Friday, April 27, 2012

[Bethany] The Last Name Project

In this new series co-hosted by from two to one and The Feminist Mystique, we will be profiling an array of individuals and couples about their last name decisions upon marriage or what they expect to choose if they marry. The goal is to explore how individuals make decisions about their last name, and to highlight the many possibilities. We will be posting profiles periodically and encourage you to stay connected via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  If you would like to participate in this series, email Danielle at danielle [at] fromtwotoone [dot] com or Shannon at hill [dot] shannonp [at] gmail [dot] com.   

The following post is from Bethany, a straight, liberal, agnostic librarian who gets surprisingly irked when dual last names aren't alphabetized properly (but rarely shushes people).

I got married a year and a half ago.  I knew for many years that I wouldn’t want to marry someone who demanded that I change my name, and I had thought that meant that I wouldn’t change my name.  My husband left the choice entirely up to me, and I surprised myself by taking his last name when we applied for the marriage license.

I like the name I was raised with.  It’s a huge part of how I see myself.  Long before we got married, my husband and I talked about our names.  He wasn’t comfortable changing his surname (can’t blame him--neither was I), and neither of us like the hyphenation game.  I suggested that we both change our names a little bit.  We could both have my last name as a middle name, and his last name as our family name.  We could drop our given middle names.  Both of our families would be represented in both of our names, which has a wonderful air of fair and equal partnership.  For a while, it was a mutually agreeable option.

Here’s what I learned after choosing his last name on the marriage license application: it’s easy to change your last name when you get married.  Your middle name, however, isn’t always up for discussion.  In my state, you have to go through the probate courts if you want to legally remove and change any other part of your name for any reason.  That means filing papers, paying legal fees, publicly announcing the name change, waiting for objections, appearing in court, and finally walking away with a spiffy new name.

I’m not lazy, and I’m not flaky.  But I am pragmatic.  The prospect of changing both our middle names was more hassle than the symbolism was worth to us.  My husband kept his name unchanged.  I opted to include my first, middle, maiden, and unhyphenated married name on my new Social Security card, which somehow wasn’t a problem.  My driver’s license, bank accounts, will, and W2’s show the three names I really want.  I use all three professionally and socially.  I’m alphabetized by my married name, which conveniently bumps me many letters up the alphabet.  Sometimes I capriciously use only my married name, which is much shorter to spell over the phone.

Someday, when we have children, our whole family will have the same last name.  Neither my husband nor I will have an oddball last name that doesn’t match everyone else’s.  We won’t need to consider giving our children different last names to represent both of us.  We’re strongly considering giving any/all of them my maiden name as a sole middle name.  If we do, we will have come full circle to our original plan.  What our children do with that name is up to them--just like it was up to us when we got married.

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