Missing Mrs.

When I was a little girl, I (like many other little girls) loved to write “Mrs. [Insert last name of current crush here]” over and over again in pretty, loopy handwriting. After all, this relationship was going to be a permanent arrangement and if you didn’t start practicing early you’d have to suffer through several months of hen-scratch signatures on everything you signed.

When my high school sweetheart proposed two weeks after our graduation, I told him I’d have to think about it, went home, and scrawled “Dr. and Mrs. [Sweetheart]” all over a notebook page. He was going to go to medical school, so I felt that I should start working on the loopy “D” as soon as possible. But it didn’t look right, not to mention eighteen seemed like an incredibly young age for me to make that kind of decision, so I turned him down. We broke up two weeks later.

In college, whenever I shared details of my dream wedding with roommates and girlfriends over a bowl of ice cream I would always say, “When I’m Mrs. Smith…” (I thought it best to keep it relatively generic, so I didn’t pin myself down to anyone too soon). Except then I finished college a year early (which just kind of snuck up on me) and while I didn’t have a plan, I did have a boyfriend who had a year left to go. I considered just taking an extra year of worthless coursework and twiddling my thumbs while I waited for my “ring by spring” to arrive. But then one of my professors somehow found out about my conundrum and suggested I apply for graduate school—he needed a Teaching Assistant, and I needed something to do while I tread the waters of my relationship waiting to be “Mrs. College Boyfriend”.

I applied for an M.A. program out of the same department, crossed my fingers, and was completely caught by surprise when I received an acceptance letter for a funded three-year Ph.D. program. Any sane person (or probably any guy, sane or not) would not have had the panic attack I did at this unforeseen event. A Ph.D. meant becoming Dr. Somebody and I had lived my whole life planning to be Mrs. [Insert name of whoever I was with when finished the game of relationship musical chairs that is college]. This was not the plan.

I accepted the offer and reminded myself that it would be three whole years from now, by then I would be happily married to College Boyfriend and I would change my name before graduating and be Dr./Mrs. College Boyfriend. Good compromise.

Then two months into my program, College Boyfriend and I split when I realized that his whole “I’m failing coursework because I’d rather be with you than go to class” thing wasn’t actually that charming as far as futures go. Again, I told myself that with two years and ten months to go, I could find a new husband or at least fiancé by then and that would make everything fine.

See, in my mind, being a woman and having the title Dr. came with a lot of baggage, especially for women who start their degree (or finish it) before getting married. Do you hyphenate, keep two different names, use dual identities (Dr. Somebody/Mrs. Smith)? I now recognize that lots of women face this problem, but it is especially sticky in academia, where your name is tied with your accomplishments—conference presentations, publications, professional contacts, and so on. If you publish under Dr. Maiden Name and change your name before tenure reviews, you’ll have to have the paperwork proving that you were in fact Dr. Maiden Name when you published those first few articles. Not only that, but it would mean that I would never (legally) be a “Mrs.,” which is something I couldn’t reconcile with my ten-year-old self’s life goals.

As I was reaching the finish line of my three-year program, my boyfriend of two years still hadn’t proposed. We were going to get married, that much was clear. But he wasn’t ready yet, having just started a Ph.D. program himself. Clearly he did not understand the plan. So the day after I defended my dissertation, I loudly announced, “This is your last chance to ask me to change my name!” He laughed because, at least sometimes, he’s smarter than me.

And so, flying in the face of all of my childhood hopes and dreams, I became Dr. Somebody with no backup plan on the name situation.

You know what? The world actually didn’t end. I became okay with being Dr. Somebody, then I got really good at being Dr. Somebody. But Mr. UsuallyRight was dragging his feet on a relationship that I was ready to shift into another gear. In a moment of frustration I asked him what exactly he was waiting for. And his reasoning was something I didn’t even consider.

“I don’t want to be Mr. and Dr. Somebody when we’re married,” he said. As women, I think we sometimes forget that men have their own issues to deal with (I know I definitely do). My early life had revolved around being “Mrs.” but I hadn’t really considered that maybe his early life plans hadn’t included grad school and a 24-year-old girlfriend with a Ph.D. He was proud that I would be Dr. Somebody (or Dr. Right, or Dr. Somebody-Right, or Dr. Somebody/Mrs. Right, or really whatever I wanted to do), and I owed it to him to wait until he could achieve what he wanted, too. And so I will.

I’m not going to lie, I get incredibly disheartened when I look through those cheesy bulk-wedding-decor magazines and there are glittery, rustic, adorable “Mr. and Mrs.” decorations. Sometimes I think that maybe I should stop caring so much about one tiny detail and go with the traditional titles. But if this is the first time that you are introduced as a married, united couple, shouldn’t what you’re called mean something to you?

To us the titles are less about some false sense of status and more about the things we’ve accomplished together, a way for us to celebrate our years of supporting each other through long hours, low bank accounts, theses and dissertations and mental breakdowns. They aren’t titles we are given when we sign a certificate; they’re titles we earned as independent and supportive partners. Everyone should get the opportunity to incorporate some part of who they are as a couple in their introduction, because “Mr. and Mrs.” isn’t really who you two as partners are, is it? Maybe you’re “Marathon Enthusiasts John and Jane Smith” or “Lawyer Bill and Elementary School Teacher Betty Jones” or a million other possibilities.

As far as my future identity, do I know what I’m going to finally decide? Not a clue, but fortunately I still have two whole years (at least) to figure that one out. I will probably never (legally) be Mrs. anything, so years and years of practicing my loopy M’s were probably all a waste. Our plans don’t always work out the way we think they will when we’re children, but I don’t think I will be more excited about that than when we’re introduced as “Dr. and Dr. [Insert whatever decision we both make here].”

Photo from MK’s Personal Collection

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  • Well I realize it doesn’t solve your publishing problem but at my alma mater we had a couple of married pair of professors and we called them Mr. Dr. X and Mrs. Dr. X so as to distinguish which was which. So maybe you can get your Mrs and your Dr.! lol.

    • We had a married couple in the department I minored in and the wife kept her own name.

      I also had a high school teacher with a take that I rather liked; professionally she went by Dr HerLast and in her personal life it was Mrs HisLast. She liked that it let her keep the two spheres separated. It’s a little complicated, but whatever you do with the name and title it’s complicated.

      • Edelweiss

        My sister-in-law is a news anchor and “rose to fame” before getting married. That was her solution. I’m strongly considering going the same route as I have papers and professional contacts under my maiden name but personal reasons for wanting to change my name. I think in this generation with jobs changing quickly, people moving long distances and even social media contacts and postings we’re going to see a lot of people make choices like this.

        Word to the wise though – my sister-in-law does get flustered sometimes and forget which name to use (ie when dealing with a passport issue). She can laugh it off easily and explain the mix up but if you’re likely to get extra tense and stressed when “dealing with authority” you may want to be prepared for it to get a little more complicated.

        • Granola

          This I think will be my solution as well. I’m also a journalist, and all my clips and reputation is under my maiden name. It’s also easier to spell and has the added bonus of a layer of privacy between my public “journalist persona” and my private family life. I know a lot of women in broadcast choose this route also for privacy reasons.

          It feels like I get the best of both worlds, but we’ll see. It could get complicated later if they start to overlap.

          • KEA1

            oh, man–privacy concerns! SO true, and I hadn’t even thought about that angle. That’s a pretty compelling reason to keep both names for different purposes!

          • I am an attorney and I do this since marrying 3 months ago– at the office I’m Sadie HerLast and everywhere else I’m Sadie HisLast. I’m doing it for professional reasons, but mostly privacy reasons (I’m a divorce lawyer, don’t want to be found so easily) b/c I think professionally I could make that switch slowly.

            It’s confusing, and I always have to think about it before I remember to sign my name HisLast b/c all day long I sign documents with HerLast and the habit is hard to build to be HisLast when HerLast is still hanging around.

            Sigh. We’ll see if I can keep it up.

      • Yes a co-worker went this way as well professionally kept her last name from before the marriage and personally uses her new baby family last name, now with two little ones!

    • Sarah

      This is my solution too, as I’ve had most of my professional advancement prior to getting married and I’ve definitely started on the path of “making a name for myself.” I always thought I’d keep my last name, but for myriad reasons have decided to take my fiance’s name in my “personal” life. I am an attorney at a firm with a family law division, and my friend who works in family law has advised me that, at least in my state, if you hyphenate your last names, you can legally go by either one or both. Therefore, legally I’m going to be Mrs. MyLast-HisLast, but go by MyLast professionally and HisLast in our personal lives. I’m crossing my fingers that this may eliminate any potential passport/credit card/etc. hassles!

      • This sadly isn’t true in my state, where I have to use my full maiden hyphenated last name in court, but use only my first last name (my mom’s) with clients to avoid confusion and other issues. Annoyingly, this has resulted in judges calling me Mrs. Dadslast, because they assume I want to be known by my second last/married name, and creates additional confusion for my clients. So don’t assume it’s the rule, but it’s awesome that some states allow this!

      • KTH

        What state do you live in?

      • MDBethann

        I don’t know what my state’s laws are exactly, but I am double-barrelling my last name without the hyphen. At work, I’m still going by my maiden name (in the process of adding my 2nd last name to the paperwork). I’m going by Mrs. HisLast socially and I’m signing my name using the first initial of my maiden name and then my husband’s full last name (otherwise the signature is too unwieldy).

      • Samantha

        Thanks for this info! Maybe, as a laywer, you would know – although I know things are different state by state. If you double barrel your last name, that will be your legal name, you will be paid through that name and doing your taxes through that name, etc. So then do you just use your own maiden name on your business cards at work and introduce yourself in that manner? So it’s not exactly a secret that you have a double-barreled last name you just chose what you want to go by based on the situation private/ public?

        I think I want to do this. I was trying to figure out the logistics with the legal documents in the work environment where you are trying to go by a single name. I am torn between double barreling sans hyphen and taking my maiden name as a middle name . . . but since you say you can legally go by either this might be a good reason to double barrel?


    • Lucy

      My parents both have PhDs and are both teachers. Growing up, I got a lot of calls from students for “Dr. Lastname” and had to ask, “which one?”

      In any case, congrats for earning your doctorate! That’s a big achievement!

  • Zoe

    Congrats on the PhD! That’s such a huge amount of work! (duh)

    As for the titles? I kept my name and honestly? Actually being introduced in the old fashioned “Mr and Mrs” style so rarely happens anyway. Like…Never. It’s “this is Firstname and her husband, Hisfirstname.”

    Like you said, titles only convey tiny pieces of who were are.

    And no matter what your name is legally, you can always doodle Mr and Mrs with hearts around it :) Use Mr and Mrs decorations at your wedding, if you want! Hell, be introduced as “Mr and Dr ” or “Dr and Dr” sometimes and ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ other times. No matter what you do, you will a.) still be married and b.) still have your rockin’ PhD.

    • One More Sara

      I think it would be pretty sweet to see some “Dr. & Dr.” wedding decorations. You and your intended have worked hard for those titles! Why not show them off a little? (That being said, if you have dreamed of the Mr. Mrs. decorations, use them and own it!)

      • Edelweiss

        or to see a decoration with Drs. X !

        • KEA1

          You also can play that Robert Palmer (I think?) song that has the line, “Doctor, Doctor, gimme the news, I got a bad case of lovin’ you!” %)

      • meg

        Prize for the first person that sends me a picture of Dr. & Dr. wedding decorations and makes. my. day.

        • DNA

          Challenge accepted! A week after I graduate on Aug. 4 (and get to look like a Hogwarts professor–yes!!), my partner and I are getting married, so it would be fun to put together a little Dr. & Dr. decoration. :D

    • Granola

      A good friend’s parents are both Drs. and growing up they were both kind enough not to correct us if we said “Mr.” or “Mrs.” out of teenage parental address habit. So they informally went by both – though they did insist on their titles (and rightly so) in professional settings.

      • dysgrace

        This is exactly what my parents did! Or do. They are both medical doctors, each with their own illustrious careers, and my mum never changed her name.

        I’m a journalist and I use my maiden name professionally, but am quite open to being Mrs. HisLastName socially. Except on cheques, because people (after our wedding) were addressing gift cheques to Mr and Mrs HisLastName, and then we couldn’t deposit them and had to suffer the immense embarrassment of asking them to reissue the cheque.

  • Liz

    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive? I’m definitely going to be using “Mrs.” socially, and “Dr.” only professionally, being open to changing my mind when I have enough experience to know which I like better.

    The unconventional switch to HisName several papers and conference presentations into my career, coupled with the challenges of changing it legally while moving to another continent on the other hand are giving me nightmares.

    • Rachel

      Depending upon which country or continent you will be relocating to, having his last name might be very helpful and very important.

      Just before I graduated with my Ph.D. I got married and added his last name so that I would be Dr. MyLast HisLast (no hyphen). This has proven to be critical. We are an inter-racial couple now living in a part of Asia where as a female I have very few rights (and neither of us happen to be Asian). Having his last name in addition to my own has made everything much easier in what are already complicated cultural situations.

      While I do have several papers published under my maiden name, I have not found the shift to be difficult for others to make now that there is a second last name in play. Then again my own last name is fairly unique, so there is an added assurance there that the articles which are listed on the CV really are mine.

  • Aly

    I think this is a really interesting post. It really shows how hard we try to hold on to our ideal future from when we were kids, even when that ideal no longer makes sense.

    I also thought it was interesting because I have almost the opposite issues when it comes to Mr/Mrs/Dr titles! I’m currently in a Mr. and Mrs. marriage, but in a year we will become Dr. and Mrs. (MD rather than PhD in this case). Although I will be incredibly proud of my husband when he becomes a doctor, I hate the idea of being Dr. and Mrs. It feels very unbalanced to me – his name tells of his career accomplishments while mine will only mean “wife.”* I’ve actually been half-joking for years that I should go back to school for a PhD just so that we can become The Dr. OurLastName, even though I don’t actually want a PhD and it makes no sense in my field. I just want to be a Dr. so we can match. Silly and irrational, that’s me.

    *Sadly, my attempts to get people to call me Master Aly after I graduated with my M.A. did not work out. Darn.

    • Kim

      Is there a club for silly and irrational? Because I’d like to join– Your exactly plan crossed my mind when I realized my PhD candidate fiancé would soon be “Dr. SoandSo” and I would still be just a “Mrs.”! The Drs. SoandSo has such a ring to it. Aaaaalmost worth going back to grad school for :)

    • Jashshea

      Join the military! I have a friend who joined the navy after getting her phd and we talked for DAYS about which of her titles “wins.” She’s invited to my wedding as Dr First Last, Lt, Master’s credentials, mostly because it amuses us.

      • This was the funniest thing during my brothers ceremony rehearsal. The priest asked them how they wanted to be announced, and while they already had the discussion about her not changing her name, they hadn’t had any conversations, so it seems about what to call themselves. She’s a medical Dr in the army so she’s also a Major. He’s a PhD. They tossed around all sorts of (some quite silly) combinations until they settled on Drs HerName and HisName.

      • DKR

        Late to the game on this one, but the correct way (as far as the military is concerned) to write your friend’s name (for invites and such) would be Dr. (Lt) First Last. Just an FYI.

    • meg

      I don’t think this is silly and irrational at all. I think it would make me CRAZY. Lucky for me, Lawyer doesn’t come with a fancy social title. But if it did, it would be hard. David and I are equally accomplished, and it would be tough to not have that represented socially. Of course, my saving grace is I’m a Ms., so in theory, my name gets listed on a totally different line from his. The FIRST line :)

      • Wait. What????? Ms. gets its own line and goes first?? I might have to change from Mrs. to Ms.

        • meg

          It does, yes. (Well, actually, keeping your name is what does that.) It’s awesome like that.

    • Maggie

      his name tells of his career accomplishments while mine will only mean “wife.”

      Oh, I so agree on not liking this.

    • Erica

      I completely agree with you! My husband is on the continuous education plan (looking at a possible MD/PhD, the fantsy-pants…Dr. squared?) and I told him flat out that it would seem odd to me to have him addressed by our future children’s neighborhood playmates as Dr. HisName and not Mr. HisName. Just seems really pompous and he agreed (yay for finding feminist husbands!).

      I strongly believe that academic honors should be left for the professional/academic spheres. It’s not like I write my name with a B.A. after it every time because I have my bachelors, or my husband writes his name with an M.S. so why should an M.D. or a PhD change how you write your name? Yes, yes, it’s hard work. But so are a lot of other things in life and you don’t get a name change for those. Well, except for having a child. Then you get the highest honor of name change: Mom & Dad.

      Just don’t worry about being alone on this one – it is completely unbalanced and you’re not wrong to think so.

      • Moz

        This is very much the case here in Australia. As a doctoral candidate in the humanities I would never insist on people calling me Dr Moz Last Name when I graduate. The only time I would use my title would be at the bank or on a census form.

        It’s not even the norm to address professors and doctorates here by their title in the professional setting. I always address a professor or doctorate by their title the first time and then, whether it’s by email or in person, I am always told to call them by their first name. I’ve only met two people in 10 years of study who want to be called Dr Whoever They Are – for the most part Australian academics eschew this practice.

        The only people who are regularly addressed as Doctor here are Doctors of medicine. One of my best friends is an equine vet and even he is not addressed as Doctor His Last Name.

        Informality here is very much the norm. There are cultural exceptions but mostly it’s pretty relaxed.

  • Kim

    I think when (or after?) two Dr.s are married, they are referred to as “The Doctors Somebody” which I think is one of the coolest, most regal sounding forms of address ever! Or, if you kept Somebody and he kept Right, you could still be “The Doctors Right & Somebody”. Either way, I love the sound of “The Doctors –” :)

    • meg

      Indeed. Though most of the married Drs I know don’t share a last name, so they don’t use this particular form of amazingness.

      • Ambi

        I have very good friends who are married and are both doctors, and when the day comes for me to address a wedding invitation to send to them, I am going to smile and think of APW as I write “The Doctors Smith.” Love it! Thanks. ya’ll just made my day!

      • Diane

        Hahaha. I’m an MD, my fiance is a PhD, so when we’re married will be “the Doctors B.” He’s a fan of having us “announced” at the end of the ceremony as “Dr. and Dr.” and I’m more excited about “Mr. and Mrs.” mainly because we’ll have started the day as “Dr. and Dr.” but not as a married couple, and I think it’s a tetch ostentatious. I have to say, though, this thread is changing my mind.

  • Tegan

    Is there really a big assumption in the world that women will change their names after marriage? This may be true of English speaking countries, but in China the assumption is that you will keep your name.

    • Catherine B

      It’s certainly country/regionally dependent, but definitely true in my neck of the woods (Midwestern US). I’ve had 50 people ask me what my new name would be versus one who asked if I was keeping my name…

    • Yes, there is a big assumption, though I think it’s getting more and more accepted a woman might keep her name, or hyphenate. What is perceived as irrational is when a woman wants her husband to alter his name in anyway or for them both to change it, which I find sad. (My sister just had a major in-law battle because she wanted them both to be the Mr and Mrs Hername-Hisnames). Personally, while I’m more traditional and will take my FI’s name, I thought her plan was awesome. This way she and her husband and children would all have the same name and show unity, but she and her husband would also show their equality in that they both take each other’s names. But it turned into a battle and they’ve decided to socially be Mr and Mrs Hers-Him, but legally both be Firstname Middlename HerMaidenasamiddle HisasLastname.

      Names get complicated.

      And for me, I’m getting married in and moving to India, and name changing on all those documents overseas seems complicated and even though I want to be Mrs Hislastname I may legally be just the same as I am now for a while for financial/legal reasons, and iron that out on a trip back to the US sometime.

      • Caroline

        Around here (in Boston) most people have asked me whether I am changing my name rather than asking what my new name will be. While it is nice that they are not assuming that I am changing my name, I sort of wish they wouldn’t ask at all since I am also in the almost finished with a PhD, have a paper published in maiden name, several in the works situation.

        • Same here in Los Angeles. Most people have asked me IF I am changing my name, rather than just assume that I am.
          I think here it has more to do with the (movie) industry than anything else. My few credits are under my stage name, which is different from my legal name. So, I think I may take my stage last name as my middle name and my married name as my last name. And drop my legal name all together. I worked really hard for those jobs, and I don’t want them to be in question just because I got married. But dropping my legal name altogether feels bizarre too.
          I’m still trying to figure it all out.

      • Bethany

        It may be getting more and more accepted to keep your last name, but in the last 5-10 years, as I’ve watched my acquaintances get engaged and married, I’m actually shocked at how few women have kept their last name. This is even more surprising to me because I live in the Bay Area and many of these women are working professionals. Two-thirds of the ladies I know have changed their name to his and only one-third have chosen to keep their maiden name. No-one I’m acquainted with has hyphenated. Since I chose to keep my maiden name, sometimes I feel lonely amongst the sea of changed names.

        It makes me wonder whether there is some sort of rebound happening, where perhaps these women feel like they have so much financial & professional independence that they choose to follow traditional naming conventions? That’s wild speculation though. The few I’ve talked to have chosen to do it in order to share a family name if/when they have children.

        Speaking of which, while I consider my husband a fairly liberated man, he did struggle a bit with the idea of me keeping my name. As a compromise, I promised that our children would have his name and that I would reconsider changing my name to his when they came. Now the time has come and we’ll be parents of twin boys within a week or two. I find myself mourning a bit the fact that they will have his last name and mine will be lost, but when I have jokingly brought up them having my name instead, my husband has been adamant about our former agreement. I have reconsidered changing my name to his in light of the impending babies but do not feel compelled. I don’t think we’ll feel any less connected as a family unit because of our differing last names.

        Happy to get that off my chest. If only our last names sounded good in conjunction, I could try pushing for that. :)

        • meg

          Yup. This is true in the Bay Area, even, liberal though it is. I don’t feel lonely in my non-name change (I’ve never questioned anything less), but I’m pretty rare even in our progressive social circles.

          Our kids, however, will not have (just) his name. David tried to get me to make that agreement years ago, and I turned him down flat. I told him he wasn’t agreeing to take my name either, so he had zero leverage.

          • I also feel like there is a lot of rebound/backlash happening. Growing up, most of my friends parents both kept their names, and now, I feel like most of my friends change their names. Even my lawyer friends with established careers. I feel a bit…left out, I guess, for not wanting to make the same decision, but I am who I am and I never, once in my life, wrote “Mrs. Anything” down as a last name. (Though when you have a hyphenated last name, people make a lot of assumptions, so many people don’t realize that I kept my name, which I find a little annoying because I’m apparently awfully proud of myself for bucking “tradition”.)

            As a person with a hyphenated last name, kids are a big issue for us. He wants to hyphenate, I don’t want them to suffer like I have but I also won’t give them just his name. I wish, desperately, that I was okay with it, but again, I am who I am. At least my children won’t look at me and say, “you have no idea how hard it is to be me!” Well, they will. But not about their last names :).

          • Bethany

            Good on you Meg! At the time I had grown tired of arguing and it seemed like a dealbreaker to him. I’m hopeful that after the babies arrive I’ll be so excited/overwhelmed that it won’t bother me.

          • Sometimes I get sad that Baby H has only HisLast and wonder how hard it is to change a baby’s legal name.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I definitely want(ed) to change my name as a backlash against a certain kind of progressivism. I’m proud of my very traditional attitudes, despite certain un-traditional appearances (I’m the sole breadwinner in the relationship). Changing my name would/will signal that I take my marriage seriously, even if I haven’t been the “typical bubbly bride.” That is, even though my co-workers haven’t had to pick up with my rants about favors or whatever, they would have to reprint my business cards, re-do my e-mail address, etc.

          But he wants the kids to have my last name, and it’d be rather strange for the kids to have a last name neither parent has. So I’m still undecided.

          • meg

            Though, I just want to STRONGLY point out that taking or not taking a last name has nothing to do with taking marriage seriously. I would never, under any circumstances take David’s last name, but we both take marriage very seriously. Being a family and sharing a name are not the same thing.

          • Bethany

            Interesting! If only our husband/future husbands could swap attitudes, we’d be set! :) Good luck with your decision.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Do you mean your own marriage, or a co-worker’s? A name change makes co-workers take some note of the marriage. On the one hand, we have policies and laws that require us to feign ignorance of co-workers’ family lives. On the other, we think getting married is a big deal.

          • Anon

            “and it’d be rather strange for the kids to have a last name neither parent has.”

            I’d be interested to know more about why you think that is. I’ve always wondered why we don’t just give our children entire names to themselves, like we do first names. North American societies in particular have such a strong need to keep last names to show unity, but in other cultures and throughout histories, people have lived in clans sharing similar names, but not necessarily identical names. For instance, if I name my daughter after my grandmother, why not name her ENTIRELY after my grandmother? First & last together? I guess I just do not get the need to share one part of a name for unity. Otherwise, why not name everyone in a family the same first and last name?

            Consider even the tendency to masculinize/feminize eastern European last names depending on the child’s gender. Its far more common than people might think.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            It’s not about “unity” for me. It’s about sounds and squigglies on paper and computer screens, significant by convention.

            In the US, sociologists and anthropologists have studied the matter, and when an unmarried couple has a baby, and the baby has the mother’s last name, that means to the parents and to those around them that the mother does not expect or want the father to be in the baby’s life. That’s the cultural overtone. It may not be nice, it may not be true in a particular instance, but that is generally what that last-name arrangement means.

            Likewise, people will (naturally) assume, if I keep my last name, that it’s what I wanted first, that I wanted to…I can’t express the usual reasons for keeping one’s last name. Mine wouldn’t be the usual reason…It would actually be because it’s what my husband wanted. But I’ll never get that across, even to the little old ladies at church, with whom I can have extended conversations about the matter, let alone my co-workers or the bank teller. All these people will assume something about me and our relationship because of the arrangement of the names, and the assumption will be wrong.

            Should I care about their assumptions? There are good reasons for not caring. I think my reasons for caring are better, however, though I can’t discuss them here.

            As to kids with a last name belonging to neither parent, that’s a bit different in that it’s so unusual, there may be no assumptions to deal with. But, as someone with an unusually spelled first name, just being unusual brings out questions and explanations one may or may not welcome. I welcome the questions about my first name, but I don’t look forward to the questions that would come up about our kids’ last name, and if I don’t like it, I’m sure they won’t like it.

            Of course, all these are “assumptions” and “by convention.” Women moving in different circles will deal with different assumptions and conventions. A few will be inspired to change convention.

          • Jess

            I find the thoughts about assumptions interesting. My take on that: I’m overweight, and people make assumptions about why that is, and ask me presumptive and awkward questions, and I can’t control that. People learn that I work in a particular field and make assumptions. People think I’ve given my kid a stupid first name and make assumptions. People play “guess that ethnicity”. So many millions of assumptions are made about us on daily basis, that I can’t imagine you could ever accurately predict them, let alone mitigate them with action. Its not a question of caring: I DO care and would love to do something about it, but I honestly don’t think it’s possible to respond to the worlds assumptions on any subject. You’d get some people, but not completely, and opinions change, and nothing can be controlled.

            I figure that my kid *may* get asked about having a different last name, but they may also get asked why they look and act the way they do. All are equally likely. Perhaps it will be good prep for dealing the stupid things people often say.

        • Moz

          I will second that shock. I have sung at hundreds of weddings and most of my twenty something female friends are married and I can count on two hands the ones who didn’t change their name.

    • Ali

      In Colombia and I believe most of Latin America women keep their own last names. People have two last names (fathers – mothers).

  • Kaitlyn

    I’m married but still use Ms., no Mrs. for me :)

    Soon it will be Dr. & Mr. My husband has helped me so much to stick with my MD program and find success, I think we feel like we’ve both earned my Dr. title — it’s been a group effort, so we’ll both be incredibly proud to see it written on envelopes, even though he’ll still be a Mr.!

    • rys

      As an unmarried woman, I thank you for continuing to use Ms. — until you acquire Dr., of course, which is awesome. Regardless of what name people choose to keep or acquire, continuing to use Ms also serves the important purpose of keeping the title neutral. Just as Mr. doesn’t brand a guy with his marital status, neither does Ms — so long as married women use it too.

      • Anona

        I am currently engaged, and have been using Ms for as long as I can remember. I will continue to use it (and keep my name) after I get married next year. I’m from the UK and get the impression that it is less used there than in the US, but as I don’t live there, may be wrong. I live in Germany where there is only the neutral “Frau” which I like – no other options and no way to identify a woman as married or not merely by her name. Just as it always has been for men.

        • Laura M

          Actually Fräulein is the German for Miss. However wikipedia says it was banned from official use in 1972 (huh I didn’t know that!) and that women should only be addressed as such if they themselves request it.

          • marta

            They’ve just recently banned “Mademoiselle” (Miss) in France on all government forms as well.

          • Anona

            As I said, I live in Germany (and have for over 10 years), so I know that Fräulein is no longer used. It is not provided as an option on any official forms and all women are addressed as Frau.

      • meg

        Oh, I’m very pro Ms. around here (I’m a Ms.). Technically (though not everyone chooses to follow the convention) if you don’t change your name, you don’t become a Mrs. (though obviously you can change your name and stay a Ms.). So I was thrilled to not ever even think about Mrs., something I knew I never wanted.

        • Audrey

          I am also so pro Ms. — I seriously think finding out how closely Meg’s opinions reflect mine was one of the reasons I kept reading the blog!

          • KB

            I am also very “pro-Ms.” as a gender neutral form of address – there are only two situations in which I’m cool with “Miss” – 1) a small child referring to you as such (as in “Say hi to Miss KB”); 2) when a stranger is asking me for something (“Excuse me, miss – you dropped something.”). Every other time, it sounds like a throwback to Gone With the Wind…

        • RJ

          I knew someone who was a lawyer, and she decided when she married to drop the Miss, take Mrs but keep her last name.

          So pre marriage they were Mr Hislast and Miss Herlast, and after they were Mr Hislast and Mrs Herlast.

      • You know, it might help if we had multiple titles for married and unmarried men. Even the playing field … but let the guys feel the effect a little bit. (Not that I think, culturally, that we’re going to ever do that, but still.)

  • BB

    As another person in the middle of her PhD program about to get married, the best advice I have been given so far on name changes is either take his name, or keep your name, or hyphen, or use your maiden name as a middle name, but don’t keep both names with a space in between or is gets very very confusing. Nobody knows which last name is really your last name and it doesn’t work well on forms. Otherwise, I’m just hoping that I get married before publishing so all of my professional work is in the same name…but you know what? If it doesn’t happen in that order, I’m not too concerned. That’s what CVs are for.

  • This post has an awful lot of implications. Just to start with, as you’ve discussed here, Mrs. means Married, Mr. doesn’t. To be married to a doctor, well, think of the cultural history there. The “Not THAT kind of doctor” discussions. I wouldn’t know where to start:).

    • Betty

      I am THAT kind of doctor. I actually prefer to be introduced by my first name in all nonprofessional situations. Otherwise I’m stuck in a corner the rest of the night talking about cousin Joe’s colonoscopy. What I do professionally shouldn’t be a focus of social interactions. On the other hand, whether to change my name professionally is a bigger question. I’m known in the community and amongst my colleagues as Dr. SoandSo, it will take awhile to remake my name as Dr.ThisandThat. Still if you are relatively new in your career, people will soon know you by your married name and eventually it will be a nonissue. Of course hyphenating might make sense if you have two short simple names that run together into what can sound like one name. So many considerations. . . sigh. . .

      • Ambi

        I find this so very helpful! We have several friends who are THAT kind of doctor, and I’ve never thought to introduce them socially as “Dr. So-and-so” – I just use their first and last name. When/if it comes up, of course I mention that they are doctors, but I always use their first name in introductions. Maybe this is just because we are not often involved in very formal social functions where titles would seem appropriate, but also because I feel a bit awkward putting my friends on the spot like that. I’ve never considered, until today, whether I was short-changing them by not including the title they worked so hard for or if they actually appreciated being introduced in the same way as everyone else. Thanks for getting me thinking . . .

      • That actually reminds me a bit of my mom’s situation. She got married right out of university and changed her name. From the moment she started her career she was Mrs. HisLast.

        They’ve since has a very messy divorce, and even though my mom somewhat wanted to go back to her maiden name she chose not to because she’d built her entire professional reputation around being Mrs. (now Ms.) HisLast. So what name you begin your career under can have huge implications later down the road.

    • Aly

      Whenever the PhD vs. MD discussion comes up (particularly when people say things like “PhDs aren’t REAL doctors – not that you were saying that, but it does happen a lot) I always like to point out that the Latin origins of the word “Doctor” actually relates to learning and teaching, and it was used for people with higher education long before the medical profession commandeered it. As I mentioned upthread, my husband is getting his MD and I have joked about getting my PhD, and I always (jokingly) point out to him that “then I’d be a REAL doctor, you are just a physician”

      (I hope it goes without saying that I just think this is an interesting bit of history/etymology, not that I actually think one type of doctor is more important than the other.)

      • christa

        I have a classmate in my (non medical) PhD program who always (in professional settings) introduces herself as “Dr. First Last. I’m a physician.” So- in at least one corner of the world Dr doesn’t mean physician.

      • Diane

        My PhD fiance and I have so many standing jokes about the “not a real doctor” thing since I’m an MD, but those come with a well understood grounding in huge mutual pride. I learned long ago, though, that ‘fessing up to being a medical doctor can have serious liabilities. Listening to a detailed account of the various cardiac and gastrointestinal problems of the aged and flying while stuck in the middle seat is not my favorite approach to in-flight entertainment! Unless it’s directly relevant, I prefer to just be Diane.

    • meg

      My dad used Mr. socially, and Dr. only professionally (in his professional world at the time, it was considered show-offy to do otherwise). But we were trained from childhood that in emergency situations, we should always call and ask for Dr. Keene, and make sure not to mention that he was a Dr. of mathematics. Apparently they come get you way faster…

      • Erica

        Haha! I bet!

  • Brefiks

    We’re going to be Mr. Hisname and Dr. Myname, which was always what I had in mind. Honestly, I think it can be considered pretentious for Ph.Ds to use “Dr” socially, not to mention it opens you up to awkward “not that kind of doctor” conversations and people telling you about their gall bladders. I’ve sent most of my newly minted Ph.D. (and MD come to think of it) friends a piece of mail addressing them as “Dr” just for fun, but when we sent our wedding invites it was Ms. Molly Friend and Mr. Matt Herboyfriend, or Mr. Joe Friend and Mr. Jim Hispartner. Nobody complained.

    • Yeah, I have several friends who have/are in the process of obtaining PhDs, and I’m pretty sure that they would DIE if someone introduced them as “Dr Soandso” at a party. “Ooooh, you’re a Doctor?! That’s so cool!” “Um, yes. A doctor of invasive wetland plants.”

      Come to think of it, I don’t ever hear anyone introduced by just their titles and last names, ever. Usually it’s just first, although since my work is very formal we often hear First Last.

      I live in Canada, though, so maybe it’s different in the states?

      • rys

        That sounds about right to me. A good friend and I jokingly call one another Dr (he has his PhD now, I’m still working on mine) but I’m not one for titles in introductions or forms of address. Of course, that said, I have yet to convince my mother not to address envelopes to me as “Miss” which galls me for so many reasons. Maybe once I get my PhD, I can at least get her to switch to Dr.

      • Sarah

        No, it’s the same in the states. In my field no one ever introduces themselves by Dr. outside of a classroom. Even in most professional settings (conferences, faculty meetings, etc) no one mentions Dr. (just first name, sometimes first and last) because, well, most people are a Dr. Even people I know with both an MD and a PhD (or just an MD, somewhat common in my field) are never introduced with titles.

      • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

        hahaha, this. How about ‘a doctor of weed management’-thats also a fun one. My supervisor really doesn’t like being called Dr. Lastname. He’s rather be called by his first name. I actually know a lot of people with their doctorate who might be introduced with their academic title, but they really seem to prefer a much more informal style. Usually the name is included.

        On a side note-I was discussing name changes with my parents, and how I really liked my current last name, and it was part of me, so I was thinking about hyphenating. My father said, “Well, you’ll still be a ‘mylastname’-that’s what’s on your birth certificate, and that’s not going to change. Besides, you’re not actually legally changing your name, you’d just be taking his” I thought about it, and realized that logic totally works for me. Clearly, still paperwork to do-and businesses to notify though. Is it different in the US, compared to Canada?

      • KatieBeth

        This comment cracks me up because I met my fiance, who has his PhD, in law school, so he’s now Dr. Awesome Guy, J.D. Our friends joke that he needs to get ordained so that we can call him The Reverend Good Doctor Awesome Guy, J.D. Or he could always become a judge, too, and be The Honorable Reverend Good Doctor Awesome Guy.

        • Jess

          Hahah love this. Did he pass the bar? Then you can throw an Esq. on there too!

          • KatieBeth

            Ha, yes – which is funny, because I’m an Esq. too., but I never use it, so of course I’d forget that we’d be The Reverend Good Doctor and Mrs. Awesome Guy, Esqs.

      • meg

        It’s interesting, because I wondered if the convention had changed. My dad REFUSES to go by Dr. socially and always has. He says it’s flashy.

        That said, all the concepts grappled with in this post are very very true, no matter what you’re using day to day (because honestly, none of us are using any title day to day. I’m a Ms., but I’ve seen it written maybe four times, and it’s mostly just me correcting customer service people on the phone who call me Mrs.)

        • Ambi

          I had a college professor (Ph.D) who never went by Dr. He told us one day in class that he had just been on a trip to speak at a conference, and when the conference coordinators booked his flight, hotel room, etc., they used “Dr.” as his title. He was amazed at how differently people treated him.

    • Laura

      Huge ditto to “not that kind of doctor.” My department doesn’t have a clinical program, so this year we even sold custom “I’m not that kind of psychologist” mugs (to pay for “social events”).

      The first discussion my partner and I ever had about name changing involved me blurting out, “I’ll never change my name!” Followed by, “I mean, you know, because I’ve already published…” Very slick. But honest.

    • KittyHawk

      I have to confess that while I’m queasy about using my Dr title (it does seem pretentious outside of academia), one of the things I most love about it is that it is both genderless and marital status-less.

      Prior to being Dr, I was Ms, and like many people (perhaps of his generation?) my dad just assumed that was a statement of feminism (yes, but as well). There was a light-bulb moment when I eventually explained that I used Ms because no one needed to know my marital status when they read my name, in the same way no one could anything about him as Mr by reading his name, apart from his gender.

      Luckily my partner (sorry, can’t do ‘fiancee’, makes me nauseous – far too close to the WIC, and pink, fluffy by connotation), having survived the sweat, blood and tears (mostly the latter) of being with a completing PhD student is entertained by being Mr HisName and Dr Kitty Last Name and cool with my keeping my last name (publications…).

      But the acid test on names seems to be what to do with surnames and any future kids? My last name disappears if my sister and I don’t keep it, and despite being ambivalent about its double-barrel connotations of posh, it’s who I am as well.

      My partner is much less attached to his surname, coming from a cultural background where surnames, until recently, were a father’s first name, and didn’t change on marriage (I think!).

      Yet since we come from different ethnic backgrounds, (and let’s just say that he gets pulled up at immigration, in a way that as a white woman, I never do), I can see reasons that it would be prudent to be able to go through state bureaucracies (particularly immigration queues!) linked by nomenclature to both spouse and any putative kids.

  • Emily

    I really love this post. Especially this bit: “Everyone should get the opportunity to incorporate some part of who they are as a couple in their introduction, because “Mr. and Mrs.” isn’t really who you two as partners are, is it?”

    Our wedding is still a year away, so we haven’t really gotten to planning the details of our ceremony yet. But I know that being “introduced” will be one thing we should really think over. I’m not changing my name (for lots of reasons), but it seems so anti-climactic to be introduced as Mr. Steve -same-as-before and Ms. Emily same-as-before, because that doesn’t reflect the pretty massive change of now being married. Until today’s post I never really considered that there would be an option to incorporate some part of who we are as partners into that introduction, but I’m sure going to try!

    • Zoe

      Maybe then just don’t be ‘introduced?’

      Or, if you need to, what about, “I present, for the first time, Herfirst and Hisfirst as husband and wife!”

      • e

        This is what we did. I didn’t change my name, and we got introduced at the wedding as “Introducing for the first time as husband and wife, Myfirst and Hisfirst!”

        And yet, 2 years later, we still get mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hislast. Makes me a little crazier than I like to admit when that happens.

      • One More Sara

        I was wondering how people did this!

      • meg

        Generally, if you don’t change your name, you’re not introduced. It’s not a totally standard part of the service, no one misses it (says someone who wasn’t).

        UNLESS, you want or need to make a very huge point that you didn’t change your name. Then, maybe you are introduced :)

        • Hlockhart

          My husband and I were married in a civil ceremony, and lots of other couples were waiting outside the room to get married by the same judge. The clerk had a lovely tradition of introducing each couple who came out, and everyone waiting would clap. She asked us our names, I explained I wasn’t changing mine, but nothing doing–we were introduced as Mr. and Mrs., and everyone clapped. In any other situation I would have been quite annoyed, but hey, I’d just gotten married, and there is a picture of us laughing our heads off together just after the introduction.

        • Kerry

          This. We did an “announcement” at the end with both of our full names, in hopes that it would save us some explanations during the cocktail hour, dinner, dancing, thank yous, winter holidays, birthdays, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

          (Spoiler: It didn’t seem to take. I think people were way more interested in clapping/saying something snarky about someone’s outfit behind the clapping noises/finding the bathroom/locating the alcohol/getting the cigarette they’d been thinking about for the last 30 minutes/being genuinely excited to notice the announcement)

        • Brefiks

          That was how we did it. “I now present to you for the first time as a married couple (avoiding that gendered “husband and wife”) Kate X and Matt Y!”

          Know what though, people totally got it. I would recommend this if you’re keeping your name and want to save yourself some grief. No one in the normal world (outside APW) would ever have it occur to them that you CAN skip that part. It’s in all the movies!

    • Denzi

      We didn’t change our names, but I kind of now wish we had done an announcement anyway, as I think it might of cut down on the number of people (including my in-laws! did we forget to tell them?) who assumed I took HisLast. We’ve been married for eight months now, and I think it’s only now slowly starting to trickle out that we’re still Ms. Mylast and Mr. Hislast.

      • Jiggs

        Let me report from the trenches that it may take several years and people might get mad when you correct them, or mad on behalf of imaginary others who might be upset by being corrected.

    • We didn’t get introduced as part of our ceremony, and we were welcomed into the reception as “the bride and groom, Mark and Ellie” and then ran through a Just Married finish line banner to make it feel awesome and change-y and reflect the monumental ness of it all (okay, really, it was just fun.)

      • Laura

        A finish line banner?! That is the best thing ever.

    • Ali

      I didnt change my name – not really my decision, but more what happens in my husbands culture. I am kind of happy about it now – being able to stay who I am. Of course when we got introduced at the reception as Mr and Mrs Juan Velasquez (with really bad pronunciation ) we just laughed. Reading this makes me think I should have put more thought into it but whatever its over now, I will probably just use his name when ordering pizza because people in colombia can never understand my name!

    • Jiggs

      How about something like “the newlyweds, Emily and Steve” or “for the first time as husband and wife, Steve and Emily”? I didn’t get introduced in the end (pure laziness, I couldn’t be bothered to update the MC’s information…), but I was tossing those types of phrases around for my wedding as I didn’t change my name.

  • AnnDee

    I was never going to change my name, but I have to admit “publishing record” is a convenient excuse if anyone presses too hard as to my reasons for the decision. But I also know academics who have changed their names, hyphenated, use one name professionally and one personally, or both last names with a space between (and are generally in library catalogues under both surnames). Given it’s rare for us to introduce ourselves with anything but our first names (which is how we were introduced when we were married), I’m hopeful that issues won’t arise.

  • Caroline

    I have another comment here. I am sort of thinking of going the one name socially and another professionally, but in that case do you change your legal name? Driver’s License, passport, etc? I always figured those would still be in your maiden name. Anyone have any insight into this?

    • Sarah

      Don’t change your last name. People (like it or not) will naturally assume you have changed your last name and will likely start calling you by his name socially. It’s important that your professional name is your legal name for grants, payroll, etc.

      • Samantha

        Could you double barrel your last name sans hyphen and then just “go by” your maiden name on your resume, business cards, introductions, etc. And then be Hislasname socially? I think I want to do this, but the legal ramifications are confusing. I really want to have both of our last names legally because I want us to have a family unit name when we have kids, but same career/academia/publications/etc. want to keep my own name in the game too!

    • Lynn

      I didn’t change my name legally, which kinda smarts for my husband. I thought we’d discussed it and agreed that professionally I’m MyLastName, PhD and socially I’m Lynn HisLastName. I’ve worked my whole life with and for this name. I’m 36 and it’s *my* name. He assumed, though, that I was going to legally change my name. When I explained how that complicates things for me (payroll, new identification, new credit cards, new identity), he says he got it…but it still smarts.

  • Kara

    I’m not sure that this is good or bad news for you, but since you’re a PhD, not an MD, traditional etiquette says that you’ll be a Mrs., not a Dr. in anything OTHER than your professional setting. AND, whether you take his name or not, you’ll still be a Mrs. after your marriage. So…do what you want with the decorations.

    • Jess

      Um, that was snarky (the “decorations” part). Traditional etiquette does indeed say that the “Dr.” title shouldn’t be used socially by PhDs in the US, but often contemporary etiquette guides go both ways on the issue. And outside of the US this is sometimes not the case. If you know that someone likes to use the title socially, then call them Dr.

      And by the same token, PhDs have to know that most people do not think that Dr. is a social title that should be used by PhDs, and so most people will not call you that without knowing your preference.

    • Lauren

      Women have to be a Mrs. after marriage? This is news to me, since I am firmly in the Ms. camp.

      I think that, like every title question, is a personal decision, no?

      • Kara

        Not trying to be snarky; the disappointment over “the Mr. & Mrs’. decorations was something she commented on in the original post. And no, married women don’t have to be Mrs., but can’t be Mrs. without marriage.

      • Newtie

        From a grammatical standpoint, you’re only an Mrs. IF you take his last name. “Mrs.” means “married to Lastname.” So if your maiden name is Smith and his name is Doe, you get married, keep your last name, but start calling yourself Mrs. Smith, then technically you are calling yourself “married to Mr. Smith” (which presumably is your father or brother, and not who you’re married to at all).

        Ms. Smith means the woman born with the last name Smith (you), whether she is married or not.

        But, grammar and language change to suit the times. If someone wants to use Mrs. and their maiden name, I’m sure all intelligent adults will be able to figure it out.

        • meg

          This is true, but taking Mrs. is still optional if you change your name. Ms. was invented so all women would not have to signal their marital status through title.

          • SarahCruz

            This was my approach, and frankly, I bristle a little when people misinterpret the Ms. title. The idea is that it is a completely committment-neutral title, with the same standing as Mr.

            I did choose to change my name to my partner’s, after a year or so of internal debate, but the Ms title has not ever changed. And that’s the point. I actually feel a surprising amount of rage when I’ve gotten mail (from friends, cheekily) addressed to Mrs. HisFirst OurLast. It kind of makes me want to vomit. It takes away the agency I had in choosing to change my name and the floods me with all the doubts I had about it. Like it emphasises the struggle I’ve had in justifying my choice to a circle of women who would never dream of “giving up” their maiden name. As a woman, it’s both liberating and oppressive to have these choices.

            On a similar topic, can we have a better nomenclature for the last-name-at-birth? What do men call it if they choose to change their last names later in life? A mastername?

          • Ambi

            I may be covering something that has already been discussed because I haven’t had time yet to fully read all the comments (if so, sorry!), but I am a bit confused by the need to declare a title at all. In my life, I virtually never refer to myself by any title – I just use my first and last name. And when other people refer to me using a title, I usually have no control over it (I am thinking mostly of telemarketers, wedding invitations, and school children). I am fascinated by the options and reasoning behind different name choices and the choice of Mrs. vs. Ms., but I don’t really see it as being very applicable to my life. For those of you who feel strongly about using one of these titles, how to you incorporate it into your daily life? Do you introduce yourself with it?

          • Liz


            I refer to myself as Ms. when I address mail or when I’m signing something for business and when I’m talking to kids/working with kids/teaching. Also, whenever you fill in online forms and such, there’s usually a little box where you pick.

            Everyday, supermarket or cocktail party conversation doesn’t usually come around to me saying, “Nice to meet you, I’m Ms. Moorhead,” but those few things I listed do allow for it.

        • Ambi

          Liz – thanks for explaining that! I just realized that, professionally, I use the title of my position (I am a government lawyer and my job title is also the title by which people refer to me formally), so I have never thought about using any other title. Even when I don’t use my formal work title, I tend to just use my name, no title. But of course, I am not married, so it hasn’t been something I’ve ever seriously thought about yet. I have used “Ms.” for talking to kids and filling out forms, but again, only when I absolutely have to. I guess if there is a debate between Mrs. and Ms., I kind of fall into the “no title at all” camp . . .

          Very interesting stuff! Thanks again for a thought provoking discussion.

        • Brefiks

          I’ve actually always wondered, since “Mrs” means “wife of”–why does everyone seem to assume that you only go by “Mrs” if you’ve changed your own last name? I’m still his wife. Not that I care to be identified that way, but why would you call Sarah Doe, who’s married to John Doe, Mrs. John Doe, but not Jane Smith, who’s married to Richard Roe, Mrs. Richard Roe? I addressed a few wedding invitations to “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe” and got RSVPs from “John and Sarah Doe,” so it’s not even that all women who change their names like to be referred to that way.

    • KB

      I think this may have been Meg’s point in having more posts about last names in that we should try to think outside of “traditional etiquette” – or make a new one by expanding social norms. I definitely know married M.D. ladyfriends who use Dr. on everything, not just professional correspondence – invites, evites, email, Cosmopolitan subscriptions. And I also have PhD and J.D. friends who use Dr. because they’re proud of it. At the end of the day, it really shouldn’t matter what you call yourself as long as you’re happy.

      • I absolutely think people should do what makes them feel comfortable. I have to say, though, most lawyers I know (including myself), despite technically having “doctor of law” degrees, would not presume to call themselves “doctor,” unless they hold an S.J.D. or other doctorate degree and/or are working in a part of the world where “doctor” is an honorific used for lawyers. For example, I worked in a law firm in Brazil for a while and they called me “Doctor,” because that’s how you address attorneys. Anyway! Just thought I’d throw that out there for any soon-to-be attorneys/married ladies struggling with these same issues. I got married in May and changed my last name and went from Ms. Mylastname to Mrs. Hislastname, both personally and professionally. After some growing pains, I think I’m used to it now.

        • meg

          This is true. Occasionally David will tell me he’s a doctor, to goad me into mocking him ;) This gets quite a bit of teasing in our house, since all our siblings went to school for a zillion years to get PhD’s, and he got his JD in three (NOT, I like to point out, his S.J.D.) So yes, lawyers don’t generally use the title Dr.

          • Yes! My mom has a PhD in psychiatric nursing and my dad has a J.D. She went to school for eons to get her degree (eight years to get the masters + PhD) and is a professor and goes by “Doctor” professionally. My dad sometimes (jokingly but kinda not) insists that he should be called “Doctor,” too. My mom calls him “Dr. Scholl” to tease him. ;)

          • Raechel

            Steph, I am a nurse practitioner and seriously considering getting my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). I am mostly joking when I tell people that I’d do it simply to blow the minds of my patients (Hi, I’m Dr. So-and-so, your nurse).

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I have a JD. I only use “Dr” when I’m being intentionally pretentious – latest example is my Hertz Gold Club membership. I would probably never use it if I didn’t look 18 years old.

      • Granola

        The only hard and fast rule that I know of, and even it changes depending on the publication, is that a newspaper will not usually refer to a non-medical doctor as “Dr.” because of confusion. Instead, they’ll mention that so-and-so has a Ph.D. in xxx subject. Trade/niche publications are a different story.

      • Brefiks

        New plan. I will ONLY use “Dr.” on my Cosmopolitan subscription.

    • K8899

      Being addressed as Mrs. after marriage is the choice of the individual. I will be Ms. and only Ms., which, given I will not be changing my name, is apparently supposed to be the correct way.

    • And, in some fields, using Dr. (even when you’re not that kind of doctor) is very common, and NOT using it is frowned upon. When I’m finished, I’ll sign my emails, Finally-done-with-this-neverending-degree, Ph.D., but my title, that people will address me by and I’ll get mail at, will be Dr. Finally-done-with-this-neverending-degree.

      I’m unmarried, but I’ll probably/hopefully be done before I am, but if I were to get married, I would stay Dr. Me and let him be Mr./Dr./Whatever Him, since I’m published. But I think it’s a really personal choice, and one that people feel very strongly about. Just like us not-that-kind-of-doctor doctors feel about being called by the proper title when we earn something that big and important.

  • Jess

    As a PhD who thinks a lot about the name thing, I loved that you addressed this issue in this post!

    I totally agree that adding “Dr.” to the mix of the name issue adds a whole new dimension. I did not take my husband’s name when I got married, and I feel that my blood boils twice when I get an invitation/letter addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname”—once because Hislastname is not Mylastname, and twice because Mrs. is not my title.

    I don’t expect people to use the “Dr.” title socially, and I’m perfectly fine with getting a letter addressed to “Mr. Hislastname and Ms. Mylastname.” But somehow, when I see the “Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname” on a wedding invitation, I have the incredible urge to bust out with “Dr. Mylastname and Mr. Hislastname” on the reply card. (Note: I don’t actually ever do this–usually the reply card will get a Ms. Mylastname and Mr. Hislastname–but I WANT to.) When I get offended by someone putting down the wrong name, I’m then much more offended by them missing out on the title too. It’s like I want to shout, “My identity is not Hislastname’s wife! My identity is Me, the PhD!”

    I do have several female married PhD friends who wanted to take their husbands’ names socially and use their given names professionally. I believe these women generally did not change their last names legally, to make things easier on the payroll and what not (i.e., your paycheck and grants you get from the government have to be made out to your legal name). I like to say that they are Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde.

    • AnnDee

      I’m so relieved I’m not the only one who feels this way at times!

    • Emily

      I feel this way very strongly. I took my husband’s last name because (a) I don’t like my maiden name…it’s awkward and hard to spell and (b) we were married before my first publication and the awarding of my PhD. But the assignation of Dr. is very important to me. It’s important because my career is a critical part of my identity, in the entirety of my life. It’s also very important to me because I VERY MUCH do not want to be identified by Mrs.–married. Who I am is me. My family is critical to that, but not the fact that I am a wife. I’ll let anyone know that I am married and proud of my husband, but the assumptions of society lead me to prefer to avoid Mrs. And the Dr makes this even easier than Ms! But very few people outside of my professional life use it, which defeats the values I like about it most–my career as a critical part of myself and avoiding designation as “married”.

  • Sarah

    What field are you in that you do a three year PhD? Mine was six and five is the absolute minimum for my field. And with six years of incredibly hard work earning that PhD I never, not once missed being called “Mrs” when I wed my guy. Before the wedding my (great) photographer asked me what my new last name would be so that he could get me a “Mrs. ___” hanger and I promptly told him that my name would be “Dr. W” after the wedding just as it is currently Dr. W. I got a hanger that said “Bride.”

    That said, it is more than acceptable to go by Mrs. socially if you prefer. And as, Brefiks mentioned, some consider it pretentious/confusing to go by Dr. instead of Mrs. if you have a PhD. Also I know female academics who have done everything from keeping their last name, changing it, hyphenating it, merging. So really it shouldn’t be a big deal.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      It depends on the country more than the field, I think. Here in the UK, I’m finishing up a science PhD in four years… and, officially, it’s really a three year course. If I had done the same degree in the US, it would have taken 5-7 years. We don’t have any coursework during the PhD, which helps with the length.

      I think whether going by Dr as a PhD is pretentious varies by country as well. It seems pretty standard here.

      • Moz

        Yeah PhDs are of different lengths depending on where you are. Here in Australia a PhD in a humanities subject is generally about 3 and a half years full time.

        • *starts looking up how to transfer to an Australian degree program* :D

          • H

            so exactly.

        • RJ

          I presume the reason that US PhDs are longer is that the four-year undergrad is liberal arts, and covers everything, whereas in the UK you specialise from year one of a Bachelor’s degree?

          E.g. a 3 year maths degree is pretty much maths only from year one.

          Whereas a US College degree in the first two years covers subject material covered at A level in the UK/upper high school in other countries. (It always suprises me to see US College courses which are taught in a class – structured like a high school class with only 30 students, and with attendance requirements, unlike the 300+ students in a lecture, with lectures optional, that is the model I was used to in NZ.

  • Rymenhild

    I’m Dr. [Rymenhild], and let me tell you, one of my favorite things about having it is that I am no longer Ms. [Rymenhild] and will never be Mrs. [Rymenhild]. I was Ms. for a long time, and … while it was certainly better than Miss … I just don’t like it as a title. I never had any ambition to become Mrs. and watch me be permanently marked as someone else’s wife.

    That said, my (female) partner makes jokes about how we’ll be Dr. and Mrs. Rymenhild someday!

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    When we were doing the wording for our wedding invitations, we ran into a Dr vs Mrs situation that made my blood boil. The Boy’s parents are both doctors, so “Drs. John and Jane Doe” was fine. For my parents, the designer fought repeatedly against using “Dr. and Mrs. Jack and Jill Smith”. Properly, she insisted, my mom could only be “Mrs. Jack Smith” (because Mrs. = Married), and our version violated etiquette, grammar, logic, and we would be JUDGED for it. As simply a Mrs, her first name was subsumed by her husband’s and she became a “she who shall not be (first) named”. It didn’t matter what my mom wanted.

    We overruled the designer, of course.

    • Ambi

      Thank you for overruling the designer on that one!

    • Jashshea

      I hate Mr & Mrs Hisfirst Hislast more than I could ever vocalize. I don’t mind Mr & Mrs HisLast, though I’d prefer if everyone indulged me on Ms, but OMYDEARGOD, please include my first name when you’re including his.

      I used our parents first names on our invites which is probably horribly gauche, but both of our dads are Jrs (my dad is actually a trey, but he’s always gone by Jr) and his dad goes by his middle name, so it would have created more confusion to use their formal names.

      • Mr and Mrs Hisfirst Hislast always makes me snicker, because it took me years to realize that it was just getting rid of the woman’s name – when I was a kid, I just assumed that there were all these women with male names, marrying men with the same name.

        Kind of like when Paris Hilton was dating a guy named Paris.

        • Jashshea

          that’s HILARIOUS. And completely logical.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I was wondering if someone would bring up invitations. Mom has a MD. Dad has “only” a Master’s. Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette, 1958 says my invitations should read “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith…” We did “Mr. John and Dr. Mary Smith,” and I do know one guest who will judge us for it, because we discussed it once upon a time.

      And I do know that TheKn*t would say it should be “Dr. Mary and Mr. John Smith.” But TheKn*t says that because of some rule that men’s first and last names must always be printed together, and I cannot find this rule in any of my 4 etiquette books, and that order is confusing to me. So, anyone who wants to judge can come and drink our wine and eat our food and not give a gift and mumble or even chant their curses. I seriously don’t care.
      /end rant

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        The Emily Post website (http://etipedia.net/forms-of-address/titles/96-guide-to-addressing-correspondence) says:

        Traditionally, a man’s name preceded a woman’s on an envelope address, and his first and surname were not separated (Jane and John Kelly). Nowadays, the order of the names—whether his name or hers comes first—does not matter and either way is acceptable. The exception is when one member of the couple ‘outranks’ the other—the one with the higher rank is always listed first.

        We didn’t strictly follow her guidelines. I figure people who judge names on envelopes will always find *something* to judge. If it’s confusing to you, screw it :)

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I actually have 8 etiquette books at home right now, because I got called a bridezilla by a stranger when discussing a point on which the books disagree, so I decided to look for more examples of disagreement by checking out as many books as I could carry from the library. There’s enough disagreement that I’m content to stick to the books I own, or I’ll go crazy.

          Also, if this “tradition” isn’t in my old books, I say it’s made up.

        • KB

          “So, anyone who wants to judge can come and drink our wine and eat our food and not give a gift and mumble or even chant their curses. I seriously don’t care.”

          Amen to this – I’m so tired of reading about the “shoulds” and “have-tos” for what you’re supposed to put if your parents are this and that, or who’s paying for what. I think we’re probably just going to end up putting “WE’RE GETTING MARRIED!!! AND YOU SHOULD COME!”

          • kathleen

            KB, this is pretty much EXACTLY what ours say. I’m addressing the envelopes this week, and I’m seriously considering just using first names with an exclamation point. Because that’s what our wedding is going to be like (backyard, pinatas, etc.), and people who don’t expect that from the two of us, and get that we are purposefully being informal, well, screw em. (I should say, I’ll be surprised if we hear a peep about it. Our people are not of the formal/fancy/by the books type)

          • Sarah

            Kathleen, I love the idea of Firstname! invitations. Expect they give more of your personality that way.

            The favorite wedding invitation address I’ve received was to Sarah Lastname and Her Canoe Building Man. I’m not sure whether my friend knows the new boyfriend’s name or not, but love that she took what she knew about him to include on the invite.

    • Alexandra

      I had a discussion with my friends about making up titles for everyone in invitations. And not in the Dr, Mr, Mrs type way, but rather addressing invitations to “Lord John Smith and Lady Jane Smith.” Or Count and Countess, and Duke and Duchess.

      I suppose if I actually knew anyone with a proper claim on those titles, it might fall under the horribly offensive catergory. Or maybe it would anyways. I might just throw over-the-top titles at my friends.

      • KTH

        I love this idea! We actually kind of did this with some of our invitations (“The Most Honorable Maid Sister’s Name” and “Crafter Extraordinaire Aunt’s Name”). We also did it on our “Thank You” notes, though slightly less appropriately (“Friend M.F. Lastname” where the “M.F.” stood for “Mother Fucking”).

        Obviously those only went to people who would appreciate the joke!

        And what’s this about not using parents’ first names on invites? That’s a thing? We totally did that. Oh well. We’re married now and that’s basically all that matters.

    • Granola

      That being said, as an editor, I couldn’t deal with two ands/ampersands, so on the invitation, we used my parents names without titles and on the envelopes, we’ve gone with the formal Mr. & Mrs. John Smith. Hopefully it won’t hurt many feelings, as those whom it applies to are generally the older generation.

      But just wanted to throw out a nod to the fact that sometimes, it’s also OK to choose the “tradition,” even when it supports the patriarchy, because it’s easier and maybe looks nicer, if that’s what you want. There are always tradeoffs.

    • Caroline

      To avoid any of this we just used first and last names on our invitations, which worked for our informal(ish) wedding. We also made sure to check to make sure that we had the right last names for both halves of a couple. We did get one response back correcting us that the guest was Dr. SoandSo, which I found a bit annoying because the whole reason we used only first and last names was to avoid any confusion and upsetting anyone. I understand the need for titles professionally, but for an event where we were inviting friends and family I felt comfortable addressing everyone by only their first and last names.

  • fleda

    My husband and I are both PhDs. It makes very little difference; I’m still a “Ms” and he’s still a “Mr.” (Whenever anyone calls me Miss or Mrs, I get a little prickly, but this happens rarely). Our parents sometimes address each of us as “Dr.” on the envelope when they send us snail mail, but that’s just because they’re being affectionate and proud.

    I agree with Brefiks and Kara above: using “Dr” in social situations can, I think, come across as pretentious or just odd (maybe this is less true for medical doctors?). And in academic professional situations, in my experience, it’s rarely used except in formal salutations in writing, because it’s redundant given that everyone (almost) has a PhD anyway.

    As for whether or not to change your maiden name as a publishing academic, now that’s another can of worms…

    As for me, I changed my name on our marriage license, and then went back two days later and said, um, can I have a redo? I actually want to keep my name. It had just felt wrong to change it, and I went with my gut. I’m glad I did. And I’m glad the people at City Hall were so patient and accommodating. :)

    • Sarah

      I like that you had the guts to go back to City Hall to have this changed. Yay you!

  • Dr. Science

    I really struggled with the name decision. For a while, I tried to convince my husband that we should both change our names to a really awesome new name. You know… like, Science. I’m a phd student and he’s Internet ordained, so we’d be Dr. and Rev. Science. I especially like my joke because I’m an economist and he’s an engineer, but it’s the soft scientist who gets to be Dr. Science!

    In the end I kept my given name legally. I was on the fence, and I still may change it legally when we have kids, but at the moment it’s too expensive and too much of a hassle. I just renewed my passport! I don’t have another $110 kicking around to renew that sucker again less than 2 years later. And get a new drivers license and get a million certified copies of our marriage license to change it at the ss office, my banks (multiple, hello roving student), and the 8 institutions that have granted me a transcript. Geez patriarchy. Do you really think you can keep me down by either burying me in paperwork or by distracting me with angst over not changing my name? Pssh. I’m getting back to work now.

    • Corrie

      Although I am only in the ‘pre-engaged’ state right now, this is something I think about all the time (and something I’ve talked about with my boyfriend) because I really struggle with the thought of giving up my maiden name. I would alsobe saddened to not share a name with any future children we have. (He is the only male child in his family so it’s important to his family to carry on their last name.) However, there is no good possible way to hyphenate without sounding ridiculous, given that our last names are Holliday and Cross. Holliday-Cross sounds like a decoration (“Let’s put up the Christmas tree – don’t forget the holliday-cross!”), and Cross-Holliday just makes me envision cross-dressing holiday festivities. Not only would I/we sound laughable, but our future children would be teased forever! It’s a good thing I’m not officially engaged yet because I definitely need all the time I can get to think and talk this out.

      • Alexandra

        So, I’m going to suggest something from a commenter further down the page, and only because you’re already talking about children. You could name your first child after your maiden name. (Maybe even hold off the name change until then.) That way, your maiden name is preserved, your first first child gets a cool name (Cross and Holliday are both pretty cool names, I’m not sure which one is yours but I initially guessed Holliday) and you could then share a name. I suppose one kid would have either Holliday Cross or Cross Holliday as a name, but middle names would split that up.

        I feel your pain though, I also really dislike the idea of giving up my maiden name, and mine wouldn’t even make a good name for a kid. Nor are kids even a certainty right now, but if they are and I can’t share their name… I’m considering just naming the home instead to give us sort of a family name that’s not related to either of our last names

      • Samantha

        What if you keep your maiden as a middle? Or double barrel sans hyphen.

  • Allison

    I work at a university, as does the future mister, who is an academic (and a Dr., although he never uses the title). I think because we both work in academic environments, and hang out with a lot of academics, I have felt less weird about my decision to keep my last name and “Ms.”. It’s incredibly common among academics and writers (I’m not really an academic, but I am a writer with a pretty decent publishing record in my field). Were I in a more traditional field, or were he more traditional, I would probably hyphenate. But as it is, I’m not in an environment where I’m going to be given a lot of flack for not making the change, and my partner doesn’t care, so my original last name it is!

  • Newtie

    I believe traditionally (not that one has to adhere to tradition!), one doesn’t use “Dr.” when referring to a PhD in any social situation anyway, so if you wanted to be introduced as “Mr. and Mrs.” at your wedding, it would in fact be the normal thing to do.

  • Jashshea

    I would make everyone call me Dr. if I’d earned my Doctorate. I say that a) tongue in cheek and b) fully comfortable in the knowledge that I’m not likely to do so.

    I never thought I’d be a Mrs or change my name (nearly all my friends call me by a shortened version of my full name or last name only). I debated changing my first name to my maiden (what? I’m already doing the paperwork), then I finally decided to be ms first maiden newlast.

    Until I get that doctorate, of course. ;)

    Oh, and then my brother proposed to his GF who has the same first name as I do. So…she’s kinda taking my name.

    • Lynn

      LOL that was my joke…that I was going to make everyone use “Dr. Mylastname” after I finished my degree. Only for a little while, though…just til the new wore off. It really, though, became a situation where I didn’t have a choice. As soon as people found out that I had a PhD, they called me Dr. Mylastname. I’ve said several times that I fine with with just Lynn MyLastName, but folks persist. They tell me that it was a lot of work…and they’re proud for me so I should be proud of myself.

      OK. Right. Whatever.

      • Jashshea

        I work in tech/security and there’s LOADS of people who add their prof certifications after their name ALL. THE. TIME. If I just added LMNoP to the end of my name, it would take months before someone noticed (and probably another few before they got the joke).

        You should tell everyone that you’d prefer “The Good Doctor” as your full title.

  • Newtie

    I have a dear friend who is getting married in just two weeks and is really struggling with the name thing. Her family is NOT supportive – they are strongly of the “you’re getting married, you take his name” camp – and she’s just not sure what’s right for her. I want to say, THANK YOU for all the frank and intelligent discussions about name changing here on APW. I’m forwarding ALL of the name-related discussions to my friend, so she can see that there’s really no “right” or “wrong” way to do things — she just has to figure out what’s “right” for her! (and she can change her mind later if she wants to!) Yay for apw!

  • Lauren

    I really appreciate this post as a fellow PhD student. The desire to have a consistent publication history is definitely an added concern. I have also had lots of teaching experience in my PhD program and teaching evaluations for “Professor/Miss MyName” are adding up. I have gotten used to the way that Prof. MyName sounds in a professional setting and feel all warm and fuzzy inside whenever someone addresses me that way. To me it represents taking ownership of my accomplishment.

    On the personal side, I am not particularly wedded to the idea of being “Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName,” but I DO want to be “The SameLastName Family.” I want to have the same last name as my children. I have thought that becoming a mother would be a symbolically appropriate time for me to change my name. It feels more natural to me than taking my husband’s name upon marriage. My partner likes this idea, too.

    But I still worry: what happens to my professional name? Can I legally change my name to HisLastName when we have kids and still keep my professional name afloat? Will the IRS have a field day with that when it comes time to file taxes? (My Mom–a Dr. HerLastName who changed to Dr. HistLastName for tax filing reasons–seems to think so.) I am already reconciled to the fact that friends and family members will probably address me by either name. Clearly this is a complicated subject. Thanks for opening the discussion.

    • Newtie

      “I have gotten used to the way that Prof. MyName sounds in a professional setting and feel all warm and fuzzy inside whenever someone addresses me that way. To me it represents taking ownership of my accomplishment.”

      Please, please don’t take this the wrong way, because I mean this gently, but *are* you a professor? You sound like you are a PhD candidate who teaches at a university. Teaching fellows, teaching assistants, adjunct professors, lecturers, tenure-track professors who have not yet earned tenure, etc, are NOT called professor by their students – that title is reserved for people who have earned a tenured professorship. Earning tenure is so difficult, and being called “professor” is part of that accomplishment.

      Again, I don’t say this as a criticism or to make you think you’re doing something wrong. For all I know you ARE a tenured professor & you’re working on your second doctorate! I just wanted to mention something on the off-chance that you simply didn’t know. In the part of the country I’m in, allowing students to call you professor when you’re not yet a professor is a real no-no in academia, and can make colleagues angry or bitter. Students should call all non-tenured professors “Mr,” “Ms,” “Dr,” or use their first name.

      But, as I’m typing this, I’m thinking, perhaps other parts of the country or certain institutions are more relaxed about this! So of course take my advice with a big grain of salt.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        The title thing was a big adjustment for me when I moved from the US to the UK for grad school. In the US (at least where I was in the northeast), pretty much anybody who stood in front a classroom and taught at a university could be called “Professor”, regardless of their credentials. They wouldn’t necessarily introduce themselves that way, but they also wouldn’t correct the students. Here in the UK (again, at least the part that I’m in), Professor is used specifically as an honorific.

        I think we’re seeing lots of variation in regional cultural norms today.

        • Alexandra

          When I was in University in Canada, I called anyone who taught a lecture a professor, and I know that some of them were not actual professors. Alternatively, we mostly referred to them however they referred to themselves, which sometimes was just “FirstName LastName” or even just “FirstName”.

          Granted, I have no idea if there was disagreements over it in the staff room, but I think students in general will just use the title out of politeness, especially if they’re not sure.

      • Lauren

        Point taken. I didn’t mean to raise another issue by being vague. I don’t ask my students to call me Professor, and I correct them when they do. But they still call me Professor and they call all of my peer-instructors Professor, no matter how many times we ask them to call us X (especially in cases where we are the only instructor for the class or designed the course ourselves–it’s less common in TA scenarios). My university may be more relaxed about it–I don’t know for sure. It seems clear to me that the students want to address any college instructor by a title, and for whatever reason Professor is the most available one. And so teaching has given me a preview of what that title feels like. I’m surely not taking credit for my PhD before I have one. I’m taking credit for the mini accomplishments along the way.

        I regret that this has taken us away from the real concern I wanted to raise, which is sharing the same name as my kids.

      • Dawn

        Is that a regional thing? I’m in the South and if you’re at a university or college and standing in front of a class you’re often called professor (or Dr. depending on their degree). I’ve had several non-tenure track instructors who were always called professor, many of the community college instructors I’ve met are called professor and when I was an adjunct, we were all called professor (I mean, it was in our job title!) I’ve had experience with quite a few universities and colleges throughout the South and have never heard of only calling tenured professors by the title Professor. It would have never occurred to me that it would be considered incorrect somewhere else.

        • Ambi

          I would add that, not only was this true in my Southern college experience, it was also true for me in law school and when I got an LL.M. degree (not in the South). Many law professors have a J.D., and it very common to call them Professor. My experience has been that this holds true across the country, but of course I could be wrong.

      • Sarah

        Newtie, it would be helpful to know where you are from in order to determine which regions it is a no-no to call non-tenured instructors “professor.” I went to college in the south of the US and grad school/have taught in the northeast of the US and both places it was perfectly acceptable to call individuals who were not full professors “professor.” My impression was that in Europe and Central/South America, the title professor was taken more seriously (and given only to tenured faculty members). I’ve also talked with full professors (in both of the regions I’ve mentioned) and they prefer the title “Dr” over “Professor” (maybe because the person with a master’s degree who only teaches lab is being called professor).

      • Eenie

        As a university student, I call the people who teach the class (not TA’s) Prof. X unless told otherwise. Not all have a doctorate, and having to correct students who call them Dr. X probably gets super annoying. I also don’t like to presume whether a female professor prefers Mrs. or Ms. or Dr. or Miss.

        Prof. is a wonderful gender neutral degree neutral title when students are not familiar with whoever is teaching the class. I had no idea it meant tenured. I’m in the Midwest US so maybe it’s different.

      • Diane

        Have to agree with some of the others. I have been a student in the south, the northeast and the midwest and in all of those places, “professor” could be used with any PhD-level faculty member. When I spent a year at Oxford, however, it was reserved for those who had achieved tenure and I think only those who had gotten chaired professorships (but it’s been a decade so I may not have the details perfectly straight). My fiance is a tenure-track assistant professor at a large university in the south-central US and his students call him “Professor Lastname”. That said, I only heard faculty refer to themselves as “Professor Soandso” when they had completed a terminal degree and in medicine, medical students who have not completed an MD would certainly not be encouraged to call themselves “Dr. AlmostMD”.

        • KittyHawk

          To clarify the UK/US Professor thing; in the UK you’re only a professor if you reach the top of the academic food chain. It’s more than just tenure, its ‘significant contributions to the discipline’ yadda yadda, and something that you have to get make a case for/justify with your peers in the University to be appointed/’elected’.

          Many people have perfectly respectable academic careers, but never make Professor. Some universities have limits on how many people they can make/hire professor owing to the associated pay rise. Interestingly, it’s the only bit of the UK higher education pay structure that is not structured by a pay scale, where you can negotiate your own salary. More interesting, and salutary, it’s also the bit of UK academia where women earn significantly less than men for doing the same job, making a strong argument for transparent pay scales and appointments in the fight for equal pay. …But that’s a different debate.

          Long story short, just Kitty, as a term of address will do fine thank you.

    • Alexandra

      I agree with not being wedded to the idea of Mr and Mrs HisLastName, but wanting to be “The SameLastName family”. I have no idea how to reconcile this idea though. I’ve been telling myself from a young age that I never wanted to change my last name. And then I talked to my fiance and thought maybe I would. And then changed my mind again. I’m thinking I might just make my decision when we have kids. Or stick them with the lovely double-barrelled “MyLastName-HisLastName” and let them figure this out.

      I’d imagine the IRS has seen enough people change their last names before that they’ll manage to figure it all out. I’d lose a lot of respect for their intelligence if they suddenly went “Oh god, a married woman changed her last name! To her husband’s, of all things! Who does that in this country?”

      • Our (as yet hypothetical) children will have my husband’s last name, but we plan to refer to ourselves as “The Mylast Theirlast Family” because even though I kept my name, I’m still part of the family, goddammit.

        • Alexandra

          That’s a good idea. I have an aunt who kept her last name, and realizing that she did that when I was young was a large part of why I didn’t want to change mine. I’m not sure if she had any qualms about it (I should talk to her if I can ever manage to bring it up in conversation), but one thing I did notice was that they always refer to their home as “The Dragon’s Lair.” I’d always assumed it was because they like dragons, but now I wonder if maybe it was just a way to create a family/home name that wasn’t based around their last names.

          • Oh, I love that! It’s so deliciously old-timey when people name their houses. As an Anne of Green Gables forever-fan, I wish we still had that practice.

          • Alexandra

            Hehe, clearly you should just do it anyways. XD I hadn’t even realized how serious they were about the naming of the house until I moved out and realized they even sent out Christmas cards with their return address as “The Dragon’s Lair.” It makes so much sense, since this year I realized that those awesome little stickers for return addresses really don’t have room for “MyFirstName MyLastName & HisFirstName HisLastName”

          • Ambi

            I love this! My guy and I have been living together for well over a year in a house he bought, but which I help pay the mortgage payments on, and we are definitely planning on getting married, so we both fully view this as our home – but the beautiful iron sign out front where we should paint a name identifying the house has remained blank because I just couldn’t bring myself to put his last name on the sign, at least until we share that name.

        • One More Sara

          HOW have I not already thought of this?!

          • Lauren

            Alexandra and Sharon – I like your ideas! esp. The Dragon’s Lair! ha!

    • Brefiks

      I used to think I was totally on board with being the “Husbandslastname Family” (I kept my name.) Honestly, the only time this will come up is when people send you Christmas cards, or maybe mail from kids’ schools. The kids’ schools are likely to assume the whole family has the kids’ last name and as far as people who send you Christmas cards, you can just tell them : )

      But then, more often I find myself referring to the “Hisname-Myname household” or “Chez His-Mine,” so who knows how I’ll feel when kids come along.

  • katiebgood

    I will be Mrs. Husband briefly before becoming Pastor Husband, which is not how I expected it to go either but does sort of make things easier for similar reasons. Four what it’s worth, I was taught by my grandpa, who had his doctorate, that if someone went to the trouble of earning a title you used it until they told you not to. Once I’m Pastor Husband, for a variety of reasons, many having to do with gender, I won’t be letting go of it.

  • kyley

    This is an interesting article because, personally, I’m at a juncture where I’m considering not pursuing my (10+ year dream) of earning a PhD because of the financial benefits my upcoming job would afford my partner and me and the general (abysmal) state of the academic job market. (I should add my partner is in now way asking me to make this sacrifice.) So I’m mourning never being Dr. MyLastName.

    • KittyHawk

      Commiserations. It’s a raw, painful situation; I write from a similar recently post (now pointless? I do hope not) PhD place. Funny how some areas of ones life are so right, and others uncertain in investment and hard work!

  • When I was in college I dreamed of going on to get a PhD and be “Dr. Mylast.” I changed plans and decided that the academic track really wasn’t for me and settled for getting my masters.

    What surprised me though, was that when my fiance and I got engaged I knew I wanted to take his last name; I also assumed that meant I would want to use Mrs. but I didn’t think too hard about it. Last weekend, at my bridal shower, my aunt handed me my mimosa (blessed mimosa!) in a champagne glass emblazoned with “Mrs.” and it just made me…uncomfortable. I’m going to be Ms. Hislast. Done deal. (Because that feels SO MUCH better.)

    • kyley

      Congrats on knowing what you want! This whole name thing is so tricky; it’s really wonderful when we are comfortable knowing what we would like to be called! :)

      • The funny thing was I didn’t KNOW what I wanted until I was SURROUNDED by it. I made the choice about my name a long time ago and am really comfortable with that but the Mrs./Ms. distinction hadn’t really been on my radar!

        • Wasn’t sure (still am not 100% sure) about what I want to do with my name, although I’m greatly leaning toward being called Myfirst Mylast-Hislast.

          However, I always knew I wanted to be MS., regardless of the choices I made about my name. It was invented so that women don’t have to telegraph their marital status to the world by their title, and I see no reason why I can’t take advantage of that, no matter what my last name is. (He gets to stay an ambiguous “Mr.” either way. Why don’t I get the same privacy?)

          I fully expect that there will be people who get it wrong and send mail or call me “Mrs. Myfirst-Hislast” or “Mrs. hislast” or even “Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast.” (That last one is my personal pet peeve!) But at least we’ll know what I’m called, and all the people who assume/just get it wrong can be corrected (or not) on a case-by-case basis.

        • Same here. I thought I had no strong feelings either way until someone jokingly called me “Mrs. Hislast” soon after our engagement. Even though it was meant in a totally affectionate “yay you guys are getting married!” way, I had an immediate visceral “No, no, this is wrong, I’m going to throw up” reaction. And that’s how I knew that keeping my name was the right decision for me.

  • Other Katelyn

    My parents are both Reverends– over the course of their marriage they’ve received mail addressed to a hilarious number of variations on “Mr and Rev, Rev and Mrs, Rev HisName and Rev HerName, The Revs TheirLast, Mr and Mrs, Mr and Ms.” They just think it’s funny (though my mom bristles when it’s AnyTitle and AnyTitle MyDad’sName).

    My fiance and I aren’t academics, thank God.

    • meg

      In this case, do you get to go by The Reverends?

      • katiebgood

        I know a lot of clergy, and the answer is yes! I know a bunch of “the Reverends A” or”the Pastors B”. And in college there was “Mr Dr and Mrs Rev Dr I”, as she got ordained later on and we didn’t want to lose the title wackiness.

      • Other Katelyn

        Yuuuup! The Reverends MyLastName. It’s very fancy.

  • Ambi

    While I am not in the mindset this morning to really delve into the difficult topic of name changing, I just wanted to say that I appreciate seeing a post on APW that acknowledges and accepts the fact that some of us did grow up dreaming of becoming a Mrs. I know that we get the “change your name, be a wife!” message everywhere and that APW offers a wonderful alternative to that and supports people who make very different decisions, but sometimes I feel almost embarrassed to admit here at APW that I have always dreamed of being married, have always longed to be a Mrs., etc. I guess what I mean is that I have felt like, as a smart accomplished woman with a successful career, it is a bit silly or embarrassing for me to care so much about getting married (“getting married” in the abstract, not specifically about my particular relationship with my guy). There are such negative stereotypes attached to women who really want to get married, and so it seems rather refreshing to hear from a (clearly very smart) woman who is open about the fact that she cared very much about her marital status even as she pursued degrees and a career. What I personally take away from that is affirmation that, just because I have spent a lot of time thinking and worrying and, frankly, obsessing over when and if I’ll get married doesn’t make me any less independent, smart, feminist, or modern. So, thank you for that.

  • Not Sarah

    I don’t plan on ever getting a PhD as it doesn’t help in my field and that’s a lot more school years.

    I don’t want to go by Mrs. either when I get married. UNLESS I marry a guy who has my last name. Then I would go by Mrs. because that would be pretty crazy to fall in love with a guy with the same last name as me.

    Right now, I’m enjoying being able to say “There is no Mrs. Mylast at this number.” when random people call looking for the woman of the house.

    I really like the idea of introducing yourselves as Dr. and Dr. after you’re married! That is pretty cool.

  • Ambi

    I personally can’t think of anything cuter and more personal than using “Dr. & Dr.” for your wedding – whether it is when you are first announced as a married couple at the end of the ceremony or as a fun play on all those “Mr. & Mrs.” decorations (like on the back of your chairs at the reception). If I knew you in real life, you would be getting some sweet “Dr. & Dr.” monogrammed wedding gifts!

  • Allison

    Being a Dr. doesn’t make you any less of a Mrs. That stuff is just for titles and whatnot. You can use whatever decorations you want! Just because some old-fashioned ettiquette website says you have to go by Dr. doesn’t mean you have to. Especially since you’re not a medical doctor, I feel like it’s more optional. Obviously, you worked hard for the degree, but I feel like you have more flexibility do what feels right to you.

    As far as name changes, I kept my maiden last name professionally, and changed my legal name to my husband’s. Now I’m going back to school to become a nurse… which requires you to have your professional name be the same as your personal name. So I’m kinda stuck. Don’t have much of a choice unless I want the hassle of unchanging my name… or getting a divorce. (Uh, no!)

    I think you should just do what is easiest and makes you happy, and everyone else will eventually figure it out.

  • Laura

    It is awesome but not at all surprising that APW has so many PhD and PhD student readers/commenters. Woo science! Woo smart women!

    OP’s idea of using whatever damned title/descriptor you want – e.g. “Avid Cyclists Jack and Jill” – genius.

    • meg

      Actual fact, according to our last reader survey, 55% of APW readers have or ar pursuing graduate degrees. (Here, just like in my family, I’m in the minority by not having one. Ha!)

      • christa

        Just goes to show what you can do with your life when you don’t waste it all in school.

    • elizgracie

      I was also impressed by all the PhDs (and almost PhDs)!

      But you don’t have to be in science to get a PhD…regardless, yay smart ladies!

  • Sharon

    I have married friends who are Doctor Hername and Reverend Hisname – neither of them got Mrs. or Mr.

    Me, I’m looking forward to changing my last name – I associate my last name with awful men that had no business fathering children.

  • This is really interesting to me because as a lady who married another lady, I kept my last name. Before we have kids, my wife is going to change her last name to my last name, but we haven’t gotten around to doing all the paperwork so legally she is still Lindi HerLast. Socially she goes by Lindi HerLast-MyLast. Eventually we will be Helen and Lindi MyLast. It’s kind of funny that no one really asked us what we were doing with our names– a few friends and family, sure, but we didn’t have the same pressure as a lot of hetero couples (at least in this part of this country) seem to. I actually think it is more common for gay/lesbian couples to keep their respective last names when they get married.

  • Anna

    The husband and I are in the same field – and hope to find jobs in the future at the same university, so if I had changed my name, that could get confusing.

    I did get married early enough in the PhD process that I could have changed my name (no publications had gone to print, no certificates printed), but his national tradition has women keep their name, so I did. I do totally love using Mrs. (like for travel reservations) because being married to him is such a big part of my life.

    (And PhD ladies, how weird is it to pretend not to have any sort of personal life while on job interviews?)

  • streamnerd

    I have a PhD and got married about 3 weeks ago (YAY!). As far as titles, I only use Dr. professionally but in my everyday life (magazines, bills, airplane tickets…) I am and always plan on being a Ms. Personally, I prefer the ambiguous Ms.

    I am also keeping my last name. I had a harder time with that decision than I anticipated. A couple of weeks before the wedding I went to a jewelry store to buy a present for my niece and mentioned it was for my flower girl. The whole experience in that store was not very pleasant and when the salesman asked for my name to fill out a form he asked: “well what is it going to be when you are married?” and I said “actually, it is going to be the same”. He gave me this dumb look and just said “oh”. It felt so good and so right when those words came out of my mouth that I was finally convinced I had made the right decision for me.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Could someone please explain to me how honorifics are legal? All the mail I get from the government says “Elisabeth J. Smith.” I can’t recall any government form with Mr./Ms./Mrs./Ms./Dr. boxes. I’m pretty sure Dr. Mom’s government mail says, “Mary Smith,” including mail from the Medical Board. Government mail to her and Dad says “John Smith and Mary Smith” or “Mary Smith and John Smith,” depending on how the original paperwork was completed.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I stand corrected. I was just looking at government filings for a bunch of churches, and bunches of them had as their agent for service of process “Reverend Soandso” or “Pastor Suchandsuch.” So I guess there are government-controlled situations where honorifics are used.

  • So here’s the thing… So much of this is really just what you call yourself. I had a hyphenated name at one point and the hyphen was my own addition. Legally, the social security administration wont at a hyphen to your ss card. Same thing with “Ms.” “Mrs.” or “Dr.” it’s all what you want to call yourself. So if you want to be a Mrs., be an Mrs.

    We do have to talk about some of the gender stuff that goes into hubby not wanting a lesser title though, right?

  • Ambi

    Just another little thought on name changing: My guy’s family has a beautiful family tradition in which they use the mother’s maiden name as the name for the first-born child. It has been fairly lucky, I guess, for them that throughout the generations, the mother’s maiden names have made perfectly beautiful and unique first names for their children (and of course that may not always be the case), but I just love this idea. I have always planned to change my name, and I don’t really feel a huge loss from it, but I do like the idea that my last name will probably be our first child’s name (I guess that is assuming that we either have biological children or adopt a baby and name him or her ourselves rather than adopting an older child that already comes with his or her own name . . . .). Anyway, I think there are lots of beautiful options for incorporating and honoring both family names.

    • I think that’s a lovely tradition! When I was growing up and assumed I’d have children, I hoped to do the same–I wanted to give my first daughter my last name as a first name.

      • Lauren

        I love this! My last name, or my mother’s maiden name, would both be horrendous choices for first names, but it’s so lovely.

        • Ambi

          Yeah, I am very lucky in that my last name is currently a recognized-but-not-overused gender-neutral name that is somewhat popular for both boys and girls, so we have it pretty easy if we want to stick to this tradition. My guy’s first name was his mother’s maiden name, so I just really love the symbolism and continuity of using my maiden name as a first name one day. Of course, this may not come to pass given our desire to foster-to-adopt, but we’ll wait and see how it plays out. Interestingly, my guy’s sister is getting married soon (and changing her name) and has already mentioned that she also plans to continue the tradition, and use my guy’s family name as the first name for her first son (given that it just sounds more like a boy name to her).

        • Alexandra

          My last name and my mother’s last name would have also been horrendous choices too. XD I would have gone through life trying to explain that my name is only pronounced “Shower,” not spelled like that.

          But I do think this is a amazing idea. I love it as an idea, and I think it’s awesome that it was always lucky enough to work out well.

        • In a lot of Old South families, mother’s maiden name becomes the first son’s middle name. (You can amend to “first child’s middle name,” of course.) Another spin on that tradition!

          • Ambi

            Yep, their tradition is just a play on that tradition – they like their maiden names so much that they don’t hide them in the middle but use them as the first name (or, in some cases, part of a double first name).

  • Maggie

    Y’know, I’ve always felt on the opposite of this spectrum: I’m super happy about now being Dr, and never Mrs!

    I’ve never really wanted to be a Mrs (men’s default titles aren’t defined by their marital status, so why should women’s be?), which, like as not, is the assumed title. I like how, in getting my PhD before getting married, I can conveniently skip at least some of that assumption (because even if I wanted to use Ms post-marriage, I can guarantee that my grandparents, etc. will always address everything to Mrs). Similarly, I also don’t plan on changing my last name, either socially or professionally.

    I’ve used Ms before, and now am super excited to be Dr MyLast in anything where titles are used, both before and after marriage. My boyfriend is also happy for me to be Dr Mylast forever. When he finishes med school, we’ll be the Drs Mylast & Hislast, but until then we’re Dr Mylast and Mr Hislast (of course, with Mylast listed first on the odd days of the month, and Hislast first on the even days).

    • Not Sarah

      I think I actually like the distinction of you two by your last names since you’ll both be Dr.!

  • Lauren

    These conversations are so hard to have. There are three women in my office getting married in the next two weeks, and only one of them is keeping her name. This just about boggled my mind. I assumed that professional, established women with kids (in one case) and graduate degrees (in another) would feel the same way I do about it.

    … especially since I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I don’t have a particular attachment to my last name as it stands, but it galls me to the core that C doesn’t even have to think about changing his. It’s nonnegotiable. That just doesn’t seem right to me. Further complicating the fact is that I love his last name. But! I can’t just give mine up without a fight!

    Good thing I have some time to think on this, as we’ve only just decided that yes, we are together forever, but no, not getting engaged for a year or two.

  • Kimberly

    The feminist in me has always relished the idea of keeping my last name and staying “Dr. Maiden Name” (I have a PhD and will have an MD in two years). My fiance is also a Dr. His Name, and adding to the confusion is that both his parents are doctors. So if I did change my name, we would have four Dr. Same-names in the household. Super confusing, and really added to my reasons for keeping my maiden name. HOWEVER, my fiance and I are of different ethnicities, and he brought up the sweet, adorable point that if I don’t change my last name, we’ll never get adjoining seats on airplanes (seriously, this was his reasoning for wanting us to share our last names), and it will be harder for people to identify us as “married” if we have very different last names. And so for the first time ever, I’m having a really hard time deciding whether I should keep my last name or change it.

    The other thing about keeping my last name is that I’m worried that my future patients might think I’m Indian and will come to me with the expectation of an Indian doctor when in fact I am Chinese and on the flip-side, patients who might need a mandarin-speaking doctor would not be able to find me. Anyway, lots of confusing issues and I’m having a hard time sorting through it.

    So I guess there are a lot more reasons for keeping my maiden name, but my fiance’s desire for us to share a last name gets me thinking about how getting married is starting a new family and perhaps the symbolism in sharing names is important for that. And while (or perhaps because) my fiance and I are both extremely extremely liberal, it makes me feel that his desire for us to share names is rooted more in a desire to become closer to each other rather than any ideas of paternalism, and it makes me kind of want to go with his line of thought b/c I wonder if it better shows that I’m proud to be one half of our fantastic (future) marriage.

    • One More Sara

      My partner and I are not married, so naturally we don’t have the same last name. We fly regularly, and have never had trouble being seated together if we purchased the tickets in the same transaction. We have had a bit of trouble being seated together with our son, but that has been solved by simply asking if the person next to us would mind switching. Once they realize that their assigned seat comes with a toddler row-mate, they don’t usually put up much of a fight.

      My point is, his point is minor at best! If you are attached to your name (or the ethnicity attached to it), keep it!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Dad has a very Jewish last name. Dr. Mom’s not Jewish, but took his last name. Her patients find her first name Irish, though she’s not Irish. She gets some comments about being, “The nice Jewish-Irish doctor,” but her patients don’t assume she knows Yiddish or closes early on Fridays or anything. She does get junk mail at work from organizations targeting rich Jewish people.

    • Lauren

      Kimberly, I can identify with a lot of your comments, particularly your realization that maybe taking your husband’s name doesn’t have to represent paternalism, but an embracing of your future life as an awesome team. Reading the responses on APW today, the same light bulb went off in my head, although perhaps for somewhat different reasons. My fiance’s name is 7-syllables and Greek–terrifying at first glance, but actually pretty cool once you sound it out. My name is 2-syllables and English. At first those seemed like obstacles. Now they don’t so much. I realized that a more important issue for me was to understand what my last name represents. My last name doesn’t carry any traces of the maiden names of the women in my family (never been hyphenated, etc.) Being raised in a rather paternalistic family, I realized that I do associate my last name with my father. This realization helped me to feel more liberated to take whatever name suits me best at this moment in my life. I think that (unexpectedly!) this may be my fiance’s name, 7 syllables and all.

    • My husband and I have different last names and have not yet had any trouble being seated together on a plane, if that helps. :)

  • Katy

    I was a Dr. MyName and now am a Dr. HisName. It’s no big deal in academia — your CV lists your accomplishments.

    One thing I didn’t expect — some of his relatives were disappointed that the first “Dr. HisName” was not a blood relative.

    • Aly

      When we were discussing name-changing before our wedding, I brought up the possibility of him changing his name to mine, and he said “but I’m going to be the first Dr. HisLast and that is really important to me” to which I replied “ok, so if by chance you get kicked out of med school THEN will you take my last name?”

      He did not appreciate that comment.

  • KB

    Is there anybody who has been married for a while who didn’t changed their name but regretted it? Like, does anyone gets tired of explaining their status to people or correcting your kids’ playmates when they call you “Mrs. So-and-So”? Or has anyone who changed her name had any professional repercussions, like with publications or job interviews? I just wonder if anyone has experienced some of what we’re talking about as possibilities turn out to be practical consequences of changing or not changing.

    For example, my fiance’s last name is hypenated and really scary-looking on paper (but quite easy to say if you stop to sound it out!). It never crossed my mind what I would be dealing with if I took his last name until I had to give his information to one of our vendors – and the guy laughed at me. I had a flash of every single telephone conversation for the rest of my life where I’m going to have to spell that name multiple times…

    • SC

      KB I feel you on your concerns about a partner with a hyphenated last name. I know this post is more about the Dr./Mrs. thing, but I still felt compelled to comment on your post. I’m not yet engaged but it’s coming up soon and names have been a big discussion for us. My boyfriend’s mother was really proud to keep her last name and have children with her name as a part of the hyphen, and he has the sense that she will be really sad if it dies out after him (ie. she’d really like our future kids to still have my boyfriend’s hyphenated last name as our family name, even though that makes my name invisible). I on the other hand both a) don’t really love the aesthetics of a long, hypenated last name, and b) don’t want others to assume that one of the hypenated names after my first name is actually my maiden name when NEITHER are. I had always been somewhat open to taking my partner’s name, barring some absolutely horrendously bad-luck last name, but I’d never been forced to consider before the implications of taking a partner’s last name when it’s already hypenated.

      My thoughts thus far are that if I’m going to deal with the slight pain in the ass that a hyphen creates (for credit cards, flights, etc. where sometimes you can add one between last names, but sometimes you just have to leave a space, and it gets confusing when documents don’t match – which is definitely a problem consistently for my boyfriend when we fly), I at LEAST want one of the two names to be mine. So, one possible solution we have discussed would be to disregard his mother’s feminist wishes, and incorportate my own feminist wishes, ie. making my last name and our children’s last names Ms. my last – his father’s last. These names sound good together, and are still the same initials as my boyfriends, so even if he stayed Mr. mom’s last – dad’s last, and I was Ms. my last – his father’s last we’d have our names listed pretty close to eachother on any alphebetized lists, like at concert ticket will call, etc. And, although we wouldn’t all have exactly the same name as a family unit, we’d all share at least 1 name (the traditional American, his-father’s family name one). The problem with that is that his mother’s name still dies, which means her feminist ideals only really lasted 1 generation. I feel sad about that, but also want to assert my own name and my own ideals into our family, you know? I find it upsetting that no matter how we work it, it’s a woman who has to lose out. I’m still trying to consider ways to take everyone’s identity into consideration without ending up with kids with a triple last name or something absurdly long like that!

      • KEA1

        Insisting on your name being part of the equation, even at the expense of your MIL’s name, does not mean her feminist ideals lasted only one generation. It means that your decision for your name in your life was the one that best fit with your wishes. You’re treating her and her ideals with fabulous respect in acknowledging the significance of her decision. You can continue to honor her feminist ideals by making sure that others, future generation and otherwise, know the story behind your decision. The whole point of feminism is that women have the capacity and the right to make decisions based on what is right for them, not just go along with the decisions of *anyone* else, male OR female. That will not always please everyone, but that’s not actually anything new. Lots of good wishes as you navigate this!

      • Why does it have to be his mother’s name that gets dropped? Have you discussed at all maybe keeping his mom’s and your maiden name in the new hypenated name?

    • Erin

      I changed my name to Erin Middle MyLast HisLast, with the last two being my last name. I felt that it was important that our family have a shared name for when we have kids. I never got used to it though. It didn’t roll off the tongue well and honestly it just didn’t suit my personality. My grad school also required that my email address be my legal last name, which prompted me to get my name legally changed back to MyLast after HisLast made me too itchy. I went as MyLast HisLast for about nine months, started using MyLast after that and had it changed legally within 15 months of our wedding. I feel so much happier having dropped his name. It doesn’t totally solve the naming kids challenge. My plan on this is to give any girls MyLast and any boys HisLast.

      I also got to change my middle name which I’d always hated. That’s a story for another time.

  • I find the name change thing to be super fascinating, particularly because I don’t find it so cut and dry. I have been married for 3 years and still haven’t really made up my mind. On my marriage license, I have listed Caitlin Middle MyLast HisLast for all the options. Have not changed any legal documents since then (driver’s license, SS, banks, CC’s etc.), but having everything on the marriage license gives me the easy option should I decide to. I use Caitlin HisLast fairly often, in some professional settings (depending on when those connections were made), Caitlin MyLast, and when traveling, always Caitlin MyLast. People seem to figure out I am the same person if need be — any if not, yeah for a little anonymity! :)

    As for titles, the only time I am really addressed as Mrs. is on formal invitations. I don’t mind formal titles for formal occasions, I don’t even mind Mr. and Mrs. His Name HisLast in those settings. But only if I am getting multiple envelopes and the whole deal … it would be super weird to be invited as Mrs. to a BBQ. :) But I understand why even that would offend others.

    Personally, the one title I don’t like is Ms. and it likely has to do with the only Ms. I knew growing up were stodgy and no fun … it seemed like the worst title ever. I know not all adult women I knew then were Mrs. or Dr., but they must have been the ones that insisted on First Names even for children. It is funny what stays with you from childhood.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      What state did you get married in?

      I had always assumed that the county clerk didn’t share any name-change info from marriage licenses with any other entity. You had to change your name with the SSA, etc., yourself. But I read that in California, the info is passed on to the Franchise Tax Board, and you could end up having to file your state taxes under your married name and your federal taxes under your maiden name, if you had indicated a name change on your California marriage license but hadn’t followed up on it.

      This e-conversation also made me realize I don’t like “Ms,” except I know it’s 100% necessary in professional settings where you never learn someone’s marital status.

      • CA – and nothing has changed that has come to me. My understanding is that if I didn’t include the option on the marriage license, if I did decide to make the change later, I would have to file to change. The addition on the marriage license means when I get around to it, I just have to go to the agencies and make the switch … no court necessary. But, since I haven’t legally made the switch, I could be wrong.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Thank you so much. This matches my understanding.

  • Kess

    I think the biggest part for me of this post was that he didn’t want to be Mr. while she was Dr.

    That’s something I’m a little worried about with my SO and I. I’m planning on getting my PhD (and dang it, if I do I’m going to use Dr. if any sort of title is required!) so he’ll be Mr. and I’ll be Dr. He’s not planning on getting his PhD as of now but I do wonder about the dynamics of that and the possible emasculation with that.

    Of course, I can’t even think of the last time I actually used a title. My landlord who can’t use a computer addressed the lease Ms. MyFirst MyLast. Heck, even my mom doesn’t go my Mrs. or Ms. MyLast. I don’t think my grandma even did!

    But if I do get a PhD and I get it before my brothers do (who are not currently planning a PhD, but you never know), I am going to hold it over their dang heads like a pile of bricks!! Yeah, so who got through the engineering program because they just ‘let girls pass’. This DOCTOR. So screw you! ;)

  • Savanna

    I’m in such a similar situation. I want to be a professor and am about to start my MA (at Alabama! I totally clicked on your post because I have a picture just like yours from my spring undergrad graduation). When boyfriend and I get hitched, I’ll eventually be Dr. Hisname, and he probably won’t. He’s studying to be an RN (and let me tell you, the stories the two of us could write about gender roles with his nursing major and job at a daycare!). Anyway, Hisname or Myname, the idea of the woman being Dr. and the man not certainly worries some people around here. Luckily, he loves me too immensely to be concerned that our different career paths will lead to different titles. Congrats on becoming Dr.!

  • Elaine

    I grew up, and now work at a university in, a very liberal part of a very liberal state, so I am absolutely aware that my perspective is probably not the norm, but I think of “Mrs.” as antiquated. All of my friends’ parents growing up were addressed by first name, and all of my female teachers (except for the oldest ones) were “Ms.” Other than grandparents when sending mail, I’ve almost never had anybody address me as “Mrs.” – and really, I’m not going to pitch a fit about my 89-year-old grandmother calling me “Mrs.” on the envelope for a birthday card. Thanks for an interesting read!

  • Pixie_moxie

    Such a loaded conversation. My husband and I do not have the professional titles involved in this post but the conversations were still hard. I work in the arts and have done so in many states all in my maiden name. I did eventually decide to change my name even though I still mourn the loss of my last name. It took me over a year to do it. What I find where I live is back lash of friends and coworkers questioning “why would you ever want to change your name?”. I am beginning to feel a bit damned if you do damned if you don’t. It was such a personal decision that I still grapple with. Thank you for creating a community where we can have continued conversations about topics like this with people who respect each other and you can feel safe expressing your thoughts.

  • Christy

    WOW!!!!!! This post was so fascinating to read. My husband and I are both Dr. so-and-so. Maybe because I’ve been “Dr.” for over ten years, it didn’t for a second occur to me to see “Mrs.” as a loss, and I never for a second even considered changing my name to his. Honestly, I’ve never known any women in academia who changed their names, except for a couple of older retire-ment aged women who hyphenated when that was radical.

    Socially I let people do what they will in terms of introductions and don’t correct them or make a big deal about it. If they introduce me as “Mrs. his name” I just go with it. I don’t introduce myself as “Dr. So-and-so” instead just use my first name, figuring that if people don’t realize that the Ph.D. after my name means I’m not “Ms.” that it’s not a big deal. I do like the gender-neutral nature of the title, or else I would just say we should get rid of “Dr.” all together for both MDs and Ph.Ds. Afterall, I don’t walk around saying “Accountant Smith” and “Librarian Brown”.