Tuesday, January 15, 2013

[Maia] The Last Name Project

In this 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 FacebookTwitter, 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 by Maia, a Midwestern transplant to the Bay Area where she is a chiropractic intern by trade (just shy of graduating!), and a modern dancer by passion.  She lives in a treehouse with her partner B (writer of urban half-truths,charlieupsidedown.wordpress.com) and dog Charlie (hiking aficionado, chaser of tennis balls and squirrels).  The non-traditional and varied relationship values of the Bay Area have provided endless food-for-thought about how she defines individualism, feminism, and partnership, and these views are continually evolving.

My last name has always held some frustration for me.  It’s difficult to spell, can be phonetically pronounced more than one way, and no one ever gets it right.  My first name is somewhat unique and seems to give people trouble as well—really, what’s so difficult about it? —So the name change dilemma has always been about aesthetics to me.  As I got older, I got in touch with the independence of keeping my own name, and I admire my father and the family I came from.  (As a side note, I can’t help but wonder; is keeping your father’s name much different than taking your husbands’, from a feminist standpoint?)  I also considered that I will become licensed as a chiropractor and begin a practice before I marry.  The logistics of changing my name later on become increasingly challenging and can pose professional risks after trying to establish myself by one name.

I don’t particularly label myself a feminist, mostly because FEMINIST seems to have taken on an extremist representation in a lot of ways.  I consider myself a strong woman, and I believe in fiercely embracing and supporting concerns close to women and modern female justice.   However, I don’t view keeping my own name as an act of defiance against the system which would take it from me, and I don’t view taking a partners’ as an act of submission to masculine oppression.  My sentiments may be shaped by a distinct early memory of my mom Christmas-gifting my dad her driver’s license in his name after 10 years of marriage.

B and I have been together 5 years, and while not engaged, we have a weightier task on our minds—choosing our own last name.  I like his last name.  It sounds good with my first, it’s German like me, it’s pronounceable and phonetically spelled, it’s right at the beginning of the alphabet and I’m tired of being at the end.  But he relates little to the family of his namesake; his relationship with his father has always been tenuous, and a shift in religious expression has widened the gap with the rest of the family.  At first I felt it was malicious to forego his father’s name, but I had to admit that I wasn’t thrilled about building a family on a name we didn’t value.

When B suggested we take his deceased mother’s maiden name, I liked his purposeful and honoring intent.  It seems like a logical solution, but superstition is holding us back—of a large family, none have survived to carry on the name, and that’s a little foreboding to us.  So we began to make up names, or try out ones we saw on publications or signs.  We have carved a nitch unique to us as a couple, and choosing a name that represents that is inviting.  Some are clever, some are silly, some are basic, some are rooted in reason or logic.  Some, we really like.  But it’s serious business to legally amend your formal designation.  It’s hard to come up with something you like and can live with, that also has value.   Currently, we’re weighing some frontrunners that allude to family but allow us to be original.  This way I can share a name with my children, further my individual identity, and feel no guilt for keeping OR changing my given name.


  1. I think it's important that women are able to choose their last name. It says so much about who they are and what they want to be remembered by. I chose my husband's last name so because it is very common and people can remember it. Yet, it does prove a challenge because so many other women share my plain Jane name.

  2. We’re living in different times now where women, fortunately, have more freedom. We’re now able to choose whether we want to keep our husband’s last names or not. These days, it all comes down to personal choice. I don’t necessarily believe that I won’t be more successful in my career or my life would be any better if I kept my name or my husband’s name. A name’s not everything, you know. I only chose to keep my husband’s name because I love him with all my heart. It’s as simple as that.

    Kimora Avery