Monday, June 23, 2008

What’s in a name?

A bitch read this article about the drama many women face when they change their surname post-marriage with fascination. I’ve certainly experienced the trouble caused when e-mail addresses are changed or phone directories aren’t updated, but it seems that even travel can be fucked up by a surname change.


I must admit that I’m not a huge fan of the name change tradition. Oh, I understand the root of it…I just don’t see myself ever doing it.

Mayhap that’s because…well, my full name kicks ass!


It does!

My first and last name flow together…perfectly. And I’ve been called by this name since birth, damn it! Why the fuck would I tamper with that shit? Come to think of it, I wouldn’t since I also can't see myself doing marriage. A bitch isn’t a fan of formal document signing marriage...not my kind of gig, though I'll sure as shit fight the fight to extend marriage equality to all Americans...but if I found myself taking that plunge I’d certainly have to keep my name.

I understand that not everyone is taken with their given name. Shit, I have friends who never really liked their first and last name together and changed that shit as soon as they could once they committed to a partner or got married.

But I can’t help but wonder if the changing of names for married women hasn’t become the new veil thing. You know, it used to symbolize something but now it has become an accessory.

And I also wonder whether men would change their last name if given the chance. I mean, y’all can’t all be in love with your last names.

Mmmhmmm, it may be time for a movement here.

Or is the passport/e-mail/voice mail/business card/social security number/driver’s license drama a rite of the throwing of the whatsitcalled?



Anonymous said...

I'm getting married in October to the man I've been with for eight years. I wanted to elope (since I personally believe weddings are a huge waste of money and time and focus too much on tradition and not enough on the individuals), but we decided to do a small wedding for our families. Both my parents will cry, and my sister will make a drunken speech, so I can't really argue with that. I'm not wearing a veil, and I sure as hell am not changing my name. I love my fiance's name almost as much as my own, but after about five minutes of contemplation, I concluded that there is no good reason to alter my identity. My parents won't care (in fact, I think my dad prefers I keep my name), and my life is already so completely intertwined with my fiance's that changing my name wouldn't even be that symbolic (i.e., starting a life together, two becoming one, etc.) As for kids, we'll figure out the name thing if/when we decide we want some.

This is my first time posting on your blog, which I've been reading for almost a year. Just wanted to say I think you rock!



Shark-Fu said...

Well hello to you Jen!

And congrats and best wishes.

Thanks for the comment!

Colleen McGarry said...


Here's a link to an article about how hard it can be for a man to change his last name in marriage, should he so choose:

Ridiculous, really. What's the big deal about it all, anyway?

Also a long time reader, first time caller (commenter.) I love your blog!


Homer said...

My last name is my father's stepfather's surname. He was not a good role model and allowed my grandmother to do truly evil things. I sometimes wish I did not carry his name with me, but I'm known in my field with it, and changing it would be a nuisance.

In my genealogical research, I often come across women identified as "Mrs. John Doe." In one case, the woman's obituary didn't even mention her own name. I'm not a big fan of women taking their husband's name (it makes finding maiden names and parents difficult!).

PuckFinn said...

My GF and I are getting married in 2010 and though we've made up a combination of our two last names to give the child that we hope someday to have, I do not think that we've made a decision about changing our own names.

We refer to ourselves (the couple unit) as the combined name but I think that that's as far as it's gone.

We do have friends (a married hetero-normative couple) who, after being married for a few months, decided to change both of their names to a hyphenated version of their last names.

Bianca Reagan said...

I won't be changing my name. I have very strong feelings about the subject. Next week I plan to post about the persistence of name-changing tradition.

Coathangrrr said...

I'm a man and my partner's last name is the same as my middle name. I've been thinking of just dropping my last name, which is both my parents' names hyphenated, and using my middle name as my last, no longer having a middle.

I probably won't do it because of the paper work involved and my laziness, but I would if it was as easy as it is for a woman.

jsb16 said...

I kept my last name when I got married. I mean, I couldn't give up JSBach's initials, could I?

As for the kids, B and I agreed that girls would get my last name and boys would get his. After the first girl, I offered to give the second kid his name regardless of gender, but he wanted to stick with the original agreement. Both of our daughters have my last name, and you know what, he's grownup enough to deal with being addressed as Mr. My-Last-Name by the ignorant, just as I can handle being called Mrs. His-Last-Name. It certainly makes telemarketer indentification easier!

KBO said...

When I got married to a lovely dude with a lovely last name, it never really crossed my mind to rid myself of my own name that I have had for my entire life. I ended up hyphenating, which is awkward-ish, but no more awkward that getting a whole new name. I'm pretty happy about my choice, although my hyphenated last name initials are B-O, which my teenage students don't let me forget.

a.eye said...

I too love my full name and how it flows. I also don't see the purpose in the whole name change by the woman anymore.

I have thought seriously about it all and think that I like the idea of both people becoming hyphenated together, or of both people adopting some sort of new name -- perhaps a combo of both, or something entirely new so that the couple and any children they may have will share something new and something that truly makes them a family.

EHR said...

I didn't change my name when I got married (partly because it would have made me sound like a country song or one of those hilarious names they come up with for a very specific shade of paint). I, too, have a very excellent combination already. In certain forums, I put his name after my last name, which sounds cool too, but I've come to regret that, since it means a lot of people reduce my name to the afore-mentioned paint color.

My brother and his wife did the hyphenated thing - both of them.

Unfortunately, not changing your name is problematic too. My own relatives act like they don't know my name anymore, for chrissake. It is fantastically annoying.

Mermama said...

My son, who always had a problem with his rather absent fathers last name, took the surname of his new wife without batting an eye - and had no difficulty at all getting it done. He was in the National Guard at the time and even the Feds didn't bat an eye. Pretty sure Dad didn't put 2 and 2 together and he'll blame me for sure when he does. (By the way, I returned to my maiden name during my divorce and THAT was more of a hassle than my boy experienced.)

Great blog, will take you out for salmon if you're ever in Washington!

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on this subject were profoundly altered decades ago when two friends got married. I asked the guy if his wife was going to take on his last name.

"No," he replied, "I married her, I didn't buy her." I had never thought of it that way, and from then on I could only think of it in those terms.

Anonymous said...

I didn't change my name when I got married- didn't even consider it for a second, actually. I have been really surprised by how many of my feminist friends HAVE changed their names in the last few years. I think this is an important conversation to have- Just wanted to add that travel and medical stuff can be messed up if you *don't* have the same name as your partner as well. I have had doctors as well as gate agents refuse to allow me to do things as "wife" (change seats, pick up lost bags, etc) because I didn't have the same last name as my husband and therefore couldn't "prove" I was related to him.

I recently read that in Quebec you simply can't change your name when you get married-- the record-keeping was too complicated so they decided one name per person per lifetime. I think that makes good sense.

Anonymous said...

Holy hell, it boggles my mind how often I read feminists who love to blog at length about how cute their latest pair of high heel shoes are, or who make sure everyone knows how adorable they are, declare that I am Less of a Feminist for taking my husband's name.

Not that you're doing this -- quite the opposite in fact -- I just had to get that off my chest.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you, I wouldn't even consider marrying a man who wouldn't give some serious thought to changing his last name to mine as a political act. It's a moot point, really, as, like a bitch, I don't have any matrimonial plans; all in all, I'd like it if in some theoretical, probably-won't-happen marriage we both kept our own names.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm not even close to getting married but I know for sure that I'll never change my last name when that day comes. Well, maybe I'll do that little hyphen thing. Btw, I wrote a blog about this too. Great post!

Anonymous said...

I didn't change my name when I got married, and I am amazed at how much crap we get for it.
My husband is told he's whipped.
I'm assumed to be a slut that's shacking up.

Thank goodness both our names are on our medical insurance card, because sometimes even picking up a pizza is an issue.

I just don't get why our not having the same last name is such a big issue. Although everytime we do something as a couple I find out that the system is geared to give him the advantage.

When we pay taxes, even though I am the only one with a steady income (he's a writer), his name and social security number have to go first.

anyway, I'm glad you like your name, and plan to keep it. I hope more folks do!

Anonymous said...

My last name is at the beginning of the alphabet and I've always been called first due to it. I've had the for over 40 years and build a professional reputation with it. When I got married 6 years ago, changing it wasn't even a consideration. So far, it hasn't caused any disruption in our dealings with hospitals or travel agents, but that may have more to do with the fact that I'm evil when confronted.

Unknown said...

I have used my spouses last name each time I married..yes its been a few times now..

I hated my last name from the time I was old enough to be taunted at school about it.

So it was a purely selfish move on my part. ;)

jsb16 said...


The IRS is just slow: they want you to keep the same order of names (or rather, SSNs) every year. When we first got married, I did the taxes, so I put my name first. Now B is more likely to do the taxes, but the IRS still wants my name on top.

It's not malice: just stupidity.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

My first and last name flow together like peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth and plaster on your tongue.
Wiah I could change names.

Anonymous said...

my girlfriend's brother and his wife created a hybrid name out of their respective surname's. i can see how this might annoy genealogists, but it's a sweet gesture
all the same.

bottom line is that there should be no hard and fast, absolute rule about taking a new name be it for marriage or any other reason. every person should bear the right to determine their own identity.

you write a great blog - thank you for sharing your words!

~in san francisco

Anonymous said...


Long time reader; second-time commenter.
Here is my two-cents

This bitch is old. As a middle-aged bitch; I would gladly change my last name. I would keep my last name as my new middle name. I just have to get a boyfriend first.

So, ya'll pray fo' a bitch to get a man so I can change my last name.

Shark-Fu said...

Lawd, Deedlelee! A bitch just snorted ice water!!


This bitch shall pray that you fall in love and y'all handle that name bitness as you see fit...

Assrot said...

A good friend of mine just got married and he took the last name of his bride rather than her taking his last name.

Apparently it is perfectly legal to do so in Florida. I don't know about other states.

Personally I never cared either way. I like my name and if my wife had wanted to keep hers, I had no objection to it. She chose to take my last name because she liked it.


whatsername said...

My husband and I discussed this before we married and we intended to either both change our names or for him to only change his name. We were waiting for the CA supreme court to settle that nice lawsuit over the gov't making this difficult for hubbies.

We'll see if he actually goes through with it, he can be rather lazy about anything with paperwork... Honestly probably nothign will happen unless we decide to have kids. But my name isn't going anywhere.

Jaelithe said...

I didn't change my name at first after I got married. But after being asked LITERALLY every single time I went to a doctor's appointment during my pregnancy, and every single time I took my newborn son to the doctor, whether I was "married to the father," I got sick of it and changed my name. I was worried that in an emergency people would not know that my son belonged to me, because he had his father's last name and not mine (hyphenating would have been cruel to the kid given the length of my maiden name).

But I regret it all the time now. It was a hassle to change my name; it doesn't match well with my unusual first name and people get confused and think my last name IS my first name, which causes me all sorts of paperwork problems pretty much constantly.

I wish I had given my son my name, and made my husband change his name to my name instead. But it would have broken my husband's sweet old traditionalist grandmother's heart. And some of his family members might actually have disowned him. (Not joking.) *sigh*

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