Why Would I Change My Last Name?
It’s so weird that women change their last names when they get married.
I understand it’s a tradition and a cultural norm. I understand lineage and the cohesiveness of a Family Tree. Of course I understand the convenience of Mom and Dad sharing the same last name so their kids all share the same last name. You’re a family, after all. One solid unit. When friends and family address you, they address you as one name. The Wilsons, The Bakers, The O’Donnells.
But my name is not just a name. It’s my identity. When I got married at 34 that didn’t change. For any men reading this, imagine your first name with a different last name. Does that feel like your name? How weird would it be to change your last name??
It would be fucking weird.
And do you know what a headache it is to change your last name? Your ID, passport, bills, everything you can think of is tied to your name. To legally change it is a process. It’s annoying. It’s unnecessary.
I didn’t always feel this way. I grew up scribbling my first name with the last name of my crush on my school books and dotting the i’s with hearts. Even in my 20s and early 30s whenever I was even attracted to a guy, one of my first thoughts was how my first name sounded with his last name. (One time I met a guy with the last name Christmas and was determined to make it work. Unfortunately, he had no interest in me. Bah Humbug.)
It wasn’t until one of my best girlfriends was getting married and I said to her, in a sing-song voice, “Amy Brown.”
Amy looked at me, shocked. “Charlie. I’m not taking Matt’s name. Are you going to change your last name if you get married?”
I had heard of women who didn’t take their husband’s last names. I assumed those women were high-powered individuals. Doctors or lawyers or famous actresses with very important positions.
But for regular people like me and Amy I had never considered it. Amy’s question was the first time I realized I had a choice. And the more I thought about it, the more empowered I felt to keep the name I was given when I was born, the name everyone knew me as, the name I was proud of. Maybe I wasn’t a high-powered individual yet. But I was still me.
I imagined my first name with my husband’s last name. I said it out loud. It sounded… antiquated. It felt like I was giving up a piece of myself. As if I was marrying into his family rather than the two of us creating our own family.
One simple solution was to hyphenate our last names. Maybe if our names sounded cool together I would have considered it, but they didn’t. I say “I” and not “we” because my husband didn’t care how we handled last names. He was supportive of whatever I wanted because he knew I felt strongly about it. He only wanted our kids to have the same last name.
So our kids will take my husband’s last name. And I’m perfectly fine with people referring to us as Sam’s last name. It doesn’t bother me when I receive mail addressed to the wrong name (unless it’s friends or family I’ve told, in which case I think they’re doing it on purpose because they disagree with my decision, and then I get fired up). I don’t care when people assume I’ve taken his last name. Because that is what’s expected in our society.
I love my husband and our family. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. And while I appreciate and respect women who change their last names for their family or any other reason they choose, it’s just not for me.