Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Does This Last Name Make My Feminism Look Big?

For those of you who don’t already know, I’m married. Sadly, I am taken. Yes, I know. Try to contain your tears.

The only slightly unusual thing about my marriage, other than the fact that I found an atheist with the patience of a saint (I’m a bit much to put up with at times) is the fact that I never changed my last name after I was married.

When I first got married I was totally going to change my name to his Surly Amy and Surly Johnny Wedding Photobecause I think he has a cool last name and I love him to pieces and because that is what you are supposed to do when you get married. But then when I stopped and really thought about it, I realized that it made more sense just to leave things as they were. I had spent a good long time with my name. I liked it just like it was. And it wasn’t so much that it was my ‘maiden’ name as it was my artist name. I had signed a thousand or so pieces of art with that last name and I just didn’t want to say goodbye to that part of my creative history. My husband had no problem with me keeping my name and without children in the mix it made the decision relatively easy. I saw no legitimate reason to change it.  So I didn’t.  Often times people assume that I didn’t change my last name in order to be some type of rebellious feminist, to stomp my boots and to prove a point to society. While I wholeheartedly thank the strong-willed women of the past who stood up and enabled me to make this choice and while I do like to stomp my boots, my personal decision was based more on nostalgia and convenience. I just really like my name. I like my name and I don’t like filling out paperwork. I like feminists too and I think it is important that all women be able to make these types of choices for whatever reason they feel is important to them.

If you are a woman and you get married will you change your last name? If you are a man would you expect your wife to take your name? If you are married did you change your name? Why?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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173 Comments

  1. I’m a fella, and I’m one of those fellas who wouldn’t care if the I married changed her name to mine or not. Kids obviously make the situation a little strange, though.

    In my case, I’m no longer married. My ex-wife chose to take my name when we got married. This was as much about her moving on in her life as anything else. She’d grown up in an abusive home with a drug addict parent, and had spent her young adult years as a ward of the court. Taking my last name was in her mind a way of starting over.

    When we split up, she kept my name, as did my kids. I’m happy about that, but the truth is that if they hadn’t kept my name they would still be my kids. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

  2. I probably won’t change my last name. For one thing, my last name is fairly uncommon, and I feel like it’s part of my identity. And off of that, with a first name like Jennifer, I just don’t want a common last name – I’d hate being another Jennifer Smith or something. Two, like your art, my name is already attached to my work as a scientist and a skeptic, and I wouldn’t want to disconnect myself from that.

  3. I’m a married guy. My wife chose not to change her name when we married, and I’ve never had any problem with that. She is, after all, her own person with her own goals, desires, needs, etc, etc, etc. It wasn’t a big feminist-type statement with her; she just really likes her last name and didn’t want to change it. It’s never been any problem, there’s just the occasional piece of mail addressed to her with my last name. I think that annoys her a little bit, but she gets over it.

  4. I honestly don’t care as long as whoever changes their name is doing it because they want to. I changed mine only because I didn’t like my maiden name AT ALL. I love my dad but not the name, lol.

    I took my husbands entire last name because I thought it was pretty :-P

    A guy I work with took his wife’s last name. I thought that was pretty cool.

  5. Yes, I will change my last name. I’ve grown up with married parents with different last names. It can be frustrating at times and I don’t want to deal with that in my adult married life all over again.

  6. @N47W122: Every once and a while my husband gets mail with MY last name on it. I think it is hilarious! The only mail I get with his last name is usually from his side of the family. I don’t think they are amused by my decision. ;)

  7. I will most likely be published before I get married so I will probably keep my last name. Also, I’ve always wanted to be Dr. [insert my last name here] because my dad is (he has a PhD in parasitology, which is basically what I will be getting as well). My friends who recently got married changed both of their last names to Weinersmith (combo of their last names). It helps my friend because she has a very common first name and publishing with the last name Smith would just cause confusion with all of the other K. Smiths out there.

  8. We got married. She kept her name. If we had procreated we would have revisited the issue by her choice. That never happened so this is moot. I think she likely would have taken my name for simplicity sake after the first child.

    I could not possibly be more ambivalent on this issue. As the male half of a hetero relationship I really don’t think my opinion counts for much anyway. I certainly wouldn’t want to change my last name part way through life. I’m thinking about changing my first, though. Too damn many Daves in this world.

    What makes this especially easy is our last names only differ by a couple of letters anyway. Our friends just call us “The Wils”.

  9. i’m probably several years away from any serious thoughts of marriage, but i’ve already made up my mind that i will never change my name. it is a feminist issue for me, and i’m not afraid to let people know (my boyfriend, for example). i just think that changing my name to my hypothetical husband’s would feel like i was being required to change my identity and remove ties from my own family in order to be absorbed into my husband’s family/identity. i’m sure most people don’t see it that way, but that’s all i think about when i witness my friends and siblings becoming mrs. so-and-so. i don’t begrudge them the choice, of course, because it is theirs to make.

    as for children, if i do end up married some day and i decide to have children, i’ve always thought it would be nice to give them my last name as a sort of extra middle name. that way they wouldn’t be burdened with a tongue-twisting hyphenated behemoth of a last name, but it would be there to symbolically tie them to my half of their genetics, and they would be able to use it if they chose to later on.

  10. My husband and I were together for 18 years before we decided to get married so he did not expect me to change my name. But my own last name is somewhat longish, difficult for people to pronounce properly, I always had to spell it out. My husbands name is easy, generic, I never have to spell it out. A practical decision really. I ended up hyphenating and usually just use his name.

  11. I’m male, and when my fiancee and I are married in October she’ll be keeping her last name, which I have absolutely no problem with. We do agree that if and when there are children in the mix we’ll revisit the idea, as we both do like the idea of the nuclear family all having the same family name. What most likely will happen, since our names don’t hyphenate very well, is that we’ll combine our last names into an awesome mutant hybrid that we’ll both change to.

  12. I’m gay, so…um, probably no name-changing. Besides, as elsie22 said, I’ll be published before I’m married (or partnered), and then I won’t want to change.

    …also, my initials are CCC, so I wouldn’t want to screw with THAT, right? In the lab I label all my reactions C^3.

  13. I’m engaged and am looking forward to taking my future husband’s name AND keeping my own last name – how, you ask? Simple, she said: I dislike strongly my current middle name, so I’m dumping it, moving my current last name up to my new middle name, and adding my future husband’s last name so we match. Although many feminists (and I’m NOT pointing fingers here, but some feminist friends have said so in the past) think that taking your husband’s name means you are saying your identity is less important than his, I think it shows strength to do something like that as a show of unity – I’m strong enough to give this up kind of thing. Maybe I’m in the minority, but just wanted to throw that out there. Another thought I had is this: I don’t know of any rule that says people can ONLY have three names – if I liked my middle name, I’d probably keep my current middle name and my current last name BOTH as middle names and add my Knight in Shining Armor’s name anyway – but I’ve never been one for adhering to tradition solely for tradition’s sake.

  14. Oh did I mention the fact that my parents didn’t even get married until I was in my 30’s but they were together the whole time. True story. SO when I was born I was given my mother’s last name as my middle name and my father’s last name as my last.

    Nice solution to the last name confusion. Just use both!

  15. Hi there!

    My wifey jokes* that she married me SPECIFICALLY for my surname. Her last name is “Anderson” now. Not too long, pretty easy to spell. When people ask her name, she usually says the surname as: “Anderson, [pause] ‘s-o-n'”.

    It used to be Michalkowski. :)

    *At least I THINK she’s joking. :(

  16. on another note…. 5 or 10 years before I married my wife, I dated her sister. Her name is Beth… my last name is Beth… how many times did we hear “oh if you got married then your name would be …..”
    Their last name was Rose, my wife kept her last name as middle name, if she had kept all her initials would be
    CARB. Haaaa! I guess she does have some carbs in her somewhere ;=)

  17. Though I’ve no real desire to get married, if I did, I doubt I’d change my name. I really, really like my last name. It’s a cool last name, and it goes really well with my first name. I like being connected to my family roots, because my family’s history is pretty interesting.

    Indeed, I don’t have a middle name, and I have thought about making my mom’s madmen name into my middle name, because I want to be connected to her side of the family as well, which has a huge, rich history that I just love. Plus it’s also a cool name. But them together and it’s like, “POW!”

    And also, both are very, very European, specifically English, heh.

  18. I changed my name when I got married mainly because I wanted my husband and I both to have the same last name as our kids. I took his name because of tradition, and also I was a Christian and a bit of an anti-feminist at the time, this was before I discovered rational thought, so it wasn’t really a question in my mind. But now I’m glad I took his name, it makes my name very unique. Before my first and last names were both names of cities in Ontario, so I wasn’t Googleable…now if I Google my name I actually find myself! haha

    It was a pain in the ass to fill out all the forms and stuff though, I still have a couple of memberships under my old name, but I got married before I had a career so it could have been worse.

    If I had to do it again I’m not sure if I would change my name. I liked what my cousin did though, she’s gay, so when her and her wife got married there wasn’t a traditional way to go whose name they should take, but they wanted the same last name. So they both changed their name to the last name of a relative who was the last person with that name in the family, to keep the name going. I thought that was nice!

  19. I’m a man and I don’t like my last name, so marriage would probably give me an excuse to change my last name, so I would change it to her last name. But I’m not planning on getting married, so the point is moot.

  20. My ex did take my last name. And when we divorced, she hyphenated it with her old name. I don’t insist that “the future Mrs. Mark Hall” actually change her name to mine… if for no other reason than it would be kinda weird to call her “Mark”. ;-)

  21. I am male, and married. I took my wife’s last name.

    She wasn’t keen on changing hers, not adamant about it, just not in favor, which I respected…

    …and I had no interest in keeping my own, which was Germanic in origin and had been a continual source of spelling-related grief in my life since preschool.

    About a week before the wedding, both of us had the “DUH” moment when we realized that we could have chosen my maternal grandparents’ last name, which also would have suited both of us perfectly, and would have lent us a bit of distinction from her already-well-known family.

    The only absolute requirement going into it was that I wouldn’t tolerate separate or hyphenated last names. Don’t get me wrong — I was plenty willing to sacrifice my own name, but I do see having the same name as a bit important in terms of “our new identity”. (And, well, hyphenation is in my opinion just one more thing that’s wrong with today’s overcomplicated, have-our-cake-and-eat-it-too world.)

  22. @CelticGoddess1326:

    think that taking your husband’s name means you are saying your identity is less important than his, I think it shows strength to do something like that as a show of unity – I’m strong enough to give this up kind of thing.

    While it’s nice for you personally, and I respect your decision and have no problem with it whatsoever, and I get what you’re trying to say, it still makes me uncomfortable. Women who choose to keep their names aren’t somehow “less united” with their new husbands or “not strong enough to give up” their names, just like I don’t think someone who DOES decide to change their name is somehow giving up their identity (necessarily … there are many marriages where this does indeed happen).

    It’s a personal choice and from the comments above, the choice is made for many reasons, some simple, some not.

  23. “I’m married.”

    /sigh

    Another fantasy bites the dust.

    I didn’t insist that my wife change her name when we married. In fact I specifically asked her if she wanted to.

    Her sister made a big thing about changing her name when she married. She did in fact change her last name, saying that “my own name is my father’s name so why would I care”. When she divorced after ten years she went back to her maiden name.

    She and her ex-husband (one of the best people I’ve ever met) stayed close. Three years ago he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and died after a six-month battle.

    She changed her name back.

  24. Norwegian kids are suffering under the burden of increasingly long names due to this nonsense*. Lots of my students have a double given name, and a double surname. Now what they’ll do when _they_ have kids, I don’t know.
    Unfortunately this is a problem without acceptable universal solutions. Me, I’m not changing my name. It’s rare, I’m a genealogist, and I like it. I don’t expect a future wife to change hers either. What to do about children? I guess we’ll just have to slug it out, but I vote for rarest surname wins.

    *By nonsense I mean surnames. They’re an archaic remnant of when paternal descent was the most imporant kind. And in Norway they haven’t even been universal for a hundred years yet.

  25. @Amy: Haha! Of course, my decision IS tied into my feminism, just like my reasons for not wanting to get married are (though that’s not the ONLY reason). But, if I married someone who had an AWESOME last name, I might take it too. Somehow, I don’t think that’ll happen, though. My last name and my mom’s maiden name are pretty hard to beat. 

  26. @biguglyjim: Me too. Grew up in a hideous home and just really wanted to move on from being associated with that name. I changed my last name to his and I nearly changed my first name too since it’s so fucking annoying being told by Xtians constantly that they just LUV my name…

  27. I was married and changed my name and now I’ve been divorced two years and I’m still dealing with changing my name BACK. I’m in a relationship again and if we get married, I’m definitely not changing my name. One, because paperwork sucks. Two, because I’m a published poet and my name is my brand. And three, because I think name changing is silly and it wasn’t right before and won’t ever be.

  28. When my wife first got married, she and her husband both changed their last names to an all new last name for both of them (not a combination of their names, just a name they both really liked). When she and I got married she decided to hyphenate and has regretted it ever since. She still uses her previous married name as her ‘professional’ name (she’s an actress) and the hyphenated name is only for official documents.

    As a man, I couldn’t care less what her last name is, what matters is we love and respect each other.

    The kids use my last name without her hyphenated name, but if they decide they want to switch that up when they hit their teens then it’s cool with me.

  29. I’m a guy. If I ever get married I would want my wife to keep her last name as I would be uncomfortable with the idea that I might be marking her as my possession. This is absolutely a feminist issue for me. As for children, I would give them double-barrelled surnames and flip a coin to choose which name should go first.

  30. When we got married 17 years ago, she didn’t change her name because a) it’s a silly tradition and b) it’s a pain filing all the paperwork to get all those cards and accounts converted. I remember people telling me that she should change her name as a show of her respect for me. When I pointed out that I wasn’t changing my name and did that mean I was supposed to respect her less, they just looked at me funny.

    When we got divorced 4 years ago, she didn’t have to file even more paperwork to get all those cards and accounts converted back again.

    As far as what to do about the kids’ last names, I always thought it’d be interesting if the boys used their father’s last name and the girls used their mother’s. As luck would have it, both my kids are boys so I never got to try out the idea.

  31. I was about to ask you what on earth a “madmen” name is, marilove. Thought it might be some kind of in-joke! Either that or your mother’s name is Joan or Betty something.

    My boyfriend and I have been together for nine years, and we might get married someday or we might not. But if we did, I’m pretty sure we would keep our names. Mine is hard to pronounce and his isn’t, but I’m also published so it would probably be best to stick with what I’ve got.

    When I was a kid I wanted to marry a man with the last name Zamboni so that would be my name too. My mother doubted that such people existed, but I leafed through the phone book and in fact there were quite a few in my city! I didn’t know that you could legally change your last name yourself. In case you’re wondering, upon reaching that realization I still have not changed my name to Zamboni. ;-)

  32. I changed my name when we got married. I was young (23) and didn’t care too much either way–it just seemed easier to “do what everyone else does” to keep our families quiet. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have changed it because of
    (a) laziness–I had vastly underestimated the paper work hassle,
    (b) my MIL–she drives me insane and I would so much prefer to have a name with associations to my own parents, not to mention the fact that she would HATE it and I now derive great satisfaction from pushing her buttons,
    (c) I am much more of a rebellious feminist now and would have preferred to make that statement,
    (d) the unlikely possibility that my husband dies or we get divorced and I get remarried–I’m not changing my name again and it would seem weird in a way to have that name in a future relationship.

    Of course, if we’re doing things over again, I also wouldn’t have had the big wedding that our families pushed for. But that is for another AI…

  33. @Draconius:

    I used to joke that I was going to marry way to the head of the alphabet. My maiden name is Wojnowski. So even aside from the alphabet-envy, Anders was also a name people didn’t treat you like an asshole for making them read out loud.

    The funny thing is that I still spell my name for people. It never even occurred to me until I was married for a couple of years that people with names like “Anders” don’t routinely spell their names. Before I was married, when someone asked my last name, the next question was, combined with a facial expression that clearly said are you fucking kidding me?, “Um, how do you spell that?”

    I learned early on that my last name was, “Wojnowski W-O-J . . .” So after getting married, I became “Elyse E-L-Y-S-E Anders A-N-D-E-R-S.”

    But honestly, if I got married today, I’d keep Wojnowski. It sunk in a couple of weeks ago when Brian said to me, “Like it or not, you’re an Anders!” And he meant it in a “we’re in this together” kind of way…. but I’m not “an Anders”. I’m Elyse Anders. I’m not much welcome in the Anders community. However, I am a Wojnowski, and I am welcome in their family no matter how unlikable I get, no matter how many skeptic blogs I write for, no matter how many atheist podcasts I host, no matter now many controversial charities I found, no matter what kind of crazy shit I post on the internet (including, but not limited to anti-Pope rants and topless pregnant pictures of myself). And actually, Brian is more of a Wojnowski than an Anders in that sense, too.

    Maybe when couples get married, the families should decide who gets which name in competitions where each family proves their love to the couple. The Anders never wanted me, so they’d vote for me to keep my maiden name… and the Wojnowskis would have fought to get Brian.

    (We did joke about combining our last name and we’d be Brian and Elyse Wojnowders)

    But really, as much as I love my husband and I actually do enjoy sharing a last name with him, I hate hate hate being called “Mrs Anders”. And there may or may not be a small, makeshift cemetery in a forest preserve in an adjacent rural county that serves for the final resting place for people who have called me, “Mrs Brian Anders”.

  34. As a newlywed, a feminist, and an individual I am changing my name. I’m taking my old last name as a middle name, and taking his name. It’s a weird process to go through, but I don’t think I am giving a part of myself up to do so and it is my right as a person to be called what I want. The reason I am taking his name is that I want to have kids with him and I want us all to have the same last name. It just feels weird and confusing to think about having kids with a different last name than either of us. And, I am not big on hyphenating … I think that adds an unnecessary burden to the kids.

    Just my two-cents. Everyone is entitled to do what is best for them.

  35. I remember getting quite irrate when my wife’s conservative southern US family sent wedding congratulations cards to ‘Mr and Mrs G. Traveller’…you get the idea. Not only had they taken the family name away from the woman I loved, but they’d taken her initials too!

    The worst thing, was that it was likely the Aunties, not the Uncles, that addressed the card (writin’ is for the women folk). It would be far too “liberal” to address the card to both of us: Ms and Mr World-Traveller! Who wants to be married to a non-entity?

  36. When my wife and I got married, I had no particularly strong opinion on the matter. Still don’t. But she very much wanted to take my name, mostly because she hated hers, for various reasons.

    Her parents divorced when she was pretty young, and it was very traumatic for her. Her mother kept custody, but there were legal struggles over support payments for years, and she spent a significant part of her childhood living on the edge of poverty. Her dad promised to pay for her college tuition, but she only got money for one semester. Plus, the name was an old German one with an honorific in front, making it sometimes difficult to enter into computer forms and get people to spell it correctly.

    But also, my last name is awesome.

  37. *So* confused about all this. Got married in January (hooray!), didn’t change name, am female.

    My newly acquired Fatherinlaw refuses to accept the non-change as he *desperately* wants to be able to address letters to “The Doctors Hisname,” which I admit would be cool, but I’m not having it.

    I surprise myself by my strength of feeling on the subject, I have a visceral reaction when people ask why I’m not changing my name: what goes through my head is a petulant “Because you can &%*! off, that’s why!”

    I am the first to admit that this is not 100% rational.

    My husband admits that his desire for me to change my name to his is not rational, either, but that not doing so makes him feel like he’s not allowed to call me his wife.

    I was a Ms from the age of about 15 on the basis that if we’re being formal enough to use titles and surnames my marital status is none of your business. Men don’t have to disclose whether they belong to a wife or a mother when giving their name so I’m damned if I will do the husband/father thing, so I’m not calling myself Mrs anything, either. And having shied away from using my doctorate in my name because I thought it was pretentious to announce myself as Dr Dungbeetle, I now have to, because claiming I’m a Ms feels like pretending I’m not married, and I’m blatantly wearing a wedding ring!

    I think it’s about fear of loss of identity. I’m kind of unsure who or what I am anyway, changing my name sounds perilous. It’s my *name*.

  38. I, too, was quite happy to change my last name from one of 11 letters no English-speaker could comfortably pronounce to a 5-letter one they still have problems with, but heck, it’s only 5 and no complicated consonant combinations anywhere in sight.

    I do, however, wish more cultures followed the Spanish/Latin American naming conventions where everybody, by default, keeps their 2 last names and the kids get a combination. This makes tracking lineages simpler and all get to keep their identities intact. Basically, your name is a combination of your father’s and mother’s fathers’ names (although in Portugal and Brazil the mothers’ names are used). One of the few times this may be confusing is when you’re trying to find your girlfriend’s number in the phonebook when you don’t know her husband’s last name and their phone is in his name ;)

    When living in Chile I had a heck of a tough time filling out forms which asked for your father’s and mother’s name and not your last name. Having the same last name as my husband made me look like his sister! The concept of changing one’s name upon marriage just seemed very alien to everyone there.

  39. As someone who comes from a culture where women get to keep their family name when they marry, I always found this custom rather strange. (The notion that a person’s identity changes on account of long-term mating I find disturbing, although it’s understandable in a tribal context.) That’s why when I married an American girl, I strongly objected to her taking my name; she felt so insulted, I finally had to relent and agree to her hyphenating both names, in order to salvage the wedding. (We’re happily divorced now.)

  40. I always said I’d change my last name if I wasn’t already published. I was published by the time I got married, so I kept my last name. I’m not even in contact with my family anymore so that has no bearing on the decision.

    Also, I’m cheap/frugal, and it costs money and time to change your name. Laziness is a huge part of it for me.

    We have a kid. She’s got her dad’s last name. No hyphens or anything. She was mildly concerned that I wasn’t in her last-name club when she clued in about last names, but now it’s no big deal. Nobody anywhere else has ever had a problem with it. Occasionally people who know her through me send her mail with the wrong last name but she’s generally more interested in what’s in the letter/package than the postal info.

    I can see how it might have made a bigger difference many years ago or in an area where it’s less common, but in hippie Austin, it’s pretty normal for mama to have a different last name than kiddo, and I have met very few hyphenated types yet.

  41. This is something that I’ve been personally debating for some time. While I’m in a relationship, I’m not engaged, but I think about these things because I just think too much in general.

    Thing is, I don’t like my last name. Well, I mean, it’s fine, but I don’t like it all that much. It ties me to pool sharks, gang members, smugglers, drug dealers, and a host of other criminals. Besides that, I have just never liked the way it sounded with my first name. It just doesn’t sound nice! Sometimes I have to wonder what my parents were thinking.

    So, along those lines, I’ve always told myself that if I, some day, marry someone with a last name that I like on an aesthetic basis, I’d switch it. For me, it is just a matter of what I like.

    This is kind of tough to reconcile with my feminism, naturally. If I voice these opinions to, ahem, certain types of feminists, at best I get some shifty side-eyes and an “eeeeeeehhh….”

    And also, I now live in a place in the world where name-changing is discouraged. You can do it, but there are no marriage “loopholes” for name-changing. You just have to change your name like any other name change. I don’t know if that would discourage me or not. Who knows! Even I don’t know what I would do.

  42. My husband was dumbfounded when I told him I planned on taking his name. I think he figured that I was anti-gender-role enough that I would refuse on principle, basically.

    The long and short of it is I’m not terribly attached to my maiden name for two reasons:
    1. I feel that if there had been any justice, my dad would have been lived with my Grams and been adopted by my Gramps like his siblings, instead of being raised by an abusive sociopath. He shouldn’t have the last name he does anyway.
    2. Unfortunate historical associations. My last name used to be Heil, which wasn’t recognized often, but no one wants anyone to tell them “Heil Hitler” as a joke. I may not have been beaten for my name growing up like my dad was, but my experiences still didn’t endear me to the surname.

    Of course, taking my husband’s name leaves me with a name that sounds like I should be florist: April Gardner.

  43. Once upon a time, when I was married, we wanted to meld our two last names into a new name.

    In the end, though, she chose to just take my last name to appease her super-ultra-conservative family (and, in a way, to distance herself from them at the same time, by ditching their name).

  44. Doubt I’ll ever get married again, even if they do make it legal.
    But given my history of changing my name with every passing breeze, it’s likely that I’ll change it a couple more times anyway.

  45. @Amy: Sid has been called Mr. Watson in the past. It amuses us both, I think, and bothers neither of us.

    So yeah, count me as one who didn’t change her name and doesn’t see why anyone would bother. As for any kids we may have, I don’t think I’d really care. They’d probably get both names (not hyphenated), the poor little snowflakes.

  46. @Rebecca Watson: Wait, nix that. I do see why some people would bother, ie those who hate their current last name/family/etc. And there are those who see it as some kind of symbol of their union, but I find that bizarro since it’s all on one person to change identities and not the other.

    Anyway, I see how it appeals to some. Just not to me . . . I didn’t even really consider changing my name.

  47. Wanted to change my last name when I found out that the option was open for me as well when we went to fill out the marriage license, but that got vetoed by the wifey.

    Seems she didn’t want to be Mrs. Awesome… (sigh)

  48. I’ve never had any interest in changing my last name if/when I get married. Of course, my mother didn’t change her name, and although I have both of my parents’ surnames, I generally go by hers for convenience’s sake. Also, it ‘goes’ better with my first name than my other surname, I’ve always thought.
    Come to think of it, although my grandmother- my mother’s mother- changed her name when she got married, she was always known with her own ‘maiden’ name. There was already a person in the family with her first name and (married) last name, so we all used her maiden name to refer to her. So, in one way, if I keep my own birth name my whole life, I’ll be, on my mother’s side, the third generation to do so. Which is rather awesome, I’m sure you’ll agree.
    As for children’s names- I have no idea what I’ll do if/when it comes up. Probably figure out which of my names sounds best with (one of) my partner’s names, assuming I raise any potential kids with a partner. I don’t think it’d be that big a deal, although it would be nice for any kids to have something in their name from me, and something from other-parent-person. I like continuity :)

  49. I opted to keep my last name, which my husband had no problem with. Coming from another country and culture than that of my husband, my name has 7 parts to it, and his last name just doesn’t mesh well with the rest of mine. When we have kids they’ll take his last name. Where I come from, families take the first name of the head of the family, so my last name isn’t something that’s been passed down through generations. It wouldn’t feel like a loss if they didn’t have my last name. Of course they’ll have something from my culture in either the form of a first or middle name.

  50. …although if I end up married to a dude, I’m SO getting myself a PhD, JUST so that I can get people to address letters to “Dr and Mr Surname”.

    Of course, if I marry a dude with a PhD, that one won’t work either. Damnit. I guess a dude who’s halfway through his PhD, but not called ‘Dr’ yet, so that I’d at least get a year or two of amusement out of it.

  51. Good grief. I can’t even keep up with changing my address, and I’m expected in some circles to change my NAME? Frak the paperwork, man.

    Despite the fact that my father is kind of a douche and my awesome mother went back to her maiden name, I still like it for me… it’s part of who I am. Crazy spelling and all. And yes, already a few published papers under this name, so why would I change it?

    The boy still has to get over it… traditional family and the like. Every time he says it makes him feel like I wouldn’t be completely accepting the relationship without it, I point out that he ought to show the same commitment then and change his. He gets it, just give him time ;-)

    Haven’t figured out the kids thing yet, as that is surely further off. I could just give them my long-ass last name as a middle name, at least then they can still remember me by the initial! At least one of my brothers is sure to have kids, so the name will live on. Also, the boy’s name is very rare, I think he feels an obligation to keep it going.

    I think it’s up to the individual and really can’t judge that decision. Except maybe the Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName thing. She doesn’t even get a first name, eh? Silly.

  52. My last name is simple, easy to spell and super-common. This has many benefits. For example, old “friends” from high school never find me on Facebook and it would be difficult to stalk me online because there are at least 10 other people in Los Angeles with my full name.

    My husband’s surname is an uncommon variation of a common Swedish name. It is often misspelled, records have been lost, his college tracked him down to ask for donations, etc.

    It would make more sense for him to take my last name but then he’d have the same name as my dad and that would just be creepy.

  53. Husband and I agreed to both take each other’s names. I did, he’s too lazy to fill out the paperwork. Our son has both last names. I’m leaning towards getting rid of his last name (not divorcing, just lazy and want to write less). One problem- through a confusion with my name, my publications are under his last name, not mine. I’m related to a locally known anti-environmental politician. The things I’ve written/presented locally don’t include the offending relative’s last name, just my husband’s. Non-local stuff has my name included. Funny, no?

  54. I recently married. My husband, who has been a wonderful step-father to my son and who plans to adopt him, took our last name. He didn’t want my son to have to give up his name, he wanted to show that he was becoming part of our family, he didn’t want me to give up my last name which I have been using for a while on academic and fiction writing, and art … His family and friends asked him why but only one person actually had a problem after she heard why (his half-sister, who has a different father, wanted him to keep his dad’s last name, even though she gave up her name when she married. We’re still not sure why she wanted this). We got married in California, where a groom can change his name right on the marriage certificate, then came back to our current state and easily got everything else changed.

  55. @Bjornar: My husband has a double surname and when I married him I took the whole thing (like I said above, because I hated mine and I thought his was pretty.) When we had a baby, we gave her my husband’s mother’s surname because his father was pretty absent from his life and we felt like we wanted to spread the name that meant the most.

  56. When my wife and I got married, she kept her name. We barely even had a conversation about name changes. It’s just who we are. Besides, her last name is Savage. It’s one of the coolest last names in the history of last names.

  57. When my wife and I got married, she kept her name. However when we were expecting our son, we didn’t like the idea of having two separate names, and I really didn’t care if my son had my last name.
    What we decided to do is take the first half of my last name and the last half of hers and make a whole new name. We now have a unique family name.

  58. I’m a married guy. My wife took my last name. I would have accepted her choosing to keep her own last name, except that she was still using her ex-husband’s name. That wasn’t going to work for me without some compelling reason that she didn’t have, and didn’t try to use.

    I generally think that it is silly to break with tradition without a good, solid reason for it. I’m not being sexist or anything… if I had one of those good, compelling reasons, I would have taken my wife’s family name without complaint. Otherwise, if there’s no reason other than protesting tradition, I don’t see what the fuss is about.

  59. @Nicole: Not to butt in, but I used to work for an insurance company and it’s a bitch to get approval of insurance if your child has a different last name than you do. You have to send in a legit birth certificate (not the ones with the foot prints people!) and stupid employees etc. always mess up the insurance coverage somehow (information gets lost, etc.)

  60. I changed my last name the first time I got married. I was 21 at the time and it was just expected, and the one time I brought up the possibility of keeping my maiden name, he pitched a fit. When I got divorced, I changed it back to my maiden name since we had only been married five years, had no kids, and I wanted to drop the name like a hot potato.

    I’m undecided on whether I’d do it again. I guess it depends on the situation. It was a pain to do the name change at work, so I’d probably just keep my maiden name professionally (so as not to confuse everyone again) and change it legally for health insurance, etc. If I feel like I really need to, I’ll do it, but my current guy doesn’t care either way should we ever decide to get married someday.

  61. @Elyse:

    I think it was the first time my wifey (then-girlfriend) and I had to give our names out to someone that did it. She had just finished spelling out M-i-c-h-a-l-k-o-w-s-k-i. Then the clerk looked at me and I just said: “Anderson … with an ‘o'”. My sweetie looked at me as if I’d just done a trick. :)

    My FIRST name is a little tougher, since every time I say: “Craig”, it pretty much guarantees that the person will write: “Greg”.

    While we’re on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_White_%28musician%29 (skip down to “personal life”, where it explains how he got his surname)

  62. Even though I’m in the middle of exams and should be studying I had to comment on this!

    I’m married (in a registry office, it was exactly the same price as a civil union and was easier to explain to family members who though civil unions were for “hommersexuals”) and I kept my last name. It’s MY name. I still intend getting my PhD one day and I want that diploma to say MY name, not someone elses.

    In New Zealand you don’t have to fill out paperwork to change your name to your husband’s. You can just use it from then on and show your marriage license for proof.

    We do have kids and they have my husband’s last name. I figure they’re blank slates and haven’t become attached to their name yet, so keep it simple. This does mean I run into trouble sometimes with thickos who don’t get it. Like last week while enrolling my son in school and the old bat couldn’t comprehend that my last name was different from my son’s. You also get the judgmental references to ‘your partner’ until you explain that you’re married and then they’re all nice to you. *rolls eyes* Apparently being married makes your relationship worthy. And people wonder why homosexuals want to get married.

  63. My girlfriend still bears her ex-husband’s last name, and while I do not expect her to change her name to mine, I would feel a little happier if she went back to her maiden name (assuming she ever agrees to marry. I ask and I ask….).

    We knew each other in college, long before she met her husband, and weren’t really in touch the entire time of her marriage, so in my head that’s always been her name. In the end though, it really doesn’t matter.

    As far as my name goes, I am the last male member of my generation of my name on Earth.

    I have no siblings, my cousin fathered daughters, and I’m the youngest of my generation. I’m it, the last of the line. The ability to pass on the name dies with me.

    Unless of course one of my female cousins decides to buck ancient stupid patriarchal traditions, and not only keeps her name but gives it to her kids. I hope one of them will do this, but the topic hasn’t come up, since they are waaaaaaaaay too young to be thinking about marriage.

  64. I legally changed my name to Firstname Middlename Lastname Marriedname so that I could have official ID with both my maiden and married names. I use them in different contexts so it was a purely practical decision.

    I use my married name most commonly now due to complicated issues with a family member that make me more comfortable not using my family name.

  65. I actually just got married last month, after being engaged for about eight months. Near the beginning of our engagement, there was this really weird moment when my then-fiance called me “Mrs. His-last-name.” And it weirded me out a lot. Ultimately, after several discussions we decided that I was going to stick with my current last name.

    There are several broad reasons for this.

    #1: Laziness
    We’ve been living together for five years, and during most of that time I’ve been in charge of paying all of the bills. Changing my last name would mean ultimately needing to track down all of those bills and updating everything. It sounded like a giant PITA to both of us. And so on with all the other paperwork I’d need to do. Also, my last name is at the front of the alphabet; most of the time if someone needs to find me on a list, I’m the first or second person, and only rarely the third. I like it that way.

    #2: Fairness
    To go with the laziness factor, I pointed out to my SO how galactically unfair it is that I (and woman in general) have to deal with all of the paperwork BS of a last name change while most of the time the men don’t have to worry about any of it. (I admit I thought of this a lot while facing the prospect of having to write all of the thank you notes because my SO has the worst handwriting in the world.)

    #3: Rebellion
    Frankly, the high-handed expectation that OF COURSE I’m going to change my name really just pisses me off. While our relationship is obviously not traditional, I didn’t like the social baggage that comes with the last name change.

    #4: Identity
    I’d had my name my whole life. As silly as it may sound, changing my name felt like I was somehow changing my identity. And after living with my husband for five years pior to being married, I really didn’t feel like marriage was that much of a life-changing event. We are who we are, and our relationship is what it is. My husband presumably loves me for who I am, and doesn’t want me to change myself for him. So after a while, the last name issue started to feel very symbolic of that dynamic.

    Of course, some time in the future I may decide to change my last name, for whatever reason. But it’ll be just that – my decision to do so. Not because it’s traditional or expected, but because at the time, it’ll be what works out best for us. As it is, I don’t freak out or get angry if someone calls me “Mrs. His-last-name.” It’s not a big deal to me, because ultimately I know who I am – and that’s the important part.

  66. I’m not married yet – will be in a few years – but I do plan on changing my last name.. and so is he. As of the moment, we’re planning on changing both of our names to something farther up the family tree – mine, as it happens to me. Neither of us is attached to our names (we hate having to spell them..constantly) so this is something we both happily agreed to.

  67. Damn — after reading all of these I wish I had had the idea when I got married to have us both change our last names.

    That would have been awesome!

    We could have been Mr. & Mrs. Petri (that’s
    “p-ee-tri” NOT “p-eh-tri!”)

  68. I didn’t change my name–I’ve published under the name Dr. B. Girl for many years, and I’m not about to change it.* My identity didn’t change just because I was able to get laid on a regular basis.

    It’s an archaic anachronism.

    (*and, as it turned out, that was a wise decision. No more Mr. Bug Girl. )

  69. If I ever get married I wouldn’t change my name and for most of the same reasons as Amy. This is my artist name, it’s on a lot of my work, children are out of the question, and honestly I’m rather attached to it, it an incredibly outdated idea, so there’s no good reason for me to change it.

  70. Married, kept my name because I was very attached to it and it was a feminist issue with me. Some 13 years later, I wish I had taken his. Why? Mine’s extremely common, his is very unique, and we gave the Little Skeptic his name with no trace of mine. (To this day, I don’t know why we did this.) When the Little Skeptic was VERY little, I used to miss calls for “Mrs. HisName” because the kid wasn’t able to articulate that Mom and Dad have different last names. More than once, caregivers went far down the emergency contacts list before somebody tipped them off. The Little Skeptic is 11 now and so we no longer have the problem. But I still wish I had taken his name.

  71. When we got married, we knew we wanted the same name, but we didn’t know how to go about that. The three choices we wrestled with were a) I take his, b) he takes mine, c) we both legally change our last names to something new. We even brain-stormed a few options for C, but legally changing your name for reasons other than being married turned out to be a bit expensive (it was the leading choice for a while, though).

    Finally, we decided on using his, just because it’s more “exotic.” In retrospect, I somewhat regret not going with option B – just for the feminism of it. I’d also be interested in seeing how the government handled the request and I think it would have been fun to do the protest stuff when we invariably encounter a bureaucrat who tries to stop us.

    We still have some time before we start reproducing. So maybe we’ll still do that.

  72. My husband and I created a whole new last name for both of us to share. I was ABSOLUTELY NOT going to take his name for all the feminist reasons stated previously…but I also hated my own last name (Crum…got made fun of a lot), and I also am not fond of my own family. So we decided to get rid of tradition and throw out both of our names.

    We chose my username – Aletheia because it is Greek for truth. Obviously as skeptics this is a word that is very meaningful to us. So instead of having some arbitrary name that we were born with, we were able to choose our own name.

    Yes all the paperwork was a pain in the ass…but I’m happy with our decision.

  73. My wife and I have regrets that we didn’t change both of our names to something else or my name to hers when we got married. It would have certainly been out of the ordinary 24 years ago but while my last name only has four letters it is never spelled correctly by someone listening to it spoken, or even spelled correctly when each letter is said over the phone, and it’s never pronounced correctly unless specific instructions are given. My wife’s name was Scott but we thought of using my mother’s maiden name of Simonton. The Simonton’s have a great history and it’s an easy name to spell and pronounce and I had no big connection to my father’s family history or to my name, but it’s too late now. So anyone who’s thinking of taking a totally different family name when they get married I’d say go for it!

  74. My mother didn’t change her last name when she got married. I have the same last name as her and (therefore) a different one from my father. It has never, ever been a bit of a problem or even inconvenience. Love and devotion are infinitely larger contributors to familial ties than last names.

  75. Well, all of my relationships so far I’ve been playing the straight guy role, and I’ve said that if I got married I’d prefer the woman not take my name, but it’s up to them.

    Now, as a trans woman expecting to date other women, I doubt it will be an issue… but I really doubt I could be convinced to change my name. My last name is very rare and with the first name I’ve chosen, I expect I’m the only person in the world with my name, and I really like it that way. :P

  76. It’s funny, my husband and I (gay couple) had similar feelings about our names to you Amy. We had long ridiculous discussions about entirely new names that we might both adopt, stupid words like ‘Spaghetti’, and ‘Rock-Kitten’ that would be transparently made-up. But ultimately, due to ease, and habit, we kept our respective surnames.

    But he already has a double barrel surname, so when it comes to giving a surname to our kids… …I imagine we’ll have the same debate. And hopefully we’ll have better sense than to saddle them with ‘Spaghetti’.

  77. Was one of 14 girls with my original name in my not-very-imaginative neighborhood and school. I think some absurdly high percentage of those girls had at least one sibling with the same name as one of my many sibs.
    I think that may have contributed to why I feel so un-attached to any name. I like the one I’ve got now, it’s unique and descriptive, but should my feelings about that change, I have no qualms about changing it again. And again. And again…

  78. I was surprised at first about the lack of any debate on this issue, until my caffeine starved brain realized that – readers of a skeptic blog are all of a fairly similar mindset – so its not surprising that the answers trend toward not changing the name, or changing it for practical reasons rather than traditional ones.

    I am a single by choice. I have no desire to link my life to another human for so long or so intimately. But I realized that if I did, it would be hard for me to break that tradition of taking his name. How odd, since when I read all of the comments, I agreed and I have never considered it a bad thing.
    Somewhere in my psyche my grandmother voice is directing the oddest things.

  79. In Costa Rica, and I believe most Latin American countries, everyone has two lastnames, first your father’s and then your mother’s, and when getting married no one changes any names, which means: no confusion… If I ever, hypothetically got married with someone from somewhere where names changed I wouldn’t change it, it’s not just my name, it’s my country’s tradition…

  80. I’m married and have been for going on 14 years. This is my second marriage. In my first I hyphenated because I wanted to maintain my identity while making him happy.
    In my second marriage I didn’t even think twice about it. I took his name because I wanted to be part of his family. His mother was an amazing and loving woman and we miss her still.
    His name is also pretty unique. I’m the only person in the US with my name as far as I know.
    When i google my name, I’m the only result I get. So there are benefits to having his name. My maiden name is pretty common and when I married him, I didn’t really want it any more.
    On the other end of the spectrum is my Mom. She was married to my Dad for over 40 years before the divorce. After the divorce she flatly refused to go back to her maiden name because her married name was her identity.

  81. So when you marry you can change your name; do you get a new character sheet too because right now I have no class and want to change.

    I’m actually liking the idea of merging the two names, although that’s a lot of paper work. . . I saw keep them, especially if your in the sciences. My friend’s soon-to-be wife is keeping her last name. She’s going into aerospace engineering, and with a name like Armstrong, you can’t go wrong.

  82. While I am a woman who never plans on getting married (at least not any time in the next 50 or so years…), I haven’t really thought much about the topic. It’s funny as my bf and I have been together 5 years, and in a desperate attempt to get us to get married, everything his family sends addressed to both of us has HIS last name on it. I find it very amusing, I think it miffs him a little hehe =)

    My last name is pretty common, but my first name is VERY unique and is what identifies me, so I guess it wouldn’t matter much either way.

  83. My last name is Matoon, and I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate my last name. If I ever get married and my wife has a badass last name like Killmaster or some shit, I’m taking her name.

  84. When I got married my then-fiance and I talked about this a lot. I felt strongly that we should share a name, because we did intend to have children, and I feel that a shared name is important for a family. She agreed with me pretty much completely, but had made a promise to her grandfather as a child that she would keep her name because he was upset about having no grandsons. Her grandfather was long-since dead, and she was trying to decide if she should still keep a promise she made as a 7 year old to a guy who wouldn’t know anyway because he was dead.

    I was willing to take her name, find a name that fit both of us, or for her to take mine. She ended up taking mine because it was the easiest option – very little paperwork to do.

    We split up a few years ago and she went back to her maiden name.

  85. It has always boggled my mind that so many straight women (and the occasional lesbian or gay man) change their surnames. To me, it would make about as much sense to celebrate a lifecycle event by cutting off your arm.

    I’m struck by the number of people here (Amy included) who disavow feminism as a motivation for their decision. They’ve mostly cited reasoning along the lines of not wanting to be distanced from their professional accomplishments or identification with their family of origin.

    It reminds me of Rebecca West’s statement, “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”

  86. i changed mine. well, sort of. i took tim3p0’s last name, but kept my maiden name as a second middle name. really, the only reason i took his name is because i’m lazy and it’s much easier to write/explain how to spell a 4 letter last name (iwan) than a 9 letter bastardization of a polish name, complete with a ridiculous and redundant consonant cluster (polaschek). but i wasn’t willing to give it up entirely.
    also, i quite like having 4 initials. makes me feel schmancy.

  87. I am engaged, and will definitely take my fiancee’s last name. Not only do I like it, I will also be less likely to have to spell it over the phone twice before they get it. I will also have less to remind me of my utterly horrible childhood and abusive, dysfunctional family. It’s win-win.

  88. My surname is in the same vein as Elyse’s. When someone asks me for my name, I don’t even bother saying it (as I pronounce it the “right” way, i.e. not even close to what the Anglophones haltingly attempt) and go straight to spelling: W-O-J-…. This is invariably followed by “and how do you pronounce that?” And when I say it, I usually get a blank “oh”. A few brave souls make an attempt, which I immediately accept as “very good”, regardless of any actual resemblance to my name, so as not to get into a fifteen minute pronunciation session (“The W is like a V, and the J is like a Y…”).

    Will I change it when I get married? I’ve read this post and comments with great interest, but I’m still quite undecided. Despite all the issues, my surname is unique in my country (everyone with this name here is directly related to me), and I’d be loath to lose that connection to my family, whom I dearly love. At the same time I have some scientific publications under that name, so that’s another reason to keep it.

    On the other hand, I do like the idea of forming one family unit with my (future) husband, and to seal it by having the same name. It does simplify things in terms of the paperwork, kids, and avoiding minor social awkwardness that can result from different names.

    I think I’ll wait and see what Mr Future Husband has to say about this topic, once we get to the point of needing to discuss it. Maybe I’ll be able to make up my mind then. In the meantime, I stick to the same routine: “and what’s your surname?” “Let me spell that for you: W-O-J…”

  89. I just got married in April. My wife kept her name, but she did weigh both options for a while.

    We’ve agreed that any kids will have my last name, not because of who has the Y chromosome but because the name will die out in my family if we don’t while her name will live on in her family regardless.

    She has no interest in her name being used as a middle name and has specifically ruled it out.

    @N47W122: My mother in law does not approve of her daughter keeping her name. My family couldn’t care less.

    I expect MiL will get over it. She’s already getting used to the fact that her daughter married an atheist heathen.

  90. My wife was Roxanne Poklsjdakler before I married her (translated to Finnish to protect her identity). Why should entering a contract with me change that? She is her, and she is who she is before she knew me. That’s when she was REALLY good! That’s how people know her. Why would she possibly tie my moniker liability around her ankle? Nope. I like her as-is.

    The feminist in me says that I would never change my name for some broad. Why should she do it to match me?

  91. I have a couple of friends from college who got married, and they decided that they wanted to have a surname in common. They chose to do a coin flip to see whose name they’d use. She won, which was cool with him because he really liked hers more than his. It did take some explaining to the family, though.

  92. You forgot a few questions:

    If you are a man and you get married will you change your last name? If you are a woman would you expect your husband to take your name?

    /pet peeve.
    I don’t know why when we talk about this issue, women are expected to defend their choice, no matter what it is, but men are not expected to do the same. Really guys, don’t you love your wife, want her easier to spell last name, and want your kids to have the same name?

  93. I am actually quite torn on this issue. As much as I adore my fiancé’s last name (Madrigal) over my own (it is a FISH), my feminist heart won’t let me let go completely.

    Really, what I’m more concerned with is telling my father that I don’t want him to walk me down the aisle because I think it perpetuates the idea that I am property and conforms to a patriarchal society’s norms. That is, unless my fiancé has his way and he exchanges me for a goat during our wedding.

  94. @covertvector: If you read the comments you would see that this issue you raise has actually been discussed and many men, at least those posting on this thread would indeed take the woman’s name. The reason why the questions were phrased in the way they were is because we are essentially discussing social norms and while I agree that in an ideal situation it should be an equal and mutual decision, unfortunately society and history has dictated that the woman either change or justify why she will not.

  95. My mum didn’t change her name when she got married and I have her last name and not my dad’s.
    I don’t think I could reasonably demand that my hypothetical spouse should take my last name. Or would. It’s a terrible name anyway, as it’s almost impossible for anyone to spell or pronounce. So I’d let my hypothetical spouse take it, of course, if she were especially keen on it. If she had a nice (and easier to pronounce) last name, I might well take hers.

  96. I don’t believe in marriage. I have been with my boyfriend since ’94, and see no reason to change the status quo. We love (tolerate?) each other, and that is enough. BUT. If we did get married, I’d keep my name. It’s part of my identity.

  97. After a beautiful humanist wedding in Scotland (my “vows”), we both kept our own names although, legally, I could even take hers (as a Dutch citizen, all combinations are allowed). First of all, we got married because we both never wanted to get married: we realised that we both disliked marriage as an institution, forced on people by society. No-one expected us to get married anymore, so that pressure was removed and thus, we had the chance to get married because we ourselves truly wanted it (and to throw a nice party). The ceremony was as far removed from a traditional wedding as possible: a traditional joint handvasting and the casting of wishing stones into the ocean.

  98. @Mark Hall:

    Sometime before my wife and I got engaged, someone (I think it was her sister-in-law) joked that if we got married, I might want to change my last name (Dombrowsky) to my wife’s (Schult) for the convenience. Though made as a flip comment (the sister-in-law doesn’t remember making it), it stuck with me and made more and more sense as we realized that “Schult” was not only more convenient but also better reflected both of our ethnicities than “Dombrowsky” (you’ve got to go back a few generations to find a Polish ancestor).

    The tie back to Mark’s comment is that some places (notably, our daughter’s school) address mail to “Mr & Mrs Pete Schult.” If anything, it should be “Ms & Mr Julie Schult” since she had the name first.

  99. It’s good to see from this thread that there are families where the parents have different last names and the kids get the mother’s last name or something other than just assigning all the kids the dad’s last name.

  100. After some deliberation my wife and I decided to both switch to a new surname. We really liked the idea of signalling the formation of our union by adopting a common name, and I couldn’t in all honesty ask her to unilaterally change her name.

    Yes it necessitates an explanation every time I need to establish my academic credentials since both my published articles and my Ph.D. use my old surname, but on the plus side that explanation neatly presents my opinions to whomever I make it.

  101. I’ve been thinking about this whole thing a lot lately. My surname is very rare, and I’ve always identified with it. I never really called myself a [mom’s maiden name], will I be upset if my kids never call themselves a [my surname]? Not sure.

    Also, if I marry my current squeeze, my initials would be EAT, my fancy monogram would be ETA, and my 2-initial would be ET. Those are all…horrific.

  102. When I got married, I really wanted to take my wife’s last name instead (partially because I’m a feminist but mainly because, like Amy, my spouse has a cooler last name than I do). She wouldn’t let me though, because that would have meant I had the exact same name as her dad which would probably have been a bit too weird.

  103. Most people here (Germany) are keeping their own names now. I would probably consider changing mine if we were planning to move abroad, because it contains a German umlaut letter that is othen confusing.
    I know only two young women who took their husbands’ names, and both had good reasons: One of them noticed that her surname no longer had any connection to her family (only child, father had died long ago, mother remarried and changed name again) so she might as well drop it.
    The other one? Her name was “Dick”. Not as bad in German as it is in English, but still unfortunate.

  104. My wife has taken my last name for some things but not others. In her job (teacher) she’s still under her usual name. Things to do with our daughter (nursery, doctor etc) she uses my last name.
    Our daughter has my wife’s “maiden” name as a middle name. My wife was not keen on becoming a “Smith” and I can’t blame her for that.
    We see no good reason why a woman should change her name or even become a “Mrs” rather than a Miss or Ms when she gets married. Far to old fashioned and patriarchal.
    As mentioned the real sticking point is what to name children.
    Perhaps daughters should keep the mother’s last name and son’s the father’s? Keep it simple?

  105. Happily married for 27 plus years. When we married I told her she didn’t have to change her name ( because I wouldn’t have wanted to change my name if the situation were reversed ), but it was something SHE wanted to do. So she did. There is no right or wrong choice as long as the choice is truly agreed upon by BOTH.

    Marriage is the ultimate partnership: full of compromises, concessions, magical moments, bright ideas, and occasional mistakes. Communication, respect, ambition and teamwork is the key to maintain individual growth and happy longevity as a couple. If a couple can’t come together on a last name BEFORE being married, then the marriage itself might not be a very good idea at all.

  106. I think I’m just seconding (or thirding, etc) most incidences of names, but what have you…

    My fiance and I debated long and hard about it. I wanted to change my name so our we could give out kids the same name and thereby ease confusion, but I was not keen on taking his surname, Waner. It has spelling and pronunciation issues, and when said with any sort of accent, it comes out sounding like male genitalia. He wasn’t fond of it, but was more fond of it than my surname, Manderino. So taking either name was out.

    He then had the clever idea of changing Waner to ‘Vaner’ in tribute to its German roots. I liked this. We could both be happy with this. So we put it past his parents, and the tears started rolling… By changing his name, he obviously hated his family, and it was a clear indication that he didn’t want to be a part of them any more. He broke, and we were back at square one.

    Finally we decided just to keep our surnames. When the offspring roll around, the girls will get his surname and the boys will get mine. The choice of surname-to-sex based on the arbitrary decision that he had already thought of the girl’s first names and I had already picked my favorite boy’s names, so we might as well give them the surnames we wanted to match with them.

  107. I was THRILLED to change my name! Wanted to since the first time I could correctly spell it (think I was around 15…). Went from 10 letters / 3 syllables to 6 letters / 2 syllables, and dropped the tongue-tieing alliteration.

  108. Hello. When my wife and I married 14 years ago she didn’t want my last name since she felt it didn’t sound good with her first name and I didn’t want her last name because if used in english it has a rather unfavourable meaning.
    When we got our daughter we decided to give her my last name – because, well female lineage is already quite clear by who gave birth anyway…

    Also we both thought that if we had had the choice of having a completely new name together we’d have done that.

  109. When I married my wife, she still had her married name from her first marriage, which she wasn’t especially fond of.

    I’ve never been terribly fond of my last name, so we decided to change it together.

  110. We both agreed my wife should keep her name. I have studied feminism and agreed that the name change thing stinks too much of “property rights” for my taste. My wife didn’t want to change her name because it would have sounded boring.
    Side note: we don’t have kids so this never became an issue but I am a big supporter of the notion that children should take the mother’s name. When that baby squirts out of a woman’s womb, we can be fairly certain she is the mother but most of us can only take her word that her husband is the father.

  111. Okay, I changed my name. Even though my husband’s name lacks a musicality my maiden name had, there was a HUGE benefit to it.

    My father is a rather prominent physician and IT professional. My maiden name is an unusual one. Upon hearing the last name, you note that I look like a feminine version of my father. Considering I am also an IT professional these days, people make the connection. And then I get to listen to people wax rhapsodic over how cool my father is.

    Considering we have a strained relationship at times, this was always patience straining for me. To not have that name anymore is a bit of a relief.

    Also, it’s nice on social networking to use my married name instead of my maiden name. Because only the people I really want to be in touch with know how to find me :D

  112. I just had this conversation with my fiancee. I’m pretty indifferent – I don’t really plan to change my name as I write under it, andI don’t expect her to change her name, but she is pretty set on taking my name, so that’s what we’re doing.

    If I were in her shoes I imagine I’d just keep the name I was born with. I’m not big on lots of unnecessary paperwork. Or learning a new signature. Both of which are the reason we aren’t just both changing our names to some new, mutually awesome last name.

  113. I’ll have to get past the whole dating thing before marriage ever becomes an issue, but I don’t think I’d object to taking on the name of the woman I married if she had a more interesting name than me. Or vice-versa. Or not changing anything.

    While I’m probably the last in my immediate family who can pass on my surname, the name itself isn’t that uncommon or rare that I’d feel it needs to be preserved. There are in fact at least 4 other people with my firstname lastname on Facebook. Probably very distant relatives somehow.

  114. I told my wife to pick which ever name she preferred. I would have been willing to take her’s except my names scan well and hers would have killed the flow.

    That was also my only concern for the kids. I want the first and last names to fit with each other and a have a certain poetic harmony.

    In the end she chose mine so it was all moot, but had she known the hassle of the paper work she might have decided differently.

  115. I’m married and my wife took my last name. That’s fine, but she had a nice-sounding name that was also fairly uncommon. My last name is common and boring. If you google my full name, I’m about sixteen pages down. I wouldn’t have been hurt if she wanted to keep her original last name.

  116. My wife kept her last name, and her preference was that if we had kids that they have my last name, we agree on the first name, and she gets to pick the middle name.

    Works for me. The only odd consequence is that we have three last names in our house (she had a daughter before she met me that has her father’s last name), so our answering machine greeting is a tad long and there is occasional confusion. But I’m fine with that.

  117. I decided to change my name when I got married, but I will not do the same next time. I’m getting divorced now, and it is a major pain to change back, and also I don’t really like going by my soon-to-be-ex-husband’s name. In some ways, moving to England has made me love the states more – in the same way, taking my ex’s name has made me love my old last name more. I’m happy to have it back and will not change it if I ever get married again.

  118. i’ve been reading skepchick for several months now, and this has been the single most enlightening and enjoyable AI i’ve seen/participated in! i’ve pretty much always been set on keeping my own name if i ever get married, but it has been eye opening to realize that there are so many options out there besides the take husband’s name/keep own name dichotomy. i truly think the amount of choice we now have is a testament to the triumphs of feminism and free thinking. and any of those choices are excellent choices if they are carefully thought out and agreed upon. bravo to all!

  119. I kept my last name as my middle name when I got married and added his name as my new last name. A hyphen just would have annoyed me and wouldn’t have fit on my license or insurance card or anything, and then we wouldn’t have been near each other alphabetically.
    I kept my last name for the job I had, because the people there were too stupid to be able to figure out that I was the same person, but after I left that job, I used my husband’s name.
    In hindsight, I probably should have kept my name -less paperwork, less others with the same name, no more “do you know John?” every damn time I go to donate blood… But, I think my husband would have been a little irked. Funny, because he doesn’t give a crap about much of anything.

  120. I’m embarrassed to say that one of the main reasons that I changed my name when I got married was because I was tired of spelling out my long, difficult surname to people – and my husband’s surname is only 4 letters. Plus, my initials with my new surname now spell out something really cool.

  121. No way! Either we both change our names to something new, or we both keep em. It’s unfair to ask one partner to change their name and not the other. And kids don’t complicate things (yikes, what am I saying?). You can combine your names into something non-hyphenated. I knew some folks named Baur and Houston, who became Bauston. Problem solved.

  122. I’ve decided that my future egalitarian society will have the following norm, that everyone absolutely has to follow… Um…

    Girls: First name(s) patronym matronym
    Boys: First name(s) matronym patronym

    And for simplicity’s sake, the m-/patronyms will just be the parents’ commonly used first names.

    (And yes, I’m aware there are problems even with this system.)

  123. Wow, I just got married this month, so this is very topical. I’m still trying to decide if i want to take his name or not. Neither one of us really cares much. Since I started applying for residency with my last name, if I told the gov’t I now had his last name, they would immediately decide they had no idea who I was and their heads would explode. SO, to avoid that mess, I’ll keep mine for now, but after the residency thing, who knows?

  124. Late to the conversation as usual. But for the record, I’m a married woman, and I never changed my last name. It’s a choice that’s partly feminist, and partly pragmatic. Really, I can’t think of a really important reason to go through the hassle of changing my name. (Children, maybe, but I have none, and have no plans for any.) I made this choice when I was 14, by the way.

    My husband is totally cool with it. He should be though, he’s a feminist too.

    Though really, the whole name changing thing is so ridiculous. I also go by my middle name, but I never bothered to legally change it. I’ve lived with that choice for 10+ years, and it hasn’t made much of a difference.

  125. This first time (yes, there have been multiple attempts), I mostly changed to his name just to finally know what my last name was. I was born carrying my father’s last name although my parents never married. Then I was adopted by my mother’s first husband when I was five and I used that name for about 10 years. Then she remarried when I was 16 and he adopted all my half sibs but I was too old to adopt. But we moved to a new school and it’s legal to just use the same name as your parents, so I went by that name. I used that name through college. The issue of what my REAL last name was haunted me through a variety of activities, including getting baptized LDS. Take the name of my husband just clarified stuff.

    I also took my second husband’s last name. Mostly because I thought Gwen Todd sounded cool–although that ended up being annoying because he was (RIP) Glen. But the last time I decided it was too much work to do the name change and since the 3rd husband was also facing last name issues since he had gone by his mother’s second husband’s last name but the name on his SS card was different . . yeah, complicated. Besides, his last name was the same as my arch nemesis from grade school.

    So now, sans husband #3, I still carry the name of the second husband. :shrug: It’s just a name.

  126. I’ve been married over 20 years and I never seriously considered changing my name. I don’t really think of it as a feminist thing so much as relating to independence. My identity is my own, and altering it somehow to reflect my choice of partner just seemed so…unnecessary. Anyone who wants to know who my partner is can meet him. And if they call him by my last name, or me by his last name, I won’t be offended. If it is someone that I will have ongoing contact with, I tell him we have different last names; if it is someone I meet in passing, I don’t bother to correct him.

    The only time I ever had any troubles–and this was nearly two decades ago–was when a postal clerk did not want to let us share a post-office box (probably erroneously assuming we weren’t married and feeling the need to give us a hard time about that) but a word with his supervisor straightened things out quickly.

  127. When I was growing up, I always thought I’d want to get rid of my impossible to spell and say last name. Well, now I have the opportunity to take a completely white-bread last name and I don’t want to any more. Getting married isn’t going to change who I am, so I’m keeping my last name, damnit.

    I offered my partner the choice of both of us changing our last names to a new family name, but he didn’t want to, since he’s established in his profession already. So we’ll both keep our own names and anyone who thinks we’re any less of a family because of that can kiss my ass.

    (Also, I’ll be a much more convincing mad scientist if I keep my name. Priorities!)

  128. I changed my last name to my husband’s for the simple reason that he asked me nicely.

    He would have been fine had I said “no” and he would have been fine if I had hyphenated (which I wouldn’t have, because a hyphenated name would have been really long).

    His last name is pretty cool and unique, so I enjoy having a new name. I will, however, use my maiden name for signing artwork and as a penname for my writing.

  129. I was one of the kids who grew up in a family where my parents didn’t have the same last name. Only thing was, this was so long ago that the schools still sent home telephone directories with everyone’s names, parents’ names, and siblings’ names, so everyone knew that I was ‘so weird’ because my mom’s name was different than mine. Little kids are inherently mean, and fasten onto anything ‘different’ like lampreys, so there were all kinds of implications (and outright accusations) about my mom…and we’d never even heard of “yo mama” jokes. It also made it difficult when we had to convince official types every time that yes, she was my mother, and no, she’s not trying to kidnap me or illicitly take me to a doctor’s appointment or something. Which itself was also a PITA, since her insurance card had her name on it, not mine.

    Also weird: she kept her first husband’s name after she married my dad. So when that got out at school, sheesh. I have all sorts of other name issues that go along with her insistence on naming me after herself, but that’s a different topic entirely.

  130. I loved my original last name. It used to be my favorite color. It was short, sweet, easy to spell.

    However, I changed my last name when we married because I felt it would look more unified and genuine for our immigration papers (in that I wasn’t just marrying him purely for residency or some such). Being able to live in the same country as the person I love is vastly more important to me than keeping a name.

    He was actually more willing to take my name than I was to take his, but neither of us really wanted to make the effort to stand up for our “unorthodox” solution to his very, very orthodox family. Seemed like a bother. I think in the end, it didn’t matter enough to go against the grain for it’s own sake. In the end, I had a very “eh, whatever,” approach.

    In retrospect, I should have stuck to it. Having to spell out or correct pronunciation for “Goertzen” is tiresome. You Polish types have my sympathies, I’ve got nothing on you.

  131. @Nicole: I have a different last name than my sons and have never had a problem with paperwork, even with insurance. The only problem I had is sometimes I look for their schoolwork under the name Anderson, because I forget. They have Anderson as their middle name.

    @BeardofPants: I have been married for 11 years, and with my husband for 15. If I had to do it again, I would just live with him, because no matter what people say – marriage changes expectations of you. I am not even talking about expectations from him, but from family, friends, work, and society at large.

    I fight those expectations on a daily basis, and will deal with it.

    I am a great partner, but a really crappy “wife”. I also consider myself an excellent parent, but a crappy “mommy”.

    Oh well. My cross to bear.

  132. We talked about the last name issue, and in the end I didn’t take his because mine is waaaay cooler and because I’m too lazy to fill out the paperwork, correct documents and databases at work, etc. The crazy thing was it took about six months of correcting his in-laws and (gently) yelling at his Mom that I wasn’t Mrs. Aaron F*****n, I was Brianne B*****u and hell yes, Mrs. Brianne B*****u if I so choose.

  133. I never wanted to get married, but married I am. We did so for health insurance reasons. Name changing didn’t even come up, though I think sometime afterwards the topic came up and my partner’s response was something like “I would have been shocked if you wanted to change your name!” I’ve attained a doctorate and published under this name. His last name is more interesting, but I’m pretty attached to mine. I was born Cat Furniture, and I’ll die Cat Furniture.

    I like interesting names. My sister-in-law changed her name, which made me strangely sad (though it’s absolutely none o’ my beeswax) since she had a great Polish last name, which began with 4 consonants, with multiple Zs! How cool is that? Of course, I didn’t have to spell it daily for people.

    My partner’s family generally addresses things to Mr. and Mrs. Thor Thorson (not his real name). I find it annoying, but I take it in the spirit in which it was intended. Last winter my mom sent a package to my partner, and she addressed it “Thor Furniture,” which makes me chuckle. And I ordered some theater tickets which arrived addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Cat Furniture.

    If you want to change your name, have at it. I just don’t like to see anyone pressured to do so. Also, like someone said upthread, don’t question people’s commitment if they don’t change their names. Unity, schmunity. A shared name does not make a successful relationship.

  134. I kept my name. Can’t imagine changing it, and there were already 3 Mrs Peacock’s in the family. Combinations were right out. The politest one I could think of was Palfracock, which would mean small horse cock. Which even now, 20 years after first thinking of it, makes me giggle – growing up is so unnecessary!

  135. My soon-to-be husband and I will be getting “gay married” in October. Honestly, it hadn’t ever occured to either of us that the name change should be something to consider. It still isn’t, but it seems like people keep asking which last name we are going to take. I quickly got fed up with everybody’s expectations, so I tell people we are changing our last name to “Amber-Thiessen”. My parents are not amused, and more than a little concerned. Ha!

  136. I didn’t change my name when I married (in -eek!- 1994). Besides being a bother from business cards to tax forms, I just identified myself as who I already was. My husband couldn’t have cared less, either. He, too, identified me by my given name, & didn’t need me to tack on his for me to BE his. It wasn’t popular with some of our family members, & some refuse to address letters, checks, etc. using my maiden name (it evidently bothers them much more than us). My 7 yr old has my husbands last name, & thinks it’s cool I didn’t change mine because she “likes [her] name, too.”
    To each their own.

  137. I changed my name when I married. His name was cooler and I could. It seemed like a fun idea. The paperwork has been less than fun and two years later some of my bills still aren’t right. Whatever. I love my new, supercool, not whitebread name. I did, fortunately, marry before I finished my MA and was published. That helps. The best part, though, is a tradition I took from my mother. I didn’t discard my last name. Instead, I shifted it over and now have two, count them, two middle names. Which means, for publications, I sound ubercool having two middle initials.

    I’m too big for my britches.

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