The inevitable part of any woman getting married is the big discussion about names. To change your name or not? For some women, this isn’t even a consideration, they’ll be taking their new husband’s name. For me, it was never going to be that easy. As a feminist, I have a very hard time just blithely giving up the name I have been known by for my whole life. I also have a real problem with the societal expectation that women should just change their names as if it’s no big deal. It bothers me that it is so difficult for women to keep their own names in so many little ways. As a feminist, I find it very difficult to just change my name to my husband’s without any thought.
But here’s the problem. Ever since I was old enough to start introducing myself to people, I have really disliked my name. It’s a german name that is strangely spelled and is extremely hard to pronounce. NOBODY know how to pronounce it when just reading it. It’s also one letter away from a very well known swear word. I remember thinking on a very regular basis when I was young that I couldn’t wait to get married so that I could get rid of my stupid name and get one that is easier to pronounce. I even seriously reconsidered dating a guy in my early twenties because his name was even harder to spell than mine!
Now that I’m getting close to getting married though, I’m feeling much more attached to my name. As much as I find it annoying, it’s still my name, it’s been a part of me for my entire life. I also feel like I don’t want to just change my name because it’s what is expected of me. I want to keep my name as part of my identity. So what to do?
First, I talked to Malcolm about this and he is supportive of whatever I want to do. He has said that he would like me to take his last name, but he would never ask me to do anything and the decision is up to me. I know he would like me to have his name, for a couple of reasons. Malcolm is the last male in his family that could theoretically have children, so he is the last chance for his name to be passed on. Ultimately I don’t know how big of a deal this is, but I know that it’s a big deal to him. He also has said he’s always pictured himself in the future with his wife, ‘Mrs HisLastName’ so I think deep down it’s important to him. However, he’s let me know the decision is completely up to me.
I know that Malcolm wants us to share a name as a family if we have children and on that I agree. I don’t want to have a different name than my children (if we have children) and I don’t want there to be any confusion that I’m their mom. I have never thought it was crucial that the shared name by the man’s name, however, and have always thought a combined last name is the best way to do that. Either a hyphenate or else a new name that combines parts of each name. The only problem is that our names do NOT sound good together and there is no way for us to combine our name that would sound good either. Plus, to combine names into a new name could destroy what was great about the two original names. Such a problem!
My other issue is that I actually really like Malcolm’s name! It is actually one of my favorite last names ever. I can neither confirm nor deny that it is the last name of one of my favorite Newsies and may nor may not have been the last name of my egg baby in 7th grade. If I were the type of girl who would name their egg baby after a Newsie. Ahem.
So the problem is, I love his name. I kind of dislike my name and historically have been awaiting the day when I could offload said name and take on a new and much better one. But now that the day is here, I feel like I am betraying feminism! I feel like if I just take on his name, I am reinforcing all the things I hate about what women have to deal with in our society. Plus, my name kind of feels like that horrible family member that everybody has. They’re really annoying and you all complain about them and you have these horror stories about how AWFUL they are, but it’s not like you’d ever kick them out of the family, right?
What I want, is to be able to use both my names in my life, without having to hyphenate them. My solution as of now, is to use my last name in my professional life and to use his last name in my personal life. So for the sake of this illustration, let’s say my last name is Fox and his last name is Murphy. So I’d be Andrea Fox at work, which I really like because that way I won’t have to change my name in the middle of my career. All of my degrees are in that name and people know me by that name. Also, in social work, it’s not the worst idea in the world to make it difficult for clients to track you down. Then in my personal life, I’d be Andrea Murphy. So we’d be Mr. and Mrs. Murphy as a couple and if we ever have kids, I’d be Mrs. Murphy at their school and we’d have the same last name. I think this is a good compromise because I’m not as bothered by ‘passing down’ my last name to kids as I am with maintaining my own identity.
So after that, here’s my big dilemma. How to I do this? I was initially thinking that I’d change my last name to Fox Murphy, without a hyphenate. I’d have both names as my new last name and I’d theoretically be able to use whichever one I want when I want to. But the more I thought about it, I’m concerned this may be confusing to people. It’s not common at all in our society for a person who have two last names, so would people be more confused by this if they saw it on a form or something like that? I don’t want to hyphenate because I don’t want to ever go by Fox-Murphy together as one name, just to have the option to go by Fox or Murphy depending on the situation.
My other option would be to make Murphy my official last name and to make Fox my middle name. My concern about this is that I’d have to make sure that my middle name is always used (say on credit cards, etc) when that’s not always the case. Also, I kind of want my original last name to still be a part of my last name. I don’t want to make my original last name the secondary name. On the other hand, who really sees official listing of names anyway? As long as my work ID and email has my original name on it, it probably doesn’t really matter what I’m called by shopkeepers who read my name off my credit card so they can say ‘thank you Mrs. whatever’ when I pay for something. I just don’t know what to do! What do you guys think?