Friday, August 2, 2013

What's in a name?

Saturday marks eight months until Dr. and I get married. Besides picking a dress, linens, flowers, favors, and food (among other things), a major decision I have yet to make is whether or not I will change my name.

My mom took my dad's name, but only in hyphenated form. She did it for professional reasons: by the time they got married, my mom was established in her career and used her maiden name publically, as she was a lead anchor at the local TV station. It was also the mid-1980s, the time when I think the practice of keeping your maiden name began to take off.

Growing up, I understood why my mom's name was different from my dad's and my own. People were sometimes confused, but for the most part my mom's partial name change has never proven to be an issue for her. That's the extent of the first-hand experience I have with this issue.

I always intended to keep my name. Always. It wasn't until Dr. and I had our first serious conversation about this topic immediately post-engagement that I ever considered any other path. I'd like to acknowledge first that my issue with a potential name change is not at all because of the logistical hurdle it poses - paperwork, standing in line for hours at the DMV and Social Security Administration, calling to change all your magazine descriptions, and the like. I know this will be time-consuming, but not impossible. My issue is purely emotional.

To clarify, Dr. is traditional and wants me to take his name. I am sure it isn't a dealbreaker, but it's pretty important to him and he's taken the time to make sure I know. He objects strongly to hyphenating and says it would be worse than me just keeping my name (not sure why he sees it that way). However, his reasoning is a bit shallow and essentially boils down to "it's what you do when you get married." He's not one for nuance.

So on to my reasoning. You'll see from the lists below that I am essentially split on this. I have an inkling on which way I am going to go, but will refrain from posting that here for a reason I will get to later. To clarify further, I am absolutely opposed to dropping my middle name and putting my maiden name in it's place. I love my middle name and, besides, you rarely publically write out your middle name, making the practice of using your maiden name as your middle pretty pointless.

Reasons to keep or hyphenate:
1. I love my name - first, middle, and last. I have a unique last name and, to my knowledge, I am the only person in the world with my first name, last name combination. Furthermore, there are very few people with my last name in the U.S. (less than 50), so I'd like to carry it with me as long as possible.
2. I am fiercely independent and pretty modern/feminist/whatever you want to call it. To me, giving up my maiden name is going against the grain of what I believe, to a certain extent.
3. Finally, and most importantly, my name is a prett significant part of my identity (see #1). I have gone 26 (27 at the time of marriage) years with a certain name and I have a hard time imagining myself as something different. When I really thought about it, I realized just how much my last name AND my last name in combination with my first name, means to my identity.

Reasons to adopt fiance's last name:
1. He has a strong desire that we be Dr. and Mrs. X. I love him and want him to be happy. In the grand scheme of things, this is a small change that will make him happy (see #2 below).
2. Is it really that big of a deal? I have no professional reason to keep my name (I'm 26 and about two years into my career) and it's just a name. Chances are good that, aside from the first few months, I won't even notice the difference, so why not take the plunge?
3. I am entering a union with him both legally and emotionally, so why not take his name? As "two become one," it stands to reason that both of our identities will change slightly. Why not my name too? I want to come off as a united front and there were times during my childhood where I questioned whether my parents were a team because of my mom's different last name. I don't really want my children to experience that.

I have nine months to make this decision and I think I am almost decided. The one thing I know is that I am going to keep it a secret until the bitter end. If my fiance can't come up with better justification than "it's what you do," he can stand to squirm a little.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them!

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