As women, we've heard all about what we're supposed to do. Whether or not it came directly from our parents, someone told us that taking a man's last name demonstrates that we're committed to our marriage. It's the best thing for our children because everyone knows that a child should have his/her father's last name. Maybe it was an old lady at church, a nosy neighbor, or your mom's friend who always has all the answers.
We've heard about our options and the inherent difficulties that go along with each. If we keep our names, our in-laws will hate us. If we hyphenate, no one will be able to alphabetize it properly; our medical records will be repeatedly lost. If we take our husband's last name, we'll forever feel like a part of our identity was lost, which may or may not be a bigger problem than the missing medical records.
We've certainly heard that
. Many of us spend hours weighing the options—even before we're engaged. We even go so far as to speculate about which celebrity brides will take their husband's last names. Are we hoping that their choices will somehow provide us a glimpse into a magical crystal ball and reveal a time in the future when this isn't so damn difficult?
When I got married in 1998 I was young and in love, but I knew that I didn't want to give up my last name. I spent literally several hours a day thinking about it. I was still in college and so didn't have to worry about a name change affecting my career, but I couldn't swallow the idea that I should have to give it up simply because I was female. I mean, come on! I grew up writing this name on the corner of my schoolwork. It was on the back of my soccer jersey in high school, and God only knows how many times my Mom called it (along with my middle name) when I was in some sort of trouble.
My husband was open to whatever arrangement might make me happy, but the only nontraditional options I knew about at the time were keeping my name or hyphenating it. I looked for professional guidance, but—by the time the stack of wedding books on my kitchen table had grown so tall that I had to eat in the living room—I realized there just wasn't any.