Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Maiden Names, on the Rise Again. Will/ Did You Keep Yours?

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[Timothy Goodman for the New York Times]

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that “maiden names are on the rise,” which is weird way of saying that more women than ever (20% of those who have married in recent years) are opting to keep their own last names (and an additional 10% hyphenate or legally change their last name while keeping their given name professionally). This percentage is up from a dip in the 80s and 90s after a surge in the 70s when women kept their last names mainly for political/feminist reasons. These days, while feminism is still a motivating factor, it isn’t the biggest reason women don’t change their names upon getting married.

As modern women go to college at a higher rate than men, have careers, marry and have children later, and often live with a partner before marriage (getting used to sharing a home with two last names), “[Changing their names] often comes down to weighing the inconvenience of changing versus keeping. Some say it would be too complicated to change their professional or social media identity. Others say it is too difficult to have a name that’s different from the one for the rest of their family, or fear the prospect of divorce.”

According to data from a Google survey, “women are more likely to keep their names if they are older, not religious, have children from a previous marriage or have an advanced degree and established career,” but, of course there are exceptions. “Sarah Marino, a lawyer who lives in Connecticut, has degrees from two elite universities. At 37, she was older than the average bride when she married this month, in a ceremony overlooking a pond in Vermont. Her husband does most of the cooking. She earns more money. The marriage is a modern one; even so, she changed her name.

“It’s like you’re a unit if you have the same last name,” Mrs. Marino said. “And it makes things easier in terms of hotel reservations and things like that.”

Speaking of hotel reservations and the like, in our family, I’m often the one to make those kinds of arrangements — travel plans, restaurant reservations, doctor appointments, etc. — and every once in a while this results in Drew being called “Mr. Atterberry,” which always makes me giggle. I’m called Mrs. Condell so often — and I really don’t mind — that it’s only fair that he’s sometimes called by my last name.

I, personally, have no regrets at all about keeping my last name. I did so mostly because I like it and it’s my identity. I wouldn’t feel like myself with a different name. There was a little feminist motivation and some career consideration, but I’d be lying if I said those were the main deciding factors. Still, since having Jackson, there is a part of me that’s a little sad we don’t share the same last name. I’m not sad enough to consider changing mine now, but sometimes I think about the idea of all of us having MY name. That’s not going to happen and it’s not a big enough deal for me to fight for it, but a few months ago when we told Jackson we were having another baby and it was a girl, he actually asked if her last name would be Atterberry. He just figured the boys in our family would have one last name and the girls would have another. Part of me wishes I’d fought for that a little. Part of me is just proud that he hasn’t yet been influenced so much by the patriarchy to think such a thing unfathomable. Mostly, though, I feel like what makes us a family unit is so much more than a name and, in the end, what we call ourselves and name our children really doesn’t matter.

So, where do you stand on the whole name-change idea? If you’re married, did you keep your name, and, if so, what were your reasons? (And what were your reasons for changing it if you did that)? If you’re single, do you have any thoughts about what you’ll do if you marry eventually?

91 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ChemE June 29, 2015, 12:21 pm

    I changed mine because it was important to me to share a name with someone I lived with. All my life growing up I had a different last name than my mom, step-dad and sister and always felt left out.
    I was also lectured by my grandfather when I was 10 that I should keep my last name so his family name could go on.
    I tried to unload the name a few times as a kid but my bio dad wouldn’t allow it so as soon as I could do it myself I did.

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  • avatar

    K June 29, 2015, 12:25 pm

    I plan on changing my last name. If I marry my current boyfriend (which I hope to), I would definitely change it. I don’t like my last name. It’s difficult to pronounce and I always have to spell it out. I don’t have much of a connection to it – I don’t have any siblings, and I wasn’t close with many people on my dad’s side of the family. My boyfriend’s last name is easy to pronounce and I like it as a name in general. It’s also important to me to share a name with someone I plan to spend my life with. My boyfriend wouldn’t care either way, or so he says – he was engaged previously and his fiancée wasn’t going to change hers. But to me it’s important. Ever since I was young, I’ve been saying “I want to marry a guy with an easy-to-pronounce last name!” The only way I wouldn’t change it was if it was some horrible last name, or one that people might make fun of. (Weiner, anything with Cock in it, etc.)

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  • avatar

    Ari June 29, 2015, 12:26 pm

    My Mom’s Dad left when she was three years old so she was more than ready to get rid of his name when she married my Dad. Growing up, I just thought that I would marry a man and take his last name. Well…life doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will. I am not in the midst of planning my marriage to the love of my life, who happens to be female. I feel incredibly torn about changing my last name. I have a very close relationship with my Father so I don’t feel the same need to ditch my last name. I am even more unsure on what to do about future children’s last names…but I’m just gonna try to not think about it until I have to.

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  • avatar

    Friend of Beagles June 29, 2015, 12:31 pm

    I changed my last name. My maiden name is a French one, and no one could spell it and just a few could pronounce it on first attempt while I was growing up (although it’s becoming a popular first name, with phonetic alternative spellings). Now everyone mispronounces and misspells my new 5-letter last name. Whomp whomp. Anyway, I didn’t think twice about changing it. I’m still me, whatever my name. Also, I would have caught a boatload of crap had I not changed it (from my family, just to be clear).

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  • mylaray

    mylaray June 29, 2015, 12:35 pm

    I didn’t change my name legally because it was harder than I thought to let go of my ethnicity and also it’s a pain to change both my passports that I decided not to. But much of the time I go by my husband’s name. I love it, and people can actually pronounce it. I changed it at work, but I still have my name legally which I like. For me it’s mostly practical (and I lucked out given that I actually love his name) and I like being able to have options with the 2 names.

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    • mylaray

      mylaray June 29, 2015, 1:01 pm

      Oh I forgot to add, we’ve already decided to give my last name to a girl and his to a boy. i have the feminine version of my last name so I think that would be cool to pass on.

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    • kmtthat

      kmentothat June 29, 2015, 5:09 pm

      Yes, the letting go of my ethnicity is a big thing for me too. I feel like not a lot of people talk about this.

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      • Portia

        Portia June 29, 2015, 8:05 pm

        I agree with you both. When I really sat and thought on why I was so against changing my name, the ethnicity thing was big. If Bassanio had a Jewish or even a Jewish-sounding last name, I might consider it more.

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      • mylaray

        mylaray June 29, 2015, 8:10 pm

        Yeah I take my husband’s name socially because it’s Anglo sounding/plain, but I couldn’t get rid of my ethnic name and take on a name with an ethnicity different than my own.

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      • Portia

        Portia June 29, 2015, 8:49 pm

        I don’t think I’d really care if someone called me by his last name socially. His is also pretty Anglo/nondescript and slightly easier to spell. I’d probably care more if they called me Mrs. rather than Dr.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph June 30, 2015, 10:59 am

        I totally agree the ethnicity angle is one that deserves more attention. It was certainly less common in generations past for people to marry outside their ethnic groups, but is becoming more and more common now.
        My maiden last name was absolutely Jewish sounding (ends in -itz, hello!), and I was sad to let that part go. Especially because I’m blonde, freckled, and blue eyed– I don’t look very Jewish at all. If people meet us and know that we are interfaith, I guarantee they would all guess him as the Jewish one– his first name is Dan, his hair is black and a curly fro…with his obviously shiksa wife “Stephanie.”
        This was actually a big reason I moved my maiden name to my middle name (even though its terrible as a middle name), so that it would be an indicator of my heritage in my full legal name.
        The reason I changed was also heritage though. My non-Jewish husband and I plan to raise our kids Jewish, but our whole family will have his (very Italian) last name. So we both have a little something to pass on.
        It was a royal pain in the ass to get it done, through (and actually continues to occasionally cause trouble– like when I call to see if my car is done at the shop and they can’t find it because its in the computer under my maiden name– 2 years later)

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  • avatar

    Buzzelbee June 29, 2015, 12:36 pm

    I did not change my name when I got married. Growing up my mother would periodically complain that she DID change her name and how she regrets it, mostly because ours always requires spelling it out and people often still get it wrong. That always made me think I didn’t have to. My given name very much reflects the culture my family is from and that’s a big part of my identity. My husband’s family name is clearly from a different culture and it felt weird to just give up mine for his. I also didn’t get along with his father for the longest time and had no desire to take his last name. Lastly, I’m also lazy and changing it seemed like way too much of a PIA. So we have two family names.

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  • GertietheDino

    GertietheDino June 29, 2015, 12:41 pm

    I’m keeping mine if I ever marry. I love my name, it’s me. I might hyphenate, depending on the name of my partner.

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  • avatar

    Savannah June 29, 2015, 12:41 pm

    I read this article too and continue to be surprised that in all of the conversations I’ve had and all the materials I’ve read online about maiden names, there are so few (practically none) that discuss the assumption that children will always get the fathers name, even in the more feminist spheres. I always find that strange because it seems to be the reason most women are hesitant to keep their names. My parents have different last names and it always makes me laugh when peoples reasons for one family name are reservations or school admin confusion or something. We’ve never had an issue but I will reflect that we live in the northeast so maybe its different in other parts of the country. The idea of family unity I think is more complicated but basically could boil down to what you are used to families looking and sounding like.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 1:47 pm

      I think it’s because women already feel like we’re “pushing it” just to keep our own name. To expect our kids to have our name too? That’s beyond the pale. I’d like to do what Wendy mentioned and have a daughter (if I ever had one) have my name. It’s weird to think that my son isn’t “a mylastname”, when I’ve always thought of myself as one of “the mylastnames”. But changing my name wouldn’t have helped anyway, I don’t identify with my husband’s family and I do identify with mine. It just would have made me feel uncomfortable with my own name.

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  • gigi

    gigi June 29, 2015, 12:43 pm

    I changed my name twice. Now I am single & still carry my ex’s last name, which I dislike, but I share with my 2 kids, so there’s that. If I were to marry my BF, I don’t know what I would do. Luckily I have at least 4 years to consider that, since we live separately & have no plans to change that until the youngest is done with school. 4 years is a long time.

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  • avatar

    Truelight June 29, 2015, 12:56 pm

    At this point I’m in my 40s and changing my name would feel really strange. I’d be willing to use my husband’s name socially, but I’m not changing it legally.

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  • avatar

    mertlej June 29, 2015, 12:57 pm

    This has been on my mind a lot lately – i kept my last name after we married, which my husband was totally cool with. His last name is long and weird, and mine is much shorter, easier, but unusual. BUT – now that we are having a baby, I don’t really know what to do. He kind of assumed that if I continue to keep my last name, the baby will still has his (hello patriarchy), but that seems like complete bullshit to me. Why on earth would that be the default? But neither of us want to have a last name than our kids. And he doesn’t want to change his name either….

    I feel like hyphenating would just be mean, given how long and bulky his last name is, but at this point, that’s about all I can come up with. I don’t even know if a hyphenated last name would fit on most drivers licenses, official forms, etc.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 1:48 pm

      Some couples come up with a new “family name” that they just make up, or take from something that resonates with them. You could try that. Or a portmanteau of portions of your existing names. Announce it with the baby’s birth and people will be so happy about the baby that they won’t have time to spend on your new name. 🙂

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      • othy

        othy June 29, 2015, 3:23 pm

        I had a friend do this. She didn’t like her last name, his was too ‘foriegn’ (and meant traitor in his native language), so they went with the English version of his mother’s maiden name.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 6:19 pm

        His last name meant traitor??? Holy crap, wonder what his ancestor did! Must be juicy. 🙂

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      • othy

        othy June 30, 2015, 8:43 am

        He wasn’t entirely sure, but the family name change happened only a couple of generations back, so there are people who are still alive who could explain (but won’t).

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  • Jill

    Jill June 29, 2015, 12:57 pm

    I changed mine, but I moved my maiden name to my middle name, which is a tradition in my family. My middle name used to be my mom’s maiden name, and I just kind of bumped them down the line. Which is what my mom and her mom etc did, so I liked the idea of keeping the tradition. Whether or not I’d give any kids I have my maiden name as a middle name, I’m iffy about. I hated my middle name as a child because it wasn’t a first name, but we’ll see.

    The funny thing is that my mom actually thinks my first name goes better with my married last name now.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 1:50 pm

      I gave my son my last name as his middle name. I never had a middle name, so they seem kinda meaningless to me. Do people ever actually use them for anything? I just did it so my name was on any official documentation, makes it easier to see there’s a connection between us (since I didn’t change my name).

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      • Portia

        Portia June 29, 2015, 8:44 pm

        The reason my middle name is important is because it is my mom’s and was her mom’s. And my sister changed her middle name to our other grandmother’s first name, so that’s important to her. There doesn’t seem to be much practical use for them. I did know some people who have used their middle name as the name everyone calls them because they didn’t like their first name.

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      • Jill

        Jill June 30, 2015, 7:27 am

        Well when I told my credit cards I changed my middle name, I got cards that all now say first maiden last. So it kind of looks like I kept both names which is a lot but I like. I think you can use it as a way to go by both last names without hyphenating so it’s a little bit more flexible with what you want to go by.

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  • avatar

    Rangerchic June 29, 2015, 1:09 pm

    I changed my last name. I didn’t even really think about it. It was never discussed in my family and I thought I was just what you were supposed to do…I was young when I married (early 20’s) and grew up in the South so there is that. I didn’t know one single person growing up that didn’t change their last name…even in college.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones June 29, 2015, 1:09 pm

    Kept my “maiden” name. I was already professionally established and in my 30’s. And what a complete hassle to go to all the government agencies to change my name??? Who has time for that??? Whenever people used to call and ask for Mrs. ______ (husband’s last name) I would just say “my MIL is not here!” and hang up. And since I go by Dr. since I am a doctor, whenever anyone asks for “Mrs. Jones” I say “My mother is dead!” and hang up. Yes I am bitchy to telemarketers… luckily since I never use our landline I am much less rude these days.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph June 30, 2015, 11:08 am

      Hah I love that!
      My maiden last name was surprisingly difficult for people to pronouce (it really is pronounced just like it looks but people were always trying to make it more complicated, probably because its ethnic). When people would call and butcher it, my parents would always say “nobody here by that name” and hang up. Even though they knew they were trying to say our last name, they figured anyone who couldn’t pronounce it didn’t actually know them and should go away.

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  • Lianne

    Lianne June 29, 2015, 1:14 pm

    I changed my name and I feel torn about it sometimes. If we weren’t planning to have kids, I don’t think I would have changed it, but I want us all to have the same last name. Before I changed it, I didn’t think I would feel so sentimental about it, but now that it’s changed, I do. Also, changing it at work has been a big pain in the ass. Even though I have single sign on for most apps, they haven’t all been updated. It’s been 3 months and I am still dealing with it.

    Since I had no middle name before, I made my maiden name my middle name, so I love that I could hold onto it in that regard…plus I really like having 3 initials now! My husband’s middle name is his mom’s maiden name. I have considered that for our kids, but I am not 100% sure.

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    • avatar

      HmC June 29, 2015, 1:27 pm

      Yeah same issues for me pretty much. Didn’t think I’d change it due to being professionally established and olderish (30s) but after we got married we decided we did want to have the same last name so I changed mine to his. And 1) it was an ENORMOUS hassle at work, maybe it wouldn’t be for some but for me it was a nightmare that is still ongoing, and 2) I really REALLY miss my maiden name. I liked it better. Sigh. I do want to have the same last name as my kid… I guess.

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      • Lianne

        Lianne June 29, 2015, 1:37 pm

        I am glad I am not alone. I found it much easier to change my name at the various government agencies (SS office, RMV, passport) than with my company. So crazy.

        With regard to missing my name, I do wonder if it will get better as I get used to my new name. How long ago did you change yours?

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki June 29, 2015, 2:18 pm

        When I got married, I was working for a call center and we had to answer the phones “Welcome to *company* my name is *first last* how may I help you” and they refused to let me even answer the phone with my married name until my name was legally changed (which took weeks and I wasn’t even working there anymore after that). And the job I then got (and started 2 or 3 weeks after we got married) had everything under my maiden name and it was a pain in the ass to change everything. I think my email had my maiden name for the first 2 months that I worked there before they changed it.

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      • Lianne

        Lianne June 29, 2015, 2:39 pm

        Such bureaucratic BS! With my company, it was easy enough, but because I am client facing, I wanted to keep my maiden name included in my display name, so Lianne Maiden Married. First, they left it out, so it was just Lianne Married. Then, they fixed it, but also updated my email itself to lmaidenmarried@company.com, which isn’t what I wanted. So that’s all fixed now, but some of the systems I need to access have one of the variations and not the current. It’s been a headache.

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      • avatar

        HmC June 29, 2015, 5:34 pm

        My company changed my name in some places, and refused in others until I brought in my new social. And they ended up creating dual profiles and dual email addresses. I still have a funky glitch in my email where every time I email from my new email address, I am sent the email as well because it forward to my old address… or something. Basically it rains emails all day on me and I want to kill something.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 6:21 pm

        You can probably create a rule to automatically send all emails from yourself to a separate folder instead of your inbox. And then clear it out every week or so. Won’t exactly fix the problem, but at least it won’t be in your face all day. 🙂

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      • avatar

        HmC June 29, 2015, 5:32 pm

        It’s been a little over a year since I started the process of changing it. I kept my maiden name and old middle name so now I technically have two middle names. I thought it would be great, and I could still use the maiden name whenever I wanted. But no, the US is super hung up on your OFFICIAL LEGAL LAST NAME and you can’t have both like in latin traditions (I’m not latina, I just like the tradition that you don’t have to choose, you use both!). It’s too much of a mouthful and too confusing to others when I use both (you mean, with a hyphen?! without a hyphen?! What does it mean?!). So I’m plain old First Name Married Last Name 99% of the time.

        Ah well, live and learn. I *could* always change it back if I wanted to that badly.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 6:22 pm

        I have a friend who changed it back after 6 months. She just couldn’t get used to it, it felt wrong to her. It was a pain, but it’s over now and she’s glad she did it.

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet June 29, 2015, 1:22 pm

    My husband and I are actually in the process of changing our name TOGETHER (his idea!). I still have my maiden name a year after getting married, but we do want to share the same name now that we’re having a baby. He realized it was sexist to make me forgo MY identity, all for a name that he isn’t even fond of (his last name makes for easy playground insults and has deep religious roots), so we decided on a name together and that will be our family name! He has all the paperwork submitted for his name change and we’re hoping it all gets figured out in the next 3 months before this baby comes!

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    • avatar

      Anonymous June 29, 2015, 2:01 pm

      That’s interesting! How did you decide on a new name? A surname you’re both find of? A word name? Some sort of combo of your names?

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  • avatar

    booknerd June 29, 2015, 1:25 pm

    I haven’t legally changed it yet, but I plan to. I’ve always wanted a different last name. My last name is one of the most common ones, think “Smith,” and I’ve been mostly estranged from my father and his side of the family for most of my life. Growing up with my remarried mother, and half-sister, my brother and I often felt left out, and the name was part of it. I love my husband, and his family and want our family to have the same last name. He has a very unique last name that no one outside of his family has. We talked briefly about changing both of our last names to something kind of funny and sentimental, but in the end decided against it.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster June 29, 2015, 1:25 pm

    I have always felt pretty strongly about keeping my last name because I like it, as well as it being a political statement. If I ever publish a novel, though, I will choose a pen name because my last name is a female first name and very romantic sounding, and I am not a romance writer… There is actually an erotica writer out there who has my real name as her pen name, which most people in my life find VERY amusing as she comes up when you google my name. And her novels have these hilariously bad covers of like two Fabio looking dudes surrounding a windswept (sex-swept?) young lady who’s invariably staring off into the distance.

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  • avatar

    SLS June 29, 2015, 1:27 pm

    Me, fresh-faced out of college and 22 would have said I am 100% changing my name!

    But, now that I am older (30) and engaged that has changed. Primarily because in that time I have obtained a PhD, published an array of articles, and have a budding career. I think my maiden name has molded into a career identity of sorts. I will say my name with my fiancé’s last name and it just sounds foreign, and I wonder if I would ever feel comfortable with his last name?

    I am currently playing around with my name to figure out my thoughts, but I don’t think I will change it anytime soon. I know I wouldn’t hyphenate my name -that is too complicated. I love my middle name, so I have thought about dropping my last name and/or ending up with two middle names if I were to take my fiancé’s last name.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar June 29, 2015, 1:29 pm

    My husband and I both kept our names. When we had a baby I told him he could pick either first or last name. He picked last (his) and I picked first (in keeping with a family tradition we had of namesakes) and my last name is her second middle name. My husband still asked if I wanted to hyphenate when he was filling out the hospital paperwork but I’m happy with our deal.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh June 29, 2015, 1:30 pm

    I didn’t really ever think about my name or whether I would change it when I got married. And then I got married and moved right after and everything was complicated enough with out legally changing my name, so I didn’t. I did change my name socially. My Grandmother thought you legally had to change your name when you got married. So she was upset with me at first, until I told her no one would come after me for not changing me name.

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  • Miel

    Miel June 29, 2015, 1:37 pm

    I’m not planning on changing my name when I marry. Growing up in Quebec, I actually didn’t know of anyone who had changed their name upon marrying (except for my grandmother because she married so long ago, but the hospital still used her maiden name at all time). When you grow up without anybody who has changed their name, it just never becomes something you aspire to. I understand women who want to do like everybody else in their society, but I don’t really identify with the american society. And even though I live in the US now, I will do like my mom did, and like my sister and like my cousins, and I will keep my family name.
    .
    My boyfriend is totally fine with me keeping my name. He says “people have been following all those traditions surrounding marriage, and they still divorce one after the other. Obviously respecting traditions is not a way to build a long lasting marriage. So let’s forget about the traditions and do what makes sense to us”. And changing name makes no sense whatsoever. It’s already hard enough for me to figure out ID cards and legal status (I’m on a visa in the US, I don’t have a driver’s license, I’m a student, etc.) I won’t make my life a personal hell by changing my name.
    .
    Somebody here mentioned how we talk about women keeping their maiden name but we don’t talk about kids having their mom’s family name. That’s also a tradition I’m really not on board with. My name is hyphenated with my mother’s name and my dad’s name (Side note: that solves ALL the questions about which kids belong to which parents at school). I don’t want to hyphen my kids name (because that would quickly become unsustainable) but I see us as having a choice for our kids name. We have three possible family names (my boyfriend’s or one of mines) and we will choose the one who fits the best with our choice of first name. If we have more than one kid, I don’t care if they have different family names. I believe we will be perceived as a family if we act like one, no matter what are actual family names are.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki June 29, 2015, 1:42 pm

    I did change my name and always planned to if I were to get married (although I was very much on the fence about ever doing that). I did for a few reasons:
    1) I had finished undergrad but not any further degrees, so I wasn’t worried about that.
    2) I hated my last name growing up and all of the stupid jokes that came with it.
    3) I was joining an established family (husband and bonus kids) and wanted to maintain a sense of unity. It was hard being integrated into that and I wanted to make it easier.
    .
    So, my bachelor’s degree is in my maiden name and my master’s is in my married name. I felt kind of bad because my mom kept her married name after divorcing my dad because of me and then I up and change mine (even though she didn’t want me to), but ultimately it was my decision and I didn’t feel I had to justify it to her or anyone. And I like my married name much, much better than my maiden name.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite June 29, 2015, 1:47 pm

    I changed my name. I was going to hyphenate but it would make my full name so obnoxiously long since I have 2 middles that I needed to either keep or change and while it still feels weird I’m glad I changed to a more normal name.

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  • veritek33

    veritek33 June 29, 2015, 1:47 pm

    This was actually an argument between me and my past two boyfriends. I’m an only child and an only grandchild – I’m the only one left to carry on the name on my Dad’s side of the family. Plus, I’m 30- I’ve gotten a degree, bought a house, built a career (plus a photography business) with this name. I just CANNOT imagine parting with it. So I plan to keep it and just add on someday. So I’ll be something like Veritek33 Maiden Married. It’ll be a mouthful, but it’ll have the best of both worlds. My exes could never really understand that – but its MY NAME. It means a lot to me. So I hope future boyfriends/Husband are more understanding and open minded to the possibility of (gasp) a woman keeping her last name.

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  • avatar

    Meems June 29, 2015, 2:05 pm

    I have my bio dad’s last name (who has not been in the picture forever), and with my mom remarried and two half-siblings I was the only one who had my last name and also didn’t really look like anyone (I’m part Hispanic/Cherokee from bio dad and my mom is German/English/Polish). I always figured I would keep my name, it felt too important to my overall identity. Plus changing an address is a pain in the ass, changing a name seems crazy!
    But now I’m engaged and my fiancé has one of the best last names, like I don’t know if I could choose a better one. It’s German, very easy to spell and say, also makes for great nicknames. And I love his family, so instead of looking at it like I’m giving up part of myself to take his name, I just look at it like I have this opportunity to be part of this wonderful family.
    I like reading about all these other options though! I also think work is going to the biggest challenge, so maybe I will keep my maiden name just for that.

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    Crazy_Pug_Lady June 29, 2015, 2:06 pm

    I haven’t decided what i’m going to do yet. I kept my maiden name during my first marriage in my early twenties because my husband’s family was from Quebec and women don’t usually change their names so it was never a big deal. I had graduated university and I was proud of my degree that I earned in my maiden name. It was also a feminist action that I took which caused a lot of strain to one friendship because I didn’t change my name.

    Getting married for the second time, I really don’t know what to do. I see the benefits if we have children but we aren’t sure if that’s what we want yet. I like my last name even though it is very similar to a celebrities name. My fiancee would be very happy if i changed my name but is supportive if I don’t. Professionally it would be a hassle but manageable.

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  • avatar

    shakeourtree June 29, 2015, 2:12 pm

    I will definitely not change my name. I have an advanced degree and forthcoming publication this fall. But more than that, I am very fond of my last name. It’s short and sweet, and many people call me by it often, both professionally and personally. My closest friends call me by a nickname based on my last name.
    .
    I am not planning on having any kids, so that may never be an issue. However, if I were to have children, I could see myself really digging in and insisting they have my name. Yes, that is definitely something I would do, and absolutely no one who knows me would be surprised.

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  • avatar

    Michelle June 29, 2015, 2:18 pm

    I was 35 when my husband and I got married. We’re Catholic and got married in a Catholic church. We don’t have children for reasons that are ultimately unimportant and no one’s business. I had just started to establish myself professionally (I went to college “later in life,” having received my undergrad degree when I was 31, and only this past May did I graduate with a graduate degree).

    I couldn’t wait to change my last name. You’re damn right it had to do with changing identity. I wanted my identity tied to MYSELF. My husband preferred that I changed my last name. I went from a relatively simply, not entirely uncommon last name (Solomon) to a difficult Polish name that people have difficulty pronouncing and spelling. “Michelle [Polish Last Name]” is so much cooler than “Michelle Solomon,” which people had trouble spelling no matter how many times I said “Solomon – like in the Bible” or “Solomon – all Os.”

    Why it’s a problem for changing one’s identity is not a problem I quite grok. What’s wrong with redefining yourself?

    So what if it’s patriarchal? Even if you don’t change your name, your maiden name is still likely related to your father. That’s still patriarchal.

    Changing one’s last name is not a huge pain in the neck, people. If changing an address is too much effort, then goodness, yes, this will be beyond your ability to, you know…fill out paperwork. Ooh. Strikes me as more a “I’m too lazy to do it” sort of argument. If you’re too lazy to change your name, at least say that.

    Yes, yes, issues of unity. It was important to my husband that we be a “unit,” name wise, and I like it too. I didn’t want him to change his name to “Solomon.” I was already mistakenly called “Mrs. Solomon” once and it just felt icky, almost incestuous somehow.

    Being childless doesn’t make us any less of a family unit, nor would having different last names make you any less of a unit. However, I feel like more of a family unit because my husband and I have the same last name.

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    • avatar

      Crazy_Pug_Lady June 29, 2015, 2:39 pm

      It’s great that changing your name worked for you.

      Some people don’t want to redefine themselves though, especially because they got married and that is the only thing that changed in their life. It’s hard to give up an identity after living with it for your whole life, a name can define a person and I can see why some people may not want to be defined as being MRS.”Whatever” and may choose to keep their name to continue living their life as who they are and the name that goes with it.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 6:27 pm

      Wow, that’s pretty insulting. You’ve just said that everyone who didn’t change their name is just lazy. Did you even read what other commenters wrote? Or are you too busy being the center of the universe to even care where other people are coming from?

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      • avatar

        Michelle June 29, 2015, 8:19 pm

        No, I said that if one believes that changing one’s last name is too difficult because of the paperwork, that comes across more along the lines of “too lazy to do it.” There are a lot of good reasons not to change one’s name upon getting married, but “it’s too hard because of the paperwork because changing my address is too hard too” sounds like one doesn’t trust in one’s ability to handle it.

        Yes, I read what the other commenters wrote. And yeah, I’m kinda busy looking down from everyone on high. 🙂

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        jlyfsh June 30, 2015, 8:31 am

        Does it matter if that’s there reason though? Who cares why people do or don’t change their name at the end of the day? It doesn’t make anyone better or not better because of that choice.

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        McLovin June 30, 2015, 12:46 am

        Yeah, I took Michelle’s response as very condescending. I’m not saying that you did also, RRRR, but I think she missed the point of the article entirely.
        *
        Life is full of people that give off knee-jerk-reactions based on their past.

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  • becboo84

    becboo84 June 29, 2015, 2:33 pm

    I got married at 22 and didn’t change my name, although none of this applies to me, with the exception of the “not religious” aspect of it since I got married so young: “According to data from a Google survey, “women are more likely to keep their names if they are older, not religious, have children from a previous marriage or have an advanced degree and established career.” I am from a mid-sized Midwestern city, and am the only person in my professional or social circle who kept her name when she got married, so that 20% really surprises me (I do know one more who hyphenated though).

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  • avatar

    SasLinna June 29, 2015, 2:54 pm

    I’m never going to change my name. It’s related to my career (having published under different names would not be helpful), but also it’s just not something I’d ever even consider. I grew up in a family with different surnames and it never caused any issues. Parents and children not sharing a name is really no big deal.

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  • Ika

    Ika June 29, 2015, 3:32 pm

    Nobody changes their last names upon marriage here. You CAN (and people before used to), or for example Gonzalez de Fernández. (Horrible, Gonzalez of Fernández).
    I might have, living somewhere else. I’m not fond of my last name, and it’s a double one, which don’t really go well together. AND one of them is hard to spell and say here. Which I hate.
    The girls have my husband’s last name. A lot of kids of their generation use both their parents surnames, but in this case it would have been 3, and it was just a horrible combination. Plus my husband’s name is easy to spell. And pronounce.

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  • avatar

    heatheranne June 29, 2015, 4:34 pm

    My husband and I both changed our last names to a new name that combined both of our original last names into one. I was surprised by how positive the reaction has been.

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  • othy

    othy June 29, 2015, 4:46 pm

    I got married early enough that I changed my last name. I figured it would be easier to deal with life if Othello and I shared a last name. He also has a very rare last name (compared to my super common maiden name), so it was nice to move to a less common name. My name was common enough that I had a neighbor about four houses down from me with the exact same name growing up (which was cool when I’d try to vote when I was 10, because my name was totally on the voting list!)
    .
    I think it would be harder if I had gotten married later. I’ve published a few articles, and intend to publish more, and it’s quite nice to have it all consistent. I did keep both my middle and maiden names as my middle name, because I really didn’t want to drop either completely.

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  • kmtthat

    kmentothat June 29, 2015, 5:00 pm

    I’m an for all intents and purposes very feminist woman. I have a much loved corporate job, happen to be the primary breadwinner in my household, and at this rate won’t be married till my mid 30s. I get pretty stewed up about a lot of feminist issues, and while I’ve toyed with the idea of keeping my last name professionally just because it’s much easier…I’m planning on changing mine if/when I get married.
    .
    Particularly becaue my bf’s family is very small and he’s the last one carrying on his unusual last name. I do feel a huge stress of losing my one big cultural signifier (I “pass” as white but am a minority and feel strong cultural ties to it) especially as I have a very American first name. I have considered replacing my middle name with my last name but even that seems more cumbersome. Also, my bf’s name sort of rhymes with my name. Which… :(. But it does make me sounds memorable!

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    • Portia

      Portia June 30, 2015, 12:09 pm

      I’m curious, would it depend on the family or other situation of the person you are marrying? I mean, it might be all tied up together for you and your bf, but this was something I thought about, if Bassanio had a family reason for the last name being important. Or if his family name signified the same ethnicity.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo June 29, 2015, 5:45 pm

    I kept my name, and so did my wife. We briefly discussed both changing to a neutral third name, but the talks stalled because she thought “Skywalker” was a stupid surname. Women say they want to “have it all,” but then immediately pass up a great opportunity like that. Clearly, our society has some growing up to do.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 6:30 pm

      I mean, did you even consider “Organa”? Talk about sexist. *shakes head*

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  • avatar

    Kate June 29, 2015, 6:42 pm

    I feel like people should be called whatever they want to be called. I don’t get this whole “more of a unit if we have the same name” thing. No you’re not, you’re as much of a unit as you actually are. But if you like his name better than yours, change it! If you don’t, I don’t know why you would. I changed mine when I got married at 21, swapping one plain single-syllable name for another. I was glad to legally get my old one back, and now I have no interest in changing it again, even to yet another one syllable basic name. Mine just feels like me. Even if I had kids I wouldn’t change it at this point.

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    • avatar

      Anonymous June 29, 2015, 6:45 pm

      And I’ve never run into any kind of inconvenience making travel reservations and stuff, no matter who I’m traveling with. Why would that be an issue, I wonder?

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 29, 2015, 7:11 pm

        The only thing I worry about is taking my kid out of the country. I know it’s probably a baseless fear, but still. It would be nice for that one instance if our names matched. I don’t want to look like a kidnapper or something.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom June 30, 2015, 7:16 am

        I’ve never had the same last name as my kids and we travel out of the country without problem. No one has ever considered me a kidnapper. My kids look like me and when they were little hung all over me and call me mom. No one ever questioned that we were a family traveling together.

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        RedRoverRedRover June 30, 2015, 7:26 am

        I know, it’s just something that I’d feel better if they had my same name for. My country even requires signed documentation from the other parent to take them out of the country, so I’d have that as proof that I’m not a kidnapper, but still. I don’t think it’s rational, just a fear. 🙂

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom June 30, 2015, 7:19 am

      @Kate I agree completely with you are as much of a unit as you actually are. Definitely. You are the couple/family that you are and that depends on so much more than a last name to the point that the name is irrelevant. I mean irrelevant as in the love and commitment and respect are what they are, no matter what last name each person has.

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  • avatar

    Ange June 29, 2015, 7:15 pm

    I kept my surname when I got married. At first I agreed to change it as my husband wanted it but as the day got closer I got twitchy and finally said I just couldn’t do it. My husband wasn’t pleased as he felt that whole ‘married name = a unit’ thing but when I pointed out he could always change HIS name he backed off lol. Now he doesn’t care at all, I think it helped that his brother’s wife didn’t change her name either.
    .
    We’re childfree but I wouldn’t have worried even if we did have kids. My mother changed back to her maiden name after she and my father divorced and honestly it doesn’t mean a thing so far as how we are defined. I know she’s my mum and I’m happy that she’s happy. It would be selfish to expect her to keep a name that means something negative to her.

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  • avatar

    Pinky June 29, 2015, 7:30 pm

    It’s all about choice, folks.

    I disowned the worthless drunk of a dad when I was 18 but was still stuck with this albatross of a name. Then I met Mr. Pinky, the nicest, sweetest most gentle Beta Male to ever grace the face of the Earth. Hell, yeah, I changed my name to his. Should I walk around with the name of the mean Irish drunk who beat the crap out of me? Or, should I CHOOSE to change my name to match the love of my life? Oh, and I was 39 when we finally walked down the aisle.

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  • Portia

    Portia June 29, 2015, 8:35 pm

    The thing that finally convinced Bassanio it wasn’t such a big deal for me to keep my name? When I said I’d think about it if he did all the legwork. Surprisingly effective way to gauge just how serious he was about it.
    .
    My reasons are beyond the practical: I like the association with my religion/ethnicity, no males to carry on the family, I have academic work in my name, I really like my initials, and when it came down to it I didn’t want to change it. My middle name has arguably more significance to me than my last name (same as my mother’s and grandmother’s), so I wasn’t going to make my last name my middle name. Plus our last names have the same last syllable, so it would sound weird if they were hyphenated. Bassanio is far and away the most important person in my life, that’s not a question. But not changing just feels more right to me. He’s welcome to take my name, though (and he knows it).

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  • Lyra

    Lyra June 29, 2015, 10:33 pm

    I went back and forth many many many times but ultimately decided to be Lyra mymiddlename mymaidenname marriedname. I’m happy with it. I will go by Mrs. MarriedName in school, but I would be cool if the kiddos call me by my soon-to-be maiden name too. Navy Guy would have been ok with whatever I chose.

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  • avatar

    McLovin June 29, 2015, 10:37 pm

    This is such a personal choice, there really isn’t a wrong answer.

    Right out of college I worked with a guy that took his wife’s last name. This was like 20 years ago and I thought “that seems really odd.” As it turns out, he didn’t have any family to speak of, and he wanted to make himself a part of his wifes family in every way. Cool, I get that. I bring that up because it opened my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities as to why someone would, or wouldn’t, change their last name.

    I’m pretty traditional by most standards. I always hold the door open for my date, if i ask “her” out then I’m planning on paying – unless she wants to contribute equally, I always bring flowers or wine for the hostess when someone invites me to a group or holiday dinner – but I would never expect someone to give up their last name for mine. I learned a long time ago that people have their reasons, and that’s more than fine with me.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom June 30, 2015, 7:23 am

      This! Each person has their own personal reason for their name choice and there is no good reason for anyone else to judge that choice.

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  • avatar

    Sandy June 30, 2015, 7:19 am

    I am going to take my fiancé’s last name. I’m not particularly attached to my last name and I have plenty of family on my dad’s side that my current last name will carry on and I love the thought of my new immediate family all having the same last name and my fiancé’s last name is pretty unique in my country, I don’t think anyone else in my country has his last name (besides his parents) while basically half the people in the district I grew up in have my last name (because we are all related :P).

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  • avatar

    Ali June 30, 2015, 8:18 am

    I kept my original name. It had been my name for quite sometime… 30 years. So I was pretty well established professionally in my field and had several professional licenses associated with that name. Moreover, it was my name. I realize it was my last name because my mother had taken my father’s name, but it was still my last name that I had used for all of my life. So I kept it. And my husband didn’t mind either way. My family address things to Mr & Mrs HisLastName and so do most of our friends, and I am OK with that too, because it was never that I didn’t want to create a family unit with him or that it was for feminist principles, I just felt (and he agreed) that we could do that without me officially using his last name. Anyone who knows me professionally actually refers to my husband as Mr MyLastName and that doesn’t bother him either. I say all of this with the slight sadness that my daughter does not have my last name. She is too young to realize it yet, but sometimes I do wish we all matched, but only because of her. Ultimately I gave her my husband’s last name because I know she was mine (that birth was hard!) and I didn’t need a last name to prove it to anyone.

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    • avatar

      Ange June 30, 2015, 6:08 pm

      Oooh yes, I think it’s good to be kind about people still referring to you as your partner’s surname. I get called Mrs HusbandName on occasion and roll with it, he occasionally gets called Mr MyLastName if I make the booking and he also rolls with it.

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  • avatar

    Jane Doe June 30, 2015, 10:11 am

    I don’t really like my last name, but my entire name is so foreign sounding, that I decided to only change my last name if it sounds good with my first name…for example if my name were “Adalucia” and my husband’s surname is “Smith” I probably won’t change it. If it’s “Mendez” I will probably change it.

    It’s nothing that’s really a big deal and the man I’m dating now agrees.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph June 30, 2015, 11:13 am

    I said above my reasons why I did change my last name, but ladies… it is a royal pain. I don’t regret doing it for the personal reasons I did, but I do sort of resent how difficult it was.
    And it keeps coming up over 2 years since I officially changed it. I just paid off my car, bought in my maiden name…so now I have to go do the title transfer, only I have to pay extra to reissue the title in my married name. Lame.
    And work keeps screwing things up, with all my accounts in different names. Ridiculous.

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  • avatar

    LadyNeon01 June 30, 2015, 11:33 am

    I kept my name. A long time ago, I thought that I’d change it because that’s what you do. But after I got my Masters degree, I changed my mind. And now that I’ve established myself professionally and published a few papers here and there, its just not worth the hassle. Everyone knows me by my rare name. Mr. Neon didn’t care either way. His mom fussed about it but he was on my side, so she couldn’t complain much.

    Mr. Neon and I agreed that any kids we have (still an if at this point) would have his name. I’m even questioning that now because there’s only one male in my extended family with my name.

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  • Mr. Cellophane

    Mr. Cellophane June 30, 2015, 11:45 am

    My wife changed hers when we got married back in the day. She jokingly said that she she wanted to “move up” in the alphabet. Since her maiden name was way at the end of the alphabet, (and mine is much closer to the front) she was tired of sitting at the back in classes, and tired of always bringing desserts to potlucks.

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  • avatar

    simonthegrey June 30, 2015, 12:52 pm

    I changed my name, but what I actually did is add my husband’s name as my last name and legally move my maiden name to my second middle name. So I have four names. My husband took my maiden name as his second middle name. We both wanted to share last names and we each had a long last name that we did not want to hyphenate (for the sake of eventual children who would have to put something like Buckminster-Hyperhellington on standardized test forms). His mother and mine had each done the route of changing middle name to maiden name, but I liked my middle name (it is a family name). What was funny was that his mom actually protested him changing his name since there was “no reason” – and she was/is a pretty staunch feminist!

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  • avatar

    Wendy (not Wendy) July 1, 2015, 9:33 am

    I changed my last name–my ex and I combined our last name into a new one, which once upon a time (22) I thought was sooo cool. But Immediately regretted it… actually, even before it was done, but I was afraid to say so. I preferred my old name, and our new name was actually only two letters different from her old name. So when I confessed after several years that I wanted to change it back, because it had never felt like “my name”, she was insulted because she said she never felt that way (therefore my feelings were invalid).

    Anyway, for me it was a mistake. Changing it wasn’t that big a deal but changing it back after the divorce was kind of a bitch (especially because I had to keep using the name until nine months after we separated). I’m saddled with the name of someone I loathe forever because of credit reports and stuff. My fiance now is from a culture where they don’t change names, and the children don’t have the same last name as either of the parents. He doesn’t really “get” it and isn’t at all invested in the question. I think when we have kids we’ll give them my last name, which is easier to get around with in the US than his. I hope the kids feel like I made the right choice when they grow up and not like I took their ethnic identity away. We’ll give them middle names from my fiance’s language.

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  • avatar

    Sojianna July 1, 2015, 11:15 am

    I have a very common last name that I like. It was my plan when I was younger just to only date men with the same last name, making it a non-issue. The plans kids come up with are kind of awesome.

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  • avatar

    Leanne July 2, 2015, 8:12 pm

    My husband and I decided to combine our last names into one new one. It was partly a nod to feminism and our equality, partly that he had always been a little uncomfortable with his last name, which can cause 12 year old boys to giggle. On my end, my father had passed away, and I am pretty sure that our family name will not continue after this generation, so keeping a portion of my maiden name seemed like a nice way to remember him and my family name. People are always amazed we did it – but it was not that hard, really. We just had him change his name first, THEN we got our marriage license, so I could take his NEW name. We are about to have our first baby and we laugh that we will have to tell him some day that we made up this last name of ours. And since we are having a boy, we find it neat that this name we created will continue on after we are gone, which is fun.

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