Friday, January 23, 2009

What's in a name?

In my last post (which was only like, three hours ago), I talked about the hassles associated with changing my name after I got married two years ago. Everybody who commented had interesting and funny things to say, so you should probably check out their comments. Dingo asked a really good question which I didn't think to address in my last post, so I figured I'd answer it in a new post rather than writing an abnormally long comment on my own post.

Dingo asked, "why change your name at all?" It's a fair question, and my answer is based entirely on my personal feelings and not on how I think others should act.

I always assumed that I would change my last name when I got married. To me, personally, it's important that my whole family (as in, me, Mr. Darling, and our future kids) have the same last name. I like the idea of being a "unit." "The Darling Family," as opposed to, "The Family of Tova Sweetness and Mr. Darling."

Frankly, I think I would've been willing to accomplish this in any number of ways. In fact, one of my ex boyfriends had a terrible last name that he was teased for when he was young, and he said more than once that if we got married, he wanted to take my last name. That would've been fine with me, but he turned out to be a huge liar, so it was a moot point. I've also heard of couples who have combined both of their last names into a new last name. (Darling + Sweetness could've been Sweetling or Dartness, for example.) I think that's an interesting option, but it would've been significantly more hassle and confusion than just changing one last name.

Personally, my identity wasn't much tied up in my maiden name, so changing it wasn't too hard for me. If I'd been a famous author, a high-powered executive, or a celebrity with my old last name, I may have felt more reluctant to change it. I know a woman who earned a PhD and was published in several respected journals before she was married, so she didn't want to lose her last name or any of the respect she'd earned with it after she got married. I totally respect that, and I think it makes sense. Some people feel that the last name they were born with is a huge part of who they are, and I respect that. It's just not how I felt.

I know that for some people, a woman keeping her own last name seems like a feminist issue. I don't see it that way. The only reason I was born with the last name Sweetness was that it was the last name my dad was born with. Either way, my last name would've been the one I'd gotten from a man in my life. My dad is one of the most amazing men I've ever known, but when I married Mr. Darling, I chose to take his last name. If you think about it, the vast majority of females in this country have the last name of a man who is (or was) significant in their lives. Their father, their husband, or (if they were given their mom's last name) their maternal grandfather. Unless I decided to up and create a new, original, and utterly fantastic last name for myself, I was going to be sharing my last name with a man who loves me, and I thought it was special and significant to share my last name with the man with whom I'll be sharing everything for the rest of my life.

Now it's your turn. Did you take your husband's last name or keep the one you were born with? If you're not married yet, what do you plan to do? And why? Weigh in! (Come on, it's not like you're doing anything else important on a Friday afternoon.)

Just so we're clear, and for the newbies among you, my last name has never actually been Sweetness or Darling, those are just pseudonyms - but how awesome would it have been if those were my real last names?


Sassy Britches said...

Orchestrated Destiny asked a similar question a few weeks ago, so I went back to cut and paste: "I am not sure I'd want to change my name if I married! It's been my identity for so long, and I even have mastered a cool signature, and everything. I feel horrible when faced with the lovely and logical idea of "sharing everything," but I just can't shake the gutteral desire to hold onto what is, to me, an integral part of myself."

End quote.

That being said, I see how for others it is not an integral part of themselves. I also am thinking of keeping it for professional reasons because I am becoming known by that name in my circle of professionals, so there is that. HOWEVER, I REALLY LIKE your insight about how the last name I was born with was also a man's name, so why not share my last name with the man I love dearly and vice versa (not that I don't love my father of course) and want to spend my life with? Definitely something to think about for future reference!

Leetid said...

I wanted to keep my name and add my husbands but it turned out easier changing completely to my husbands name and its not that bad having your husbands name as it is just a name at the end of the day.

Dingo said...

Wow, girl! That was a fast response! Mr. Dingo and I have talked about both of us taking a new name. That being said, I like the way my name sounds, I like my signature, I like my initials, etc. and even though my dad and I don't talk, I would probably keep my last name.

I can see how wanting the family to have the same last name would appeal to people --especially if they have kids, however I think the hassle involved in changing names and recognizing that all families do not have the same last names is largely a social construct. And it's usually the woman who's name is changed so that the family has the same last name and not the man's.

Anyway...I suppose my big problem with women changing their last name is when they do it because "they're supposed to" or or "just because it's tradition" rather than something that they've thought about.

Megan said...

I changed my name to hubby's name. I always knew I would, like you. But I always said (say? I haven't said it in awhile lol) that I'll always be a 'maiden name' at heart.

My thoughts are similar to yours with wanting to share everything with hubby, including his name and wanting our future children to have the same last name as both of us.

Former Fat Chick said...

I had a post on this a while back, I'm really not a liberated woman, I was just too lazy to do all the paperwork and then I did it to annoy my mama....and I think secretly my Dad thinks it's cool, and my Hubs could care less, untill he gets mail with his 1st name and MY LAST NAME! ha-ha! The boys have his last name (duh!) but I get all the DOGS, they have my last name at the vet! That means there are 2 MS. Former Fat Chick bitches at my house!

Call Me Cate said...

I took my husband's last name for several reasons.

1) I wanted to have the same last name as him.
2) My maiden name was HORRID.
3) We were married when I was 20 - I had no real identity associated with it.
4) His last name was a good one.

And of the last three could've changed my decision but at the time, it worked for me.

Laura said...

I have always wanted my family to have the same last name, but when I was actually faced with the decision, I had a hard time with changing my name because I felt like that was MY identity and that was who I was. But as I started thinking about it more, I realized that my madien name simply represented my past and my husbands name represented my future.

wendy said...

Hahaha - I love your disclaimer! :)

Yes, I took The Husband's name. It was never a question for me. Of the three women who married my three brothers, two took my brothers' names and one kept her own. I do not know why she kept her own, but I believe it was very much a feminist issue for her.

I admit it was kind of funny when I first changed my name but The Husband and I moved one month after we were married, so it was easy...those people only knew me with my new name. No confusion whatsoever.

I do have a roommate from college, though, who, to this day, sends Christmas cards to me only and writes them with my maiden name...(I've been married over 13 years).

Rachel Slagle said...

i never thought of not changing my last name when i got married. it was something i always just wanted to do. i hated my last name and couldn't wait to get rid of it :) it was never pronounced right (not that my new one is) and if it was it was just downright embarrasing.

laura said...

I don't have a middle name, so when I get re-married (maybe someday) I will take my maiden name as my last name. It was all planned out before I was born. I respect that.

laura said...

oops, i meant of course, that i would take my maiden name as my middle name.

Cora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said...

I haven't decided if I'll take my husband's last name when I get married. I suppose it depends on what his name is. I don't want to be Lee Schmee or something.
I've never really liked my last name though. So more likely than not I'll be changing it.

WendyB said...

Peeps can do whatever they want to do as far as I'm concerned, but I kept my last name as I always intended to. Whether it was my father's or not, it was the name I was born with and the name I knew myself as from the earliest age. Even as a kid, I was disturbed by the idea that I would HAVE to change it. It was my identity. If my husband wanted to be a symbolic family unit, blah blah, he was more than welcome to take my name. He didn't. Funny how most men don't! It's just a name..except when it comes to their changing it. So there you have it! Also, the fact that there were two wives before me? Ahem. Having his name didn't make those relationships last forever (though the first lasted 20 years and the second 12 years.) But if he wanted to take my name now, I would still be gracious and allow it.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Found you through Striped Socks and Skinny Jeans...and I love this post, so have to comment.

I took my husband's name. Honestly, I had a lot of internal struggle with this, even though I knew I would do it. My family's name is respected and known where I am from. Also, I had worked professionally for many years before marriage and people knew my old name. But, in the end, I am an old-fashioned girl...and I love the guy madly. For me, taking his name is a sign of affection.

Andie said...

I felt very strongly about keeping my maiden name. I did not see a reason to change part of my own personal and professional identity just because I was getting married. My children, however, have shared my body, so I think they are priviledged to share his name.

McKay Racing said...

Thanks for stopping by the blog!!

Aly @ Lip Zip said...

I have always used my maiden name for my business but socially I use my husband's name. I've never changed my name legally but my driver's license and credit card have both my maiden name where my middle name would be and my married name as my last name. Before I was married, I thought for sure I would drop my maiden name but that was before my business was established. I hate my maiden name, by the way, and ditching it would be a delight. Maybe some day when I retire!

Christine said...

Much like you, I changed my names because of wanting a whole family. I was pregnant at the time we got married, so this was on the front of my mind. Even with some publications under my belt, I still wanted to change my name.

But since moving to Italy it has been a huge hastle for me. Women do not change their names here and a few times people would just not accept that I had the same last name as my husband. I had to actually so them my passport to get them to lay off. Doctors, dentists, people at the kids school, secretary at work. Even now, if someone sees my husband's name come up the automatically assume he's my brother.

Jo said...

I kind of like the tradition of taking the man's last name. I think when folks have children, it's less confusing.

When I got married, I took my husband's last name. He was a pilot and was killed in a plane crash five years after we were married, so I have spent my whole adult life with his last name. I have thought about changing it back ... but ... I kept it.

(The word verification for this comment is "pingsmu". It almost sounds like a rare bird someone might find on the Galapagos Islands. A bright-colored, long-billed pingsmu.)

Morgan the Muse said...

Hmm. Well, I had never thought about it as picking a name of someone you loved... that is a very good point. I have not been married (as far as I know, anyway) but there is this cop in town who is Officer Morgan, and he has a son a few years older than me. When I was in middle school, I wanted to marry that kid, so I could be Morgan M. Morgan. Tight.

Smalls said...

I took my husband's last name. In my original culture (French Canadian), women do not take their husband's last name anymore. Not since 1960. So I think my decision was really hard for my family. As if I was renouncing my association with them. As if I was renouncing female rights.

But to me, it was important that I shared the same last name as my kids. Like you said Tova, I want my family to be a unit. The Awesomes. Not "Mr.Awesome, Misses Maiden, and their children".

I would never ever consider creating a new last name. I do believe there's something beautiful about passing a long-existing last name to your kids (even if my husband's and not my own). There's history in a name, and a sense of belonging. It would be such a shame to give that up.

I know a lot of girls would not have changed name considering my hubby's last name is so darn weird. When I announced our engagement to my friends, they asked "what's his last name" then when I told them they immediately followed with "well you can keep your maiden name!" But his last name dates back to forever ago and I think that is cool. I gladly took it despite its strangeness!

Dingo said...

Jumping in here again. I've read a lot of "I want my family to be unit" and while I think that's what everyone wants, I really don't think having the same last name automatically makes you a "unit." I think women who choose to keep their last name and even those in the GLTBQ community in relationships that are just as stable and just as "married" as those who have a piece of paper from the state, would say that they are a unit even though they don't share the same last name.

And again, I ask, if that's a big concern and a name is just a name then why don't you ask the MAN change his name? I'm not trying to piss anyone off -- although I know this will but by saying "I want us to be a unit" doesn't really seem like an answer. A sign of affection? Okay, sure I can see that, but would your husband change his last name to yours if you wanted him to? As a sign of affection? Why or why not?

I thought it was very interesting to read in the comments about other cultures where women do not change their last names. If the tradition in this country is from the view of women as first the father's property and then the husband's, do those countries that do not have this tradition have a different or more progressive view of female autonomy? Or, do the women in those countries have the same issues that we do here.

Although I definitely come from a feminist standpoint, whether someone takes their husband's last name or not is not one of those things I think women should be at each others' throats for. I do, however, find it interesting to discuss the reasons why we as women do the things that we do.

Should I even ask about how people feel about Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName onletters, invitations, correspondence addressed to the couple?

Fancy Schmancy said...

I've never been married, but always assumed I would take my husband's last name. Then I had my son, who's last name is my maiden name. So I decided that if I were to ever get married after that, I would either keep my name, or my new husband would have to adopt my son and legally change his name. I wanted to make sure my son and I always had the same last name. And I've grown rather fond of it.

J&D said...


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