Naming

Seeing discussion of women changing their names again.  (Sigh.)  But there is something is often NOT said about this, that I think should be:

Practically speaking, it takes time and money to change your name.

Social security office, driver’s license & car title – those are often the main things people think of.  If you go in person you can probably use the same certified copy of the marriage document for it.

…and the bank, again with a certified copy of the marriage certificate. OK.

…and updating things at work.  OK.

…and call your utilities, landlord, credit cards….

got a passport?  Again, certified copy, and if you mail it off, you’ll want one just to mail off.

…. if you own your home?  Well, changing the name on the deed of one’s home can require filing a conveyance document/deed – you essentially “sell” the house to yourself.   Right.  Do you want to trust you’ll get that right without a lawyer? 

I didn’t keep my birth name out of my “commitment to feminism”.  I got married in my 30s. I was looking at spending days trotting my marriage certificate over to the social security office, dept of licensing (driver’s license and car title), bank, credit union, 2 brokerages with local offices, and getting forms notarized and more certified copies of the marriage certificate to mail to 2 other brokerages, and then hire a lawyer to help me sell my condo to myself?  Oh HELL no.

Name changes are complicated enough that there are services to help you do this

On the other hand, a friend who hated her last name* was thrilled to have an excuse to dump it.  (She didn’t own a home, but did have a passport.)  So, it depends on your motivation.

Also: society is fine with women who want to change their names on marriage, but not men.  Why?

*Imagine if your last name was pronounced “mean”.

11 thoughts on “Naming

  1. I never changed my last name and never would. I know, it’s the last name from my paternal lineage, yada yada. But we have to start somewhere.
    My son has a hyphenated last name. He can do with it as he pleases. On official stuff he uses the full name. On certain other things he uses either “Jones” (my last name) or “Smith” (my ex husband’s last name) as he sees fit.
    I’ve always thought it would be good if female children took their mother’s last name and male children took their father’s, or whatever variation the couple decided on.
    I am a feminist and not ashamed to say so. If anyone translates this to “man-hater,” that’s their own problem.

  2. I did change my name when I first married. I was 21. It didn’t seem to be a significant thing, it was “what one did.”

    Yet, I used my birth name (with an addition of a trema over the “e” so there was more of a chance of strangers pronouncing it correctly without my intervention) online, socially and as a writer.

    So much so that my son would introduce me with it rather than my legal name — which became entertaining at school functions.

    I finally sat him down to find out if he knew my legal name.

    He didn’t.

    I changed it back from my married name to my birth one. Yes, I’m still married to his father and am glad to be, but I admit to regretting changing my name in the first place to his.

    • Yes. Writers have often used the name they were first published under, even if most of their life was lived using a different name (Madeleine L’Engle was reportedly Madeleine Franklin in much of her day-to-day life). For some it may also provide a measure of privacy too.

      I’d say using the name you prefer is the important part.

  3. I liked taking my husbands last name. So I did. I was only 21 and it wasn’t onerous to do so. Now all my diplomas except high school say my married name. Most of my friends didn’t get married until we were already professionals in a job where name recognition matters so they kept their names. Guess what? we all love our husbands.

  4. I think this is a great point. I got married recently, and while the main reasons I kept my same surname were ideological, I’d be lying if I said the practical aspects — not needing to go through the paperwork (and time! and travel! and dealing with bureaucrats! and large crowds!) of changing, not needing to ask my students and coworkers to adapt a new name for me midyear — weren’t an added bonus (and a possible secondary factor).

  5. Kate and I are planning on hyphenating, because same-sex couples encounter a lot of shit from people not recognizing even married or legally partnered couples as legal next-of-kin, and it gets worse if there are kids (which we’re considering). But now even though we’re legally married in WA, we actually can’t change our names just with the marriage certificate. We actually have to go to court. Because in WA, only a woman taking a man’s name can use a marriage license for that, and anyone doing anything else has to go to court.

  6. Youngest Son and his Wife hyphenated their last name when they married two years ago. I got a big chuckle out of watching him go through the rigamarole of name changing I remembered doing 38 years before.

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