The Name Change
I wasn't thinking about how asking 8 incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent ladies about a difficult question would lead to such a lengthy blog post, but please bear with me. This post has so many voices, and I think this might be my favorite post yet.
I got married a little less than a month ago, but for 29 years I knew that whatever my husband-to-be's last name was would eventually become mine. I don't think I could have ever imagined anyone as wonderful as Marcus, nor could I have anticipated this much anxiety and hesitation about changing my last name.
I have theories: If everything were to have gone "as planned," I would have been married for at least 4 years now and already had a baby. Because that's what I wanted. And that's when I wouldn't have had second thoughts about changing my last name, right? But instead, I dated some great guys who simply weren't right for me for the majority of my 20s. In that time, I forced myself to consider a future without a mister. I worked on being happy as a single person. I even pondered the idea of becoming a single mother in the future.
All that preparation for an independent lifestyle wasn't for naught, but it's certainly presented a few challenges that I would not have expected. For example, I used to have a hard time being alone post-college, where now I savor moments that are my own. I also used to think I'd adopt my future husband's last name, no questions asked. And now, it's a dilemma.
I'll be up front: I have every intention of legally becoming Amira Haddon. Despite my pause, I know it's ultimately what I want. But what I never anticipated was the struggle with accepting this new name. Right after college, I didn't know how thrilling it would be to see my name in a printed byline. I also didn't know that my sister would become my absolute best friend, and that being called "the Jensen girls" would feel so definitive.
I've already changed my name on social platforms, and I'll be honest: I do a double-take every time I bring up my profile on Facebook or Instagram. Who is that? Oh crap!
I know it will just take adjusting, and I look forward to feeling at home in my new name. But in the midst of this internal struggle, I realized there was no way I was the only person who has felt conflicted about this decision. So, I asked a few friends and colleagues whom I admire very much about the decision they made in their marriage.
KEPT / WILL KEEP THEIR MAIDEN NAME
Publicist / Business Owner
Married: 1 month, at age 35
I wanted to keep my name for several reasons.
- I was 35 when I got married, so I thought it would be silly to change my name after having it for so long and have made a name for myself (I think) as a journalist. Being a journalist really got me thinking about this; my brand is important so I wanted to make sure that when people Googled me they could see ALL of my work.
- I really like having a Latino last name. Since I don't have any brothers, I didn't want my last name to die.
- A friend of mine from Spain scoffed at how behind Americans are for taking on their husbands name after I said that we were a progressive country. I think the shame I felt hearing that might have had something to do with my decision.
- I'm lazy and a minimalist. I didn't want to go through the troubleof changing my name on all of my legal documents. My sister didn't change everything consistently, so she has a variety of accounts that say "Crystal Ramirez Scanio," "Crystal Scanio" and "Crystal Ramirez." That eventually caught up with her and she had to go back and pay to make some legal changes. Lame!
Executive Pastry Chef, South Congress Hotel
Married: 1 year, at age 33
I didn't change my name for a bunch of reasons. I too thought it would not be a big deal and the more I thought about it the more I didn't want to do it. I was so excited to marry Nick but we had always felt that our relationship was big enough for both of our identities to flourish. Having been a chef for over 15 years I was known in kitchens as Rockman - that's what my staff calls me. That is my name. I didn't want to give up that part of myself and it has not been an issue of me committing to my husband. Win win.
Writer / Copywriter, YETI
Marrying this year!
I will not be changing my last name. I'm a journalist and writer. All of my bylines are attached to my maiden name—there's no going back and changing those bylines and I don't want to put up a hurdle when people try and access my work. Outside of the pragmatics, it's never been a cultural consideration for my fiancé to change his last name when we get married. He's a musician and I think he'd too feel sadness or loss associated with changing the name his past decade of work has been attached to. I never wanted to cleave myself of my identity in that way, and I wouldn't expect him to want to either. We have talked about it many times with my stance never changing.
The singular snag depends on having kids—what will their last names be? How will they know we're a family? But I believe that it's worth having a conversation with those future children about why I made that choice rather than adhering to tradition. I hope that our shared dedication to be a family shaped by choice and equality will be more unifying than any last name could.
CHANGED / WILL CHANGE THEIR NAME
Amy Booth (Gilbert)
Operations Assistant in Affordable Medical Imaging
Married: 2.5 years, at age 26
I was never attached to my last name, In fact I really, really disliked it. I was never close with my father or his family and never felt like the name suited me. Once I got married it wasn't something I had to give much thought to. I always wanted to take my mother's name so I made it my middle name and took his last, because honestly, it sounded really good. I love my husband but taking his name wasn't about any kind of symbolism. For me it was the perfect opportunity to finally have the name I identified with. It was/is still a pain in the ass to change, but oh so worth it.
Jan Chapman (Cook)
Journalist / Writer
Married: 42 years <3
I changed my name because in 1975, not too many women opted to do otherwise. If they did...they hyphenated. David and I considered changing both our names to Cook-Chapman, but decided it was too much to give a child (which we waited almost 8 years to have-ha!). In the end, I kept my maiden name (Jan Cook) at work - I was a TV news reporter/producer, so I said my name in public a lot - but I changed it legally to Jan Cook Chapman. When we moved to California about 5 years into the marriage, I considered changing my on-air name to Liz Chapman, to partially reclaim my middle name (Elizabeth), and because I thought it sounded a LOT cooler than Jan Cook. Alas, I was never hired to be on-air in San Francisco - just in the newsroom pounding out copy for superstar anchors. So...Jan Chapman became my name. Then, 11 years into the marriage, I gave Travis my maiden name - Travis Cook Chapman. :-)
I am the oldest of four girls...my dad only had one sister. All of us married and changed our last names. When my mother died in 2014, so did the Cook surname. She was the lone survivor. :-( And I think this is the first time that has occurred to me...
Claire Harris (Armstrong)
Nutritionist / Bonafide Thumbelina
Married: 6 years, at age 25
My mother and father divorced when I was young and I never had much of a relationship with my father. I had little attachment to my last name, which was my father's, so when Mikey and I got married, I wanted to change my name. Mikey and I actually wanted to take a new name together, something completely different than either of our given family names. We tossed around the idea of merging our last names, but the best we could come up with using Armstrong + Harris was ArmHair. We had a short list of new last names that were meaningful to us for various reasons, but when we asked Mikey's father's opinion on our proposed name change, he said he would be hurt by it. Mikey's dad is a wonderful, caring man who rarely states his opinion, so we knew it was a big deal when he was offended. The word that is tacked on to the end of our names is of no consequence to either of us, so we decided to stick with his last name, Harris. And even though the name change process was a nightmare and I still have to carry around copies of our marriage certificate anytime I need a legal document, in an old-school way, I kind of like it now. It's an outward representation of how we feel about each other: We are each other's family. Not that a word on a piece of paper is what makes two people family, but I like that we have that in common now. Even if all the vowels in my name run together - Clarris.
Ashton Plummer (Smotherman)
Married: 4 years, at age 26
Note: Ashton married her husband after knowing each other one month :D
I changed it for a few different reasons. My original last name (Smothermon) is long, and even though it's pronounced exactly how it's spelled people constantly get it wrong. Plummer is shorter, and easier for people to understand. I also knew I wanted to have at least one child, and life is just a lot easier when everyone has the same last name. My parents got divorced when I was very young. Having a different last name as my custodial parent was kind of a pain in a lot of little ways. Simple things like if my mom wanted to drop me off at the mall we always had to get cash first because no one would let me use a card with a last name that wasn't mine were just annoying. And lastly, I just like how bonding it is to have the same last name. It makes you feel closer, and more like a family. That's probably why a lot of people have trouble letting go of their maiden name. It feels like breaking a bond with your parents in a way. My dad is kind of a horse's ass, so I didn't really mind that part.
Emily Hawthorne (soon to be Emily McAfee)
Middle Eastern Analyst
Marrying January 2018!
Both Michael and I are "the last" of the family name line for each of our families, so we've discussed this a lot. One of us has to capitulate, and really I don't mind going with the more traditional option. Michael would have had no issues with me keeping my name, but we do both see it as part of forming a streamlined family unit. It's simpler to just go with McAfee, for mine and for possible future kids' sakes. I'll miss Hawthorne, but McAfee sounds lovely to me too!