Hellooooo, power couple!
By Lo Sharkey
When I got married, my groom and I wore matching white suits and ties (including inscribed white Converse high tops). Our parents walked each of us down the outside aisles simultaneously until we all met in the middle at the altar. My friend who married us concluded the ceremony with “You may now kiss the groom.”
So it should come as no surprise that I kept my last name.
As a modern feminist, there was no way I was going to submit to the anachronistic, sexist tradition of taking my husband’s last name. Plus, my name was way cooler than his: Sharkey vs. Cavella? Come on, there’s no contest. If anything, he should have taken my last name and become Mr. Sharkey.
But once we started to spawn, we wanted to simplify. We’d retain our last names for our respective work purposes, but for family affairs we wanted to be a united front. If he wasn’t going to take my last name (because why should either one of our names get special preference?), then we needed another option. For us, merging was the most elegant solution.
Unfortunately, Sharkey and Cavella do not combine in many flattering ways. Sharkella? Cavarkey? Sharvelley? A frontrunner for a while was the simple Ca + Sh, but the references to both money and the iconic country singer didn’t really match our style.
In the end, we took the first three letters from my last name, the middle four letters of his, and then threw in the second to last “e” from mine to create “Shavelle.” It flows, it’s easy to pronounce, and its creation reflects the egalitarian nature of our partnership and parenthood.
So let me elaborate on why I think you, too, should merge when you marry:
1. This is 21st-century America.
No longer is marriage a patriarchal business transaction of property and possessions, from one male head of household to another. Marriage is about the union of equals. Let your last name reflect that.
2. If you’re starting a new family by having or adopting a child, why not create a new family name?
In the case of hetero reproduction, just as you’re merging your DNA to create new life, you merge your last names to create a new nuclear family name, one that serves its purpose until an adult offspring flies the coop, gets hitched themselves, and creates their own unique modern moniker. You each get to retain a part of your original selves. And family trees can still be observed and recorded — if it worked when one family name (hers) was discarded in marriage, it can work when both family names are, too.
3. With a little creativity, you can create a name that’s cooler and more pleasing to the ear than either of your original last names.
Let’s be honest: some last names are just really unfortunate. I had a friend in elementary school with the last name Windshittle — and she was teased mercilessly. You can take the best of both words and make something better. Or just start from scratch.
My step-mother actually suggested, “If you’re bothering changing your last names, why not choose something like ‘Rockefeller’ or ‘Cabot’?” You don’t have to be that image-conscious, but you can choose a name that reflects your values or heritages or tastes. For instance, if my husband and I had been big “Ring of Fire” fans, Cash would have been perfect.
4. Merging is a great option for homosexual couples who don’t have (ridiculous) tradition to fall back on.
Plus, stereotypical gender roles may operate less in their relationships, so an option that ignores gender inequities and embraces equality is preferable.
5. Merging last names avoids the various problems of other alternatives.
Hyphenation is untenable long-term, creating longer and longer last names that quickly become ridiculous. Merging allows names to remain simple and easy to pronounce.
Keeping your own names results in confusion when you have kids: not only do outsiders not know what to call the various members of your family, but you may inadvertently suggest to your children that they’re more closely connected to one parent over the other. Merging into a single name creates familial cohesion and unity when it matters most, i.e. during the upbringing of kids.
If you opt to take one name over the other, the person giving up their name may feel like they’ve sacrificed some of their identity and given more power and authority to the partner with the preferable name. Merging names is egalitarian.
This article was originally published at Em & Lo. Reprinted with permission from the author.