It’s been almost 12 years since I married, and people are still confused. My last name has remained a riddle that stumps family, friends and colleagues alike.
I don’t know why. It’s never changed.
Yet people continue to stumble over it, not sure how to refer to me. By my husband’s last name? A hyphenated combination of my maiden name and his? Some sort of hybrid?
Yes, even in this modern day and age it is still seen as an oddity for a married woman to keep her own name. I am frequently asked why I would choose to do this or about how it will impact my children. I’ve had women tentatively ask if my husband was upset that I didn’t take his name, and men declare that they would never allow their wives to keep their maiden names.
Why all the controversy?
To me, it’s quite simple. This is my name, and I’m keeping it. No offense to my husband or anyone else. I simply don’t see any compelling reason to change it.
1. Just because I married him doesn’t mean I want to become him.
I married my husband because I love and respect him, because I knew he would be a good partner, and because we complement each other. This balance is what makes our relationship work—the strengths that each of us bring to the table to augment the whole. So why would I give up my name in favor of his? I don’t strive to become more like him. It’s not my goal to morph into his world, his orbit. Our differences are what make us strong. And one of those differences, inconsequential as it may be, is our names.
2. My name is my identity.
It is what I’ve been known as my entire life. It is a reflection of my history and ancestry. And I’ve worked hard to build a reputation behind my name that I can be proud of. Why would I then be expected to throw it all away simply because I fell in love? Despite the terminology, I wasn’t a “maiden” looking to be rescued. I was a woman with my own history and own identity—no more or less important than my husband’s. So why is mine presumed disposable?
3. Tradition is nostalgic, but not convincing.
Perhaps the loudest argument I hear against keeping my maiden name centers around tradition. “But it’s tradition,” they say. “Why wouldn’t you want your children to continue that tradition?” Sorry, but I’m not swayed. Just because something’s a tradition doesn’t mean that it makes sense or needs to continue. Heck—we have a tradition of presidential turkey pardons each Thanksgiving. Cute? Yes. Necessary? No. And don’t get me started on the many darker traditions that have checkered our nation’s history.
4. It doesn’t bother us that the entire family doesn’t share the same last name.
Because, again, we are all individuals. My husband has his ancestry and name, I have mine, and the children have their own (we chose to hyphenate their last names with a combination of mine and my husband’s). Having different last names doesn’t mean we are any less of a family unit. Or that the children will be confused. In fact, I think it’s easier to explain to them why their names are hyphenated than it would be to explain why everybody has Daddy’s name. They are a part of both of us, and their names should reflect that.
5. I don’t expect my husband to take my last name.
I also don’t expect him to move his last name to the middle position. Or to hyphenate his last name with mine. So why should I be expected to do any of this? Now, if both partners want to do this, great. Changing your name after marriage is a personal choice that shouldn’t be open to judgement. But if neither is compelled, then why? Which brings me to my next point.
6. My husband didn’t care if I took his last name or not.
One of the reasons I love my husband is that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Never once did he pressure me to take his name. I don’t even think he asked. He once mentioned some of his buddies teasing him about “letting” me keep my name, but didn’t seem bothered by it. It was simply never a thing for him. He’s secure in our marriage and family dynamic, and I doubt he sees my choice of last name as influencing any of that whatsoever.
7. It’s a big hassle.
I have no desire to jump through all the hoops that would be associated with changing my name. From driver’s licenses to passports to titles and so much more, it’s needless work. And what happens if people divorce? And remarry, sometimes multiple times? What a headache. I never have to take extra steps to prove my identity, both pre-marriage and post-marriage. My name is my name for life. Anyone can find me at any time—because I didn’t make a name change after marriage.
8. My surname would die with this generation.
My grandparents, who I love dearly, had sons. These sons (one being my father) married and their names passed on to the next generation, but only daughters of our generation had children. Meaning that if we played according to tradition, the surname would die with us. Because I consider my lineage as important as my husband’s, and do not want the name to die out, it was yet another reason to maintain my maiden name.
9. Screw convention.
Yep, there’s some of that too. There’s something to be said for going against the grain, especially if there is no compelling reason to do otherwise. At the end of the day, it’s my decision. And anyone who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to make the same one.
So for those still confused, consider the puzzle solved. I didn’t turn into another person when I married my husband. My identity is not split into before-marriage and after-marriage terms. And I probably wouldn’t have married a guy who had a beef with “allowing” me to keep my name in the first place.
For better or for worse, this maiden kept her name.