • Anna

      I can definitely relate to the FH thinking that I’m doing things to make a statement rather than because it’s how I feel. In these situations he often tells me that I need to stop worrying about “other people” when making decisions about us, or that our relationship doesn’t have to be a microcosm of my ideals… but like, they’re my ideals for a reason, right? And a lot of that is because they represent the way I want to live in my actual real life. The false dichotomy between “making a (feminist or otherwise) statement” and “just living my life” really bothers me, because it implies that my feminism is somehow academic, irrelevant to real life, something I can just ignore and move on from if I choose to, rather than a reflection of my actual experiences and values…

  • VKD_Vee

    Quick poll… Did anyone here *not* change their surname and really struggle with that decision afterwards?

    • Vilmos Kovacs

      I struggle with it. My husband was away last week, so I called the hotel and arranged for room service. The room service guys said, “This is a nice thing you are doing for your friend.” I mean good on him for not assuming, but it made me feel a little silly. But all said and done, I’m really glad I kept my name.

    • CP2011

      I wouldn’t go as far as to say I had inner turmoil after choosing to keep my name, but I did have some feelings of waivering or uncertainty after the wedding, which were very unexpected. I kept my name and never had any question before the wedding that I would do so. My mom kept her maiden name so I grew up knowing that it is not only possible but also not really an inconvenience or issue for kids.
      After the wedding, I had a week of what felt like some deep internal pull to share a name with my husband. It was just surprising, given how adamant I was about not changing my name. But, it dissipated quickly and I am so glad I didn’t seriously entertain the idea.
      For what it’s worth, my husband changed his name to his maternal family name after we got married. It was a huge hassle but we felt it was worth it for him.

    • Not Mrs. H

      I was on the fence, but ended up keeping my name. My feelings since then have only confirmed it was the right decision to me. When I see mail addressed to Mrs. Hislastname, I kind of flinch inside. It just does not jive with how I see myself. I don’t really like being referred to as a “Misses” in general, even though I absolutely love referring to each other as husband and wife now. Maybe I would have gotten used to it, but so far my experiences have validated my decision.

    • neighborhoodmap

      I kept and my experience has been a lot like yours, especially that branding thing. It helped that we have a portmanteau of sorts to use to “brand” ourselves — the second letter of each of our surnames is the same, and one of the hotels we used as a block for the wedding mashed the first two letters of each name together as the four-letter code for our room block, so we came by it naturally. And as others have stated, I did, just a little, feel a bit of a pull to share a name for a while right after the wedding, even though I have pretty much always known I wasn’t going to change. It was a weird thing, and totally unexpected. I’ve since felt so very right in my decision, but yes! to baby-making changing things. At first I just assumed we’d do his last and maybe my last as a nickname, but the closer we get to actually, you know, trying to make a human, the less satisfying that feels for me. I would love to hear others’ perspectives on naming kids when the parents have had complicated feelings around their own name change/name keeping.

  • Antonia

    Can I just say something? I actually changed my name, so this is not coming from a place of bitterness. I hear a LOT of “Oh, I don’t like my father/my father’s never been in my life, so I’m taking my husband’s name,” or “My name is difficult to say/spell, too generic, etc., so I’m taking my husband’s name.”

    You know what? I know a lot of men with asshole fathers, or ridiculous-sounding surnames, or surnames like Jones or Johnson or Smith. AND THEY ALL KEPT THEIR LAST NAMES. In fact, I know a Burpee and a Creech, and they think their last names are awesome. Creech’s dad left his mom before he was born because his mom wouldn’t terminate the pregnancy, but he didn’t take his wife’s surname. In fact, it was never even up for discussion.

    So.

    • Aubry

      Sometimes they do! My hubby is changing is name (and me to his new one) for lots of reasons. He is taking his mom’s maiden name and he would be open to taking mine or doing a new one if those felt more right. Also my close friends soon to be husband thinks the whole name change thing is silly and doesn’t want her to take his (she wants to have one family name) but is totally into making a new one up. I think his idea of the McAwesomes isn’t making much headway though ;)

      I’ve also known a few (male) people change their names earlier in life to escape the father’s name. Not sure if I know some more “progressive” men or just lots of people with asshole fathers??

    • That Blue House

      But as a woman, I have more of an option to change my name when I’m married and I’m happy that I didn’t have to keep my birth name. Men can change their names too if they want, it’s just more of a struggle for the/not as socially acceptable. Who cares what the reasons are for women changing their names?

  • Nell

    Any LGBT folks want to share what they did and why? There’s kind of no road map for us. I know couples who combined names, couples who hyphenated, and couples who did neither, but we haven’t made a final decision yet.

    • I’m gay, and I plan on taking my future husband’s last name.

      I, like so many others, have negative feelings attached to my father’s name. He does not. I also really love the idea that our future children will share his family name with the both of us, and that his family name will be carried on for another generation (his only sibling has significant autism and will not be having children).

      There are a few more reasons, which are too personal to share on such a public forum, but the long and the short of it is that we could choose anything to do, so we went with what made us both happiest. And gladly, we agreed about what would make us both happy. It would have been weird and uncomfortable for me if he had wanted to take my father’s name. And hyphenating is not appealing to me at all. And so, it was the only–and the best–choice.

  • Alison O

    I think one of the interesting questions that this piece points to (and that each person has to grapple with on their own) is whether the jarring feeling of changing your name is rooted in a real conflict of personal values or identity, or whether it’s more the result of trying to ‘break’ an extremely ingrained habit, with most people somewhere in between. Another way of putting the second part is, changing your name could be really hard and weird and disorienting, but this isn’t necessarily indicative or a sign that it’s the ‘wrong’ choice for you. Or maybe it feels really hard and weird and disorienting because it *is* the wrong choice. It’s hard to untangle that, and I think it makes sense for it to take a long time to sit with it and do so.

  • Lindsay

    ah! that’s me in the picture, literally filling out the document stating that i would not be changing my name. my last name is unique (i’m the only person with my name when i google it) and it has a silent k in it which causes everyone to mispronounce it. for a long time i hated it for that reason, but now i’ve grown to love my silent k and the conversations about my heritage that it sparks. the one thing that nags at me about the decision is this: i got married in october, and in the last year 3 other women at my job have also gotten married, and they all took their husbands’ names. i feel a bit judged for not doing so, like i’m somehow less married or less serious about my marriage. which is obviously silly and all in my head. but that feeling is there.

  • Suzanne

    I kept my name because I love me last name. Katz is just a snappy last name. I also have always loved what it represents. As a Hebrew acronym for kohen Tzedak, it means high priest and it shows a direct lineage back to Aaron. I’m not religious but I love my cultural jewish roots. Giving up my name would have been giving up that cultural role. My name represents an ancestral line of leaders and I find that pretty damn cool.

    That being said, my marriage came hand in hand with a new family, a new country, and a new language. And as I make my slow journey towards citizenship, I wonder sometimes if I should take on the last name of my new life. It doesn’t hurt that the name translates to “from the forest” and I have always been most at home among the trees. Has anyone else listened to the song “when I grow up” by Fever Ray? That song is the epitome of me.

  • Narisha

    Interesting enough…I have been married a year now and chose to currently keep my maiden name due to career changes and the fact that my husband and I travel for a living (changing housing locations quite frequently) Honestly the idea of name change on top of all the chaos that ensued shortly after our wedding (we both quit our jobs and started new ones, we moved three times) was completely overwhelming to me and the last thing on my mind!

    Recently…someone explained to me (when asking what my last name legally was) that: “everyone in my hometown is excited to change it (last name) after they get married beacuse it is viewed as an honor. If you didn’t change, it would be viewed as if you didn’t plan on being married long or that you thought your family name is superior to his. Either way would be insulting to the man and his family so everyone would always change their names in the end.”.

    That certain someone just happens to be my sister in law……It’s official! I’m never changing my name now!