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What’s In A (Last) Name?

I was chatting with my friend, Missy, the other day about last names. And I mentioned how I don’t think I will be changing my last name when I marry. Missy’s traditional (but not at all judgmental) and brought up an interesting question–one I hadn’t necessarily thought about in the past. Am I ok with not having the same last name as my children?

I think I am ok with this…though, who’s to say that my children won’t also have my last name? It doesn’t matter to me one way or another if a woman keeps her last name, hyphenates, or takes her husband’s. It’s a personal choice and I don’t judge anyone for the choice they make! If I had a crappy last name, I would ABSOLUTELY take my hub’s instead of being Ms. CrappyLastName for the rest of my life. And I understand that some women like the tradition; some like that it unifies them as a family. All are valid points.

But let’s face it–my name kicks some serious ass. Katana. KATANA. KUH-TAH-NAH. Like the sword. Like the motorcycle. It’s like being Mr. Incredible…that’s right–I’m comparing myself to a Disney Superhero! Not to mention, that my name is my business.

Every now and then when I mention my future name plans to people, I get a weird, disapproving look. “Oh,” they sneer, “you must be one of those feminists. You think it’s for your “career” don’tchya?”

This is usually the point in the conversation when I put on my faux southern accent and say, “Wayell, shucks! Ah never thought of it much beefore…but Ah suppose Ah am a feminist, afterall! You know…fer not wantin’ to change my entire business structure based on a tradition that Ah personally don’t believe in all that much. Thanks fer enlightenin’ me.”

So, my question to readers out there–did you take your husband’s last name? Why or why not?

11 Responses to “What’s In A (Last) Name?”

  1. WordVixen Says:

    Honey- my last name was Krepp and I got mail addressed to Kreep Kripp and Krapp. My husband’s last name is Fox. I DEFINITELY changed my name! *lol* Although, I do miss the uncomfortable silence as telemarketers tried to pronounce my name…

  2. Ramblin' Rose Says:

    This is something I struggle with a lot. I’m the very last of my name in my ENTIRE family-line. And I’m an only child (and female). But, the only way to actually continue my namesake is to have my children take my last name, which means I would have to marry a man who’s okay with changing his last name, or having an entire family who has a different last name than he does. However, can I marry a man that’s willing to do that? There’s something sexy about a man who takes pride in his family name and heritage, and there’s some tradition in my that I can’t seem to shake. I just don’t know…

  3. Colleen Says:

    Word - Haha, wow, so I wasn’t really off when I used “crap” as a name example. =0) I have a friend (the same Missy as in the story) who hated her last name, too…it has the word “gross” in it. But c’mon, Katana…it’s totally kickass. I’d be crazy to change it unless the name I’m changing it to is double the awesome. I had a friend whose last name was Halfnight…if I ever married him, I would TOTALLY have become Katana-Halfnight. That’s the most awesome of all awesome name combinations EVER.

    Hey Rose! So true…especially with your future children taking your name. Even if they hyphenate, there’s no guarantee they’ll continue it on. But I suppose that’s the point. Once they’re old enough it’s their decision.
    And I totally agree–there is something sexy in a man who takes pride in family name/heritage. If I can respect that in him, I hope that he can find my own pride in my name just as sexy =0)

  4. Jen Says:

    I am 44 years old and have been married a total of 3 times. My first husband I took his name. We divorced. I went back to my maiden name. I then remarried my second husband and took on his last name. He passed. I kept his last name. I have since remarried. I have taken on my 3rd husbands last name.

    Problem. When completing any type of form that has the question – have you gone by any other name – I have to list maiden name, 1st husbands last name, 2 husbands last name, 3rd husbands last name. On paper I look like a mess. Another problem. I am old, sometimes I put the wrong last name on the form. Have to COMPLETELY redo it or I forget a name. Talk about getting weird looks.

    I say, do what you want darling. You are who you are regardless of what your last name is. Your children will be who they are your husband will continue to be who he is. The last name has no barring. You will still be a loving family.

  5. Merry Says:

    I love my last name - Monteleone, come on, it means “Mountain Lion” - it’s cool as hell. My full name together, Merry Monteleone - means happy mountain lion… kind of cute with the added benefit that if you really annoy me I might rip your head off… it works for me.

    But, I took my husband’s name when we got married. Legally and in most social situations, I go by his last name, which is still cool (his means, ‘little deer’) though obviously not as cool as mine:-) I kept mine for fiction writing. I use the legal name for most of the regional magazine articles I’ve had published, figuring I could always note ‘was published under’ in a query and still use the credit… plus those are such quick little cover letters, I didn’t want to convolute it by saying, well this is my name but my byline is this - and ya know, I’d like them to make the check out to my legal name :-)

    You could always do that, Colleen. Keep the business name and dba it and use your maiden name professionally. But really it’s up to you and your husband. You can totally keep your name. In fact, it’s easier, you won’t have to change your id’s or anything. Odds are good, though, once you have children, it doesn’t matter what your legal name is - everyone will call you, “Mrs. Whatever your child’s last name is” .

  6. Colleen Says:

    Hey Jen! - Preach on! I totally agree. No matter what the choice, I will still be a part of a loving family.

    Hey Merry - Monteleone is an AWESOME last name. That’s definitely been a thought of mine…keeping my name for business purposes buy taking his for personal reasons. Although, I do have to admit…I am LAZY. I do not look forward the the paperwork that goes with changing one’s name!

  7. TJ Says:

    When my Mom got married, I was around 14 and she asked me to consider changing my name so we’d all have the same one. If I’d have been younger, I may have. As it was I was already in high school, had had quite enough names in my life, and didn’t feel it would be in my best interest to add another. We spent a long time pondering this and, 16 years later, I think that experience really helped shape my opinion. I maintained then that one’s last name doesn’t a family make and I think I was right. We’re very close now and no one really cares who’s called what anymore. I can hardly apply different standards to someone else in the same position.

    Ultimately, then, I wouldn’t care if my partner changed her name, so long as the kids (if there were kids) were all able to have something simple and consistent. Regardless of what your personal preferences are, I don’t think it’s fair to ask kids to memorize complicated names while they’re still learning to write, nor have to deal with the hassle of long, hyphenated monikers for jobs and emails and such. Life has enough hassles as it is, after all, and I’m sure the kids will find their own without my help.

    So there it is. To change or not to change. In the end, a family by another name is still in the phone book.

  8. TJ Says:

    Incidentally, if I was dating an actress or someone else famous, I would insist they not change they’re name because that’s just ricockulous. It just looks stupid in the credits when they have to change it and it’ll totally screw up your IMDb page. Totally not worth it. So I guess you can tell what I do for a living…

  9. Jeannie Says:

    No one could spell or pronounce my maiden name - Longuil. I once got into an argument with my 10th grade geometry teacher, who instead wanted to teach ME the “proper” way to pronounce my name. I ended up with my one-and-only office referral. To me it’s a badge of honor.

    So I took Mitch’s last name - Frank. Surprisingly, people still ask me how to spell it. When I get real pissed, I’ll tell them - “p-h-r-a-n-q-u-e, phranque, it’s French.” Or I’ll ask them, “How do YOU spell Frank?” And with Mitch having two “first” names, I can always spot telemarketers: “Is Mr. MITCHELL home?” … Click.

    On a side note, my S-I-L who is most definitely a feminist (and family law lawyer) chose to keep Frank as her last name when she married. When her son was born she gave him her last name because she felt she went through all of the work (pregnancy). His first name is my M-I-L’s maiden name, his middle name is his father’s last name (Blair Hanley Frank). When I send mail to the family I feel like I’m addressing a law firm by sending it to Frank, Hanley & Frank.

    With the new laws going into effect as a result of the Patriot Act I suggest every woman getting married to KEEP their maiden name. When I go to renew my license here in FL, I now have to bring my wedding license/certificate to PROOVE I’m married some 24+ years and go by the last name of Frank. Nuts.

  10. Alejandra Says:

    So this is something that I think about a lot lately. Ever since I started dating Eugene and especially even more now that we’re officially engaged. See, I’ve always always always wanted to take the guy’s last name and do it the traditional Latin way where you’re maiden name is bumped up and the husband’s name is tacked onto the end. I love the tradition of it. But then instead of some kind of cool Italian last name (which is what I always assumed I’d end up with since I grew up in New Jersey), I met Eugene who is from Ukraine and his last name is Smolenskiy. Which, I gotta admit, I don’t love.

    To make things even more complicated, in Russian (which his name is) there are male and female versions of the last names. So, for example, his mom’s last name is Smolenskaya (which means wife of Smolenskiy) and his dad is Smolenskiy (which means man from Smolensk). I actually like the girl version better than the boy version, so I’m going to keep this Russian tradition and take Smolenskaya as my last name, and just bump Ramos up a notch. So I’ll become Alejandra Jorge Ramos Smolenskaya. And when we have kids, the boys will be Smolenskiy like their dad, and the girls will be Smolenskaya like me. (I hope we have one of each.)

    But I’m still keeping Alejandra Ramos for blogging/writing purposes and I’ll use Smolenskaya for everything else.

    Oh and I want to be Mrs. Smolenskaya, not Ms. I like Mrs. :)

    Phew! That’s a lot…

  11. Colleen Says:

    TJ - “ricockulous”…really? That may be the funniest thing I’ve ever read. I mean, everything else you wrote was valid and made total sense and all….but the only thing to really resonate was that word. Ricockulous. Dirty.

    Jeannie - So how DO you pronounce Longuil?

    Alejandra - The whole cultural aspect to how you take your husband’s last name sounds really cool actually! I sort of love the thought of having varied versions of a last name within one family! It seems like it would work really well for you and Eugene too because you both (seem to be, at least) very immersed in your cultures and heritage.
    Too bad both Sean and I are Irish…and not even all that culturally submerged in our heritage. No traditions (to my knowledge) there in the name-taking regard!

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