You can choose a last name that satisfies both of y'all!
As women, we have heard all about what we're “supposed” to do, whether or not it came directly from our parents, now that is a different story. Yet, someone, somewhere along the way told us that taking a man's last name is a way of demonstrating that we're committed to our marriage. It's the best thing for our children because everyone knows that a child should have their father's last name.
These options that we so often hear about are the inherent difficulties. 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 spouse's last name (especially if one is in a heterosexual relationship), 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.
A lot of us spend hours weighing the options of our name’s worth — 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? But why — this fixated culture of male dominance over women has to start and end somewhere does it not?
When I got married in 1998 I was young and in love, but I knew that I did not want to give up my last name. I spent several hours a day thinking about it. I was in college and did not have to worry about a name change affecting my career, nonetheless 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 trouble.
My husband, luckily, was open to whatever arrangement would make me happiest, but the only nontraditional options I knew about at the time were keeping my name or hyphenating it. Therefore I sought professional guidance, but—by the time the stack of wedding books on my kitchen table had grown so tall that I had to eat my Chinese take-out in the living room—I realized there just was no other way around it.
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 might 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."
For me, taking his last name was a breaking point and was just as awful for me as you might imagine. That edgy, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach began when our officiant—against my emphatic instructions—pronounced us "Mr. & Mrs. Sam Grubb." It 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 is not right for you. My name is not Sam, but I was now “Mrs. Grubb”.
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, marriage and in 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 iss best for us at any point and time during the process. We can also choose not to get married. It is completely a choice. There's no final act in this naming game. No fat lady singing. No final buzzer. It took nearly five years for my spouse and me to settle on our last names that we both finally felt were “right”, in whatever societal context that is.
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.