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Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So: Picking a Married Name
My husband recently met a couple at an event
and complained, “They had this cool last name”—we’ll say "Darling," although it’s
actually even cuter than that –“but it turned out they’d made it up.” This,
we agreed, was cheating. As people with awkward and difficult-to-spell last
names, we have a certain chip on our shoulders. Why should a couple
get to breeze through life saying, “Darling!”, just because they feel like it?
“After all,” I said, “a family name is about your family, not about sounding cool.” My husband proceeded to clear his throat for the next half hour or so. As he didn’t need to point out, I hadn’t taken his name. I had very good, semiotically sound reasons for this that had to do with identity and feminism...and not wanting to fill out name-change forms.
In Anne Peterson's great essay on the Huffington Post, she muses over how much she's always loved “the distinguished tradition of a name like Peterson: a moniker for mustachioed Vikings and meatball connoisseurs with blonde braids.” She never thought she would change her name when she married—the very idea seemed retrograde. And significantly, she was not exactly in love with the sound of her fiance’s last name. “Saying it is like eating a handful of sand. It gets caught in your throat like a partially chewed piece of flank steak.”
Is it wrong to pick and choose a married name based on whether you like it or not? So maybe your husband’s name seems a little awkward, or doesn’t really go with your first name. How do you think Lauren Bush Lauren feels? Should the unity of your family be held above paltry matters like aesthetics? I admit that the idea of creating a new name altogether appeals in a way, eschewing issues of identity and awkwardness and starting fresh, the way our ancestors did at Ellis Island, only on purpose.
Anne Peterson decided to change name after all, though she notes, “A piece of my identity is gone.” For the record, this is why I haven’t changed my name, even though it doesn’t match the family’s and causes the doctor’s office to think I’m the babysitter and makes addressing mail to us baffling. It’s an identity thing. Even if my darling were a Darling, I swear my choice would have been the same. I think. Probably.
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