Maidens and their names

Keep it? Take it? Blend it? Flush it down the toilet and start anew?

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A friend posted this:

“I'd love to hear from Witches on their decision and thoughts about the decision of whether or not to keep one's maiden name. It hovers now just above 20% nationwide for people keeping their original surname, but that is heavily weighted in the urban, educated demographic. In the 1970s it was 17% which isn't much of an uptick in nearly 50 years. I have a friend who just got married in her mid-thirties for the first time and she was eager to take her husband's name but only after his first wife stopped going by it. It gets complicated and I would love to explore these nuances more.”

I loved this discussion! There were so many different answers and stories. Below are just a sampling, but you can find a lot more and join in here. Incidentally, I am so curious what the majority of men do with all the free time they have not having to think about this or handling the paperwork.

“I legally changed my maiden name to my middle name after I got married and took my husband’s last name. Almost 11 years later, and I’m still not totally satisfied. I don’t know why that part matters to me, but I like that I have the same last name as my kids. People get confused a lot though and think I hyphenate my names, which I don’t, or they alphabetize me by my middle name. I don’t know why it’s so confusing that I made my maiden name my middle name. Also maiden name’ = 🤮 “

“I have regrets. I kept my name for the first year and then changed it and I should have just stuck with my gut. My husband  was indifferent, so I can't blame him. How I ended up with My Maiden Name + My Married Name as my professional name (on books I publish) too is a long annoying publishing story that also fills me with regret. But because of that I am really stuck with it. I do like having the same name as my kid, but I am not happy overall.”

“I tried to keep my middle name, my maiden name and take a new last name by moving my maiden name into the middle to make a double. The damn lady at the Social Security office said I couldn’t do that and I panicked. My last name is now  My Maiden Name + My Married Name, no hyphen and it’s fucking ridiculous. I go by my married name anyway, so it’s just a giant monkey fuck.”

“I’m confident enough in the fact I’m my own person and not my husband’s property to share his last name. Getting married at 26, I didn’t feel my career had reached a point that I needed to keep my name. It is nice having the same last name as everyone else in my family and not having to deal with confusion about it.”

“I’m very attached to my last name because my sister and I are the last of us on our family tree and my dad is awesome. Add to that all my diplomas, board certification, and medical license are under my maiden name and I never even considered changing it to my husband’s last name. Kids have his last name, which is fine, and socially I usually get called Mrs. His Name, which is annoying but fine. I actually like to keep a low profile with school families, because if they don’t realize that ‘Mrs. His Name’ is really Dr. My Name, then they won’t ask ask me medical questions at school functions.”

“The real thing that swayed me to change my name was this stupid website. I checked it out and I would be the only one of me that existed and I liked the idea of being unique. I don’t love now that I always get asked if I’m Greek, but after 7 years I’m good with it.”

“I do miss my old name. I really identified with being part of my family a lot, and for a number of years people tended to just call me ‘FirstNameMaidenName’ as one word. After 15 years with his last name, I don't give it much thought. It's just a thing that is, and it's my family and my name and it's all good. But the decision was a pain in the butt and I don't know if I'd make the same call if I had it to do over again. Also, I got married relatively young (just shy of 26), so that was also probably a factor. Had I spent longer as an adult establishing myself under my maiden name I might have stuck with it.”

“I changed mine because I think it's romantic and I like the tradition of it. Right around the time I did, there was a story in the NYT from a woman who lamented the way it erased her identity (I believe she was Latina). In a weird way it erased mine too -- my name was distinctly Italian-American, and I realized that after changing it, that was something people didn't immediately know about me. Not that it really matters one bit but it was a strange feeling.”

“I love my last name, and I got married at 33 to a dude with a tough last name, so I never considered changing it. If my husband had really wanted me to change it, I would have, but he is not that kind of person, and I'm not sure if I'd have married him if he had been. I wouldn't mind if people were to call me Mrs. His Name, but since I work at my kids school, they call him Mr. My Name!”

“So I was happy to take my husband's name, but I insisted on the (supposedly antiquated) Czech practice of adding -ova to the end of his name. It can be taken to mean ‘belonging to,’ but I have personally always felt it as meaning belonging to the clan of / being part of the family, not belonging to the man.”

“I changed my name when I got married for a number of reasons. I did not like my last name. I was not super happy with my dad, so didn't feel like keeping that connection. My mom's name (post-divorce) was different than mine growing up. I liked the idea that we were starting our own little clan and it felt like something to connect us. My husband was shocked when I told him I was changing my name, but he was definitely happy.”

“I didn’t get married till age 37, which felt a bit old to change my name—plus it had been my byline for a long time already. Plus my husband’s ex kept his name and I didn’t want it if she still had it.”

“Both my husband and I changed our middle name to my maiden name and I changed my last to his. I regret it almost every day. I wish I had kept my maiden name and whatever with the kids. I hate how eager I was to change it. I love my husband and if the world wouldn’t take it as a big F U to our marriage I would change it back in a heartbeat.”

“I changed my name because I wanted to have the same last name as my kids. But I don't really like my married name (which is basically John Smith for Jewish girls.) I kept my maiden name professionally, so I write still under my maiden name and basically I made life overcomplicated for myself.”

“I hated my maiden name for aesthetic reasons, and was never close to my father, so I was happy to change to something memorable and easy to spell (my ex’s last name). Now I like having the option of separating my everyday work life from my personal/creative life.”

“I have a brother so I wasn’t the last one and I was changing careers when I got back from my honeymoon so it was a seamless time to make the switch. When I totaled my car this spring that was one of the last things that had me listed under my maiden name to give up and I was sad and said so to my dad.”

“I thought my maiden name was boring, so I changed it. However, I didn’t appreciate how easy my maiden name was. What I got is long and impossible to pronounce and spell. Even his dumb family isn’t consistent, and after becoming more disillusioned with both his family and marriage in general, having the name annoys me. People are often intrigued and want to know ‘Is it Dutch?’ (It’s Belgian) For me though, I’m always thinking, ‘Who cares, it’s not even my name. Yeah, sure, Dutch. Close enough. Blaaah.’ I wish I’d never changed it.”

“So my mom never changed her last name. I feel badly at how strongly I hated hearing everyone Call her Mrs Married Name and having her correct everyone. And seeing all her mail addressed to Mrs Married Name  even though that wasn’t her name. I never cared that she had a different name than me, but I knew I couldn’t personally deal with correcting people all the time. So I made my maiden name my middle name (and my mom is still mad that I lost her maiden name in that exchange). I’m not sure my mom cared about correcting people about her name, but I knew I couldn’t handle it.”

“I am dead set against the idea of ever taking on a man's name. I am fine with the idea of hyphenating or even creating an all new name (True story: my first husband and I, who eloped in a very punk rock way after five weeks of dating, almost changed our last name to ‘Superchunk.’) However, after hyphenating the first time around, I wanted my original name back so badly. I am frankly amazed that it happened, but when my son was born, my now-husband agreed to let him have ONLY my last name and I couldn't be happier about that.”

“I'm not married, but I would not take my husband's name. Though it's still a paternal last name, which is bullshit, it's part of my Japanese ancestry. My son has my last name and that was never in question.”

“I had graduated medical school and was a resident by the time I married, so my initial inclination was to keep my maiden name out of laziness and in the interest of preserving professional identity. But then I wanted to have the same last name as my kids, and leading up to my marriage I didn’t have the best relationship with my dad, so I did not feel emotionally obligated to maintain that tie. When my dad came to the US his Thai last name was too much of a mouthful for people to pronounce so he truncated it. I eventually decided to compromise and legally make my maiden name my middle name, which was an annoying ordeal in my state and required going to court. I do miss my original middle name, which my grandfather chose for me and means ‘little philosopher,’ but I wanted to keep my maiden name because it’s on my diplomas.”

“When I got married the first time, I really struggled with the decision because it felt like giving up my identity, but I ultimately decided I wanted us to be ‘a team.’ I regretted it within a week, and cried when I got my new license (I kept both my middle name and my maiden name as middle names, so I had four initials). When I finally got a divorce certificate and could get my own fucking name back, which took like two years (even though it was on my birth certificate!), I vowed I'd never change it again. I am 1000% in favor of any woman doing what they want for whatever reason, but giving up my name was really traumatic and I'd never do it again.”

“In my life, he got the name but I got the family. We barely deal with his weirdos and visit with mine all the time. Fair trade?”

“Patriarchy rarely works in a woman's favor but it sure does with respect to naming rights for an unwed mother!” — Rachel Sklar

“I had an amazing middle school English teacher who told me I would be a writer one day and please never change my name so that she would be able to find my books. She was about 80 years old then and surely passed away years ago, but a promise is a promise.” —Amy Blair

“So I am a completely forward feminist...and I consider the choice whether to take your husband’s last name a key victory of the movement. My mother-in-law kept her maiden name and was stunned when her daughter, an accomplished MD, an I decided to take our husband’s names because I wanted to have the same last name as our kids. My husband could not have cared less either way. My mother-in-law was all ‘look at all you accomplished as doctors,’ and I was like ‘But I am more than just my name.’ I am not my husband nor my father’s property. It is pretty common for Indian and other Asian women to keep their maiden name, but I wanted to make my OWN choice. That is what I consider the gift of the women’s movement and progress in general. Also I love how people are quietly stunned sometimes when I walk into an exam room and they realize I am Indian, as my first name is the whitest 80s name and my last name is German and I still have a strong Chicago accent out here in California so there’s that...and that’s what makes me A WITCH.”

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