The Name Dillema: How I Decided Between My Maiden And My Married One

The Name Dillema: How I Decided Between My Maiden And My Married One

The Name Dillema: How I Decided Between My Maiden And My Married One

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How to choose a last name that satisfies husband and wife.

Married names, like the institution of marriage itself, are not what they used to be.

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 making the choice sucks.

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.

To make a long story short, I took my husband's last name.

Gasp! I know, I know. And why did I do such a thing, you ask? Mostly because Utt and Grubb didn't exactly lend themselves to melodious combinations—Grutt and Uttubb didn't cut it—and I wanted our family to have a unified "team name."

Taking his last name was just as awful for me as you might imagine. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach began when our officiant—against my emphatic instructions—pronounced us "Mr. & Mrs. Sam Grubb." I felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me right there in the wedding garden. I guess that's what happens when you're proceeding with a decision that you know deep down isn't right for you.

By the time our first child was born two years later, I had come to the conclusion that, for me, embracing Utt and Grubb in all of their terrible-sounding glory was the only authentic way to go. I hyphenated my last name and our son's, and by the time our second son was born a couple more years later—drum roll please—my husband had decided to hyphenate his name too. He said that when he talked to our boys about things like equality and marriage being a partnership, he wanted those values reflected in his actions.

When we hear about what we're supposed to do and about the difficulties surrounding our options, we typically walk away missing two very important pieces of the puzzle that — when taken to heart — totally change the landscape of family naming.

First of all, we can choose what's best for us at any point during the process. There's no final act in this naming game. No fat lady singing. No final buzzer. It took my husband I nearly five years to settle on last names that we both feel good about.

And perhaps most importantly—this name dilemma thing applies to men, too. Regardless of what a couple ultimately decides, modern men have just as much of an obligation to consider modifying their last names for the good of the team as women do. And as women, it's up to us to make sure that they do.

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