Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Great Name Debate

I have a little girl I tutor on Tuesday afternoons. I've been working with her since she was in first grade, and now she is in third. Her brother is in my kindergarten class this year. Yesterday she and I got into a conversation about whether or not I would change my name next summer when I get married. Her mom has her maiden name, so for her it's not a given that I will. I said I am not sure but I probably will, she said "BUTTTT, you have such a COOL name!"

It's funny, I think if I never was a teacher I probably would not think twice about changing my name. I am much more attached to my first name, after all- I've been called that name forever. However, I started being called by my last name during a summer job I had in college, and since then I've heard that name at least 300 times a day. My kids have actually said to me, "who is Kelly?" Last week I told them I love the letter K and they were genuinely confused about why I would like the letter K. So now, I'm attached to my last name.

But I also can't really picture just not changing it. Here is the list of pros and cons I've come up with...

Cons to Changing my Last Name

1. I like my last name.
2. I will be the first one in my immediate family (mom, dad, bro, sister) that will have a different last name.
3. My last name is very easy for my kindergarten kids to pronounce, spell and remember.
4. My dad grew up in the same town I teach in- at least once every few weeks I met someone who asks me if I am related to so and so, and so and so. I always am and it's fun. I joke about the fact that people never leave this town, but I think it's cool when people know my whole family.
5. It's not impossible to reestablish my "reputation" at work with a new last name, teachers do it all the time. But it's just easier if I don't. And I have my name all over EVERYTHING in my classroom.
6. I would never not change my name because of this, but it is a massive hassle you have to admit.
7. Secret feminist Kelly would be disappointed if I change my name without a fight, seriously who made up this very clear inequality?!

Pros to Changing My Name

1. I want Eric and I to be a "family". I know it does not stand that a family must have the same last name, but then again- if that's the case, I don't have to have the same last name as my mom, dad, bro and sis either...
2. It is important to me to have the same last name as my kids. It will be easier, and it's that whole "family" thing again...
3. I shouldn't be complaining, Eric has a great last name and although it won't be AS easy for my kids to remember, it's not impossible either.
4. Though I'd be the first one in my immediate family to change my name, if I DON'T change my name I'd be the only one on either side of my extended family who did not change her name and I am not really a trendsetter. Wait, that's not true, I do have an aunt who not only did not change her last name but convinced her husband to let her give the kids her name...pretty sweet. But otherwise, we are a pretty traditional family.

I know my cons list looks a bit longer, but ultimately I think both lists are pretty powerful in different ways. Here are some possible solutions that people have offered me:

1. Hyphenate. No offense to anyone who has done this or plans to do it, it's not for me.
2. Make my last name my middle name an drop my middle name. My middle name is my mom's name so I'm not willing to drop it, but my names are short enough that I could be Kelly Gail Last Name, New Last Name without it being too insane. This is a likely possibility.
3. Not hyphenate but just have two legal last names, so I'd be Kelly Gail Last Name, New Last Name, except the last two would be last names. I talked to my real estate agent about this and she said you can do this and then use whichever last name you want. Sounds confusing, but possible.
4. Change my last name legally, but leave my old last name at work. Definite possibility. It's not the norm in teaching, but oh well- time to become a trendsetter.
5. Don't change last name now, but change when I have kids. Maybe but...if I'm doing it eventually...why wait?

So, I want to know your thoughts. If you are married, did you change you name? Did it bother you or were you happy/excited to do it? I think most of my friends have been or are excited to change their name...

If you are not married, what do you think you would do? Would you be sad to give up your last name?

PS. Eric is supportive of what I want to do. I'm sure he'd prefer if I took his name, but he never tells me this. At least I have that going for me :)


  1. Ok, I think this was one of the options that you had, but I would say keep your last name for work and use Eric's last name for everything else. This is my plan for when (if...we know how things are going with me) I get married.

  2. So I've thought about the same thing a lot. I am getting rid of my middle name (though kinda sad) and having my current last name as my middle name. My mom actually has her first name, middle name, maiden name, last name... so she has 2 middle names and it works well for her. The good news is that you have a few months to decide... Point being, you're not alone with the dilemma (especially from a not-so closeted feminist).

  3. I always was the girl who said she'd change her name - I have no attachment to my last name. It's long, it's difficult for people to spell & pronounce, even though it's totally phonetic, but whatever. it has a z in it, so people see the z and freak out or something.

    But, the further i get in my career, the harder it will be to change my name because it would be a lot harder for people to find me in our email system, etc. But I don't know if that is reason enough to hold onto a last name I don't really care about. Plus, if I had childrne, I would want the same last name as them.

    So I will most likely change my name - assuming I ever marry. These days - who knows. Kind of pessimistic on that front.

  4. I plan to definitely change my name. I love the thought of taking my boyfriends name and becoming a family...not that you wouldn't be considered a family otherwise. I'm not sure why but it feels like it completes the family aspect. Plus I just love my boyfriend's name and family and want to become a part of it. Obviously it's not for everyone but that's just my feelings, haha. :)

  5. I didn't want to change mine, but did after a year. I felt like I was losing part of my identity. I did Option #2. I am still getting used to it. There are pros and cons, like you said :) I am excited to hear what you decide to do about it!

  6. KElly, I've actually joked with Nick about how I am not going to change my name. I just LOVE my last name, Casagrande, you can't beat that! His last name is Forster. Not bad, but not cool sounding like mine! I have thought about the same things you say in your post...but then I remember Nick's reaction when I just JOKE about it. It's clear he would be offended. Maybe I'll do the hyphen thing...nah, I'll probably just take it. I may still secretly write Casagrande sometimes :)

  7. I changed my last night - my maiden name was a mouthfull that everyone got wrong so I was thrilled to be able to change it to something simpler. I've also never had a middle name as a part of my families ethnic tradition so I kept that aspect when I got married, but sometimes wonder if I should have made my maiden name my middle name so it's not just "lost" - however, when I think about it that way, no one would really know it as my middle name unless I told them about it and it wouldn't be passed down so I guess it's just the same as knowing it on my own!

  8. As a teacher friend, I can hear ya on the whole work thing... name on books, materials, etc. ... and the longer I teach in the school district, the harder it will be for me to change my name down the road. I love my last name. I think I have a very generic name, but love how simple it is, and usually is for my students. lol.

    Good luck with your decision!

  9. I think the only way I wouldn't have changed my name is if I were an MD or PhD. Otherwise, I think it's a really great way to be "connected" as a couple. I love having his last name, and I'm pretty independent, so I am a bit surprised how strongly I feel towards taking his last name. For what it's worth : )

  10. i am actually all for changing last names. i hate my last name only because its my dad's...but changing it will make me different from my brothers, which im not too keen about.

  11. I debated a long time on what to do. I ended up getting rid of my middle name (great-grandma's mame) that I never cared for and putting my maiden name as middle name and adding my new last name on. I contemplated the hypenating and being called ms (maiden name) vs. mrs. married name at work. but that would have made my name ridiculously long. i thought of two middle namebut that also looked ridiculously long so thats what i went with. i sign everything first, middle, last. if i was you id just add eric's name on and have it be my last name... but that's just me.. :) if i did it over again i would probably leave my old middle name (just to keep mom happy since she did name me). but i like my name.:) though it's total bullshit that women change their names.. my maiden name was sooo much cooler than my married name.

  12. Ditto to the no hyphen. It's just too think about the kids!! hehe. I'd lean more towards swapping my middle name (which also happens to be Gail!) for my last name. Though, legally changing your name and keeping your old last name for work could be a good solution!

  13. What was shocking for me when I changed my last name was how quickly I adapted to the new last name. I thought it would take a long time to get used to, but it was very easy, and the name change process was not as annoying as I thought. I was excited to take my new hubby's last name, and am glad I did. When you have been together for a long time and live together and then you get married, it doesn't feel like much changes at all. However, the new change of name really signifies a change in your family status. Since your relationship is the same, having the new last name was probably the main thing that made me feel like a new married lady. I do have to say that it does make us feel more like an official lady to go to weddings and have it say Dena & Jay _____ or get mail addressed to us like that rather than have our own seperate last names like when we were dating.

  14. When I do get married I plan on hyphenating but using my husbands last name for everything EXCEPT work. Since I'm working on becoming a writer I've started establishing my writing career as "Amber Yake" and I think that changing my last name would just be confusing. I will use my husbands last name for other things though, like my drivers license. I think I would just use my own last name professionally.

  15. I kept my maiden name. It never occured to me NOT to. But no one else in my family had ever kept her maiden name and it caused quite a stir in our conservative family. Why they were so shocked, I don't know...I've always marched to the beat of a different drummer.
    Hubs was totally cool with it. I don't feel less married or less connected. BUT it is a hassle because no one can ever get it right, few remember that I have a different last name and I REALLY get tired of having to defend my decision when people ask "WHY didn't you change your name?" (usually spoken in a disgusted way, as if I'm less of a wife because I have a different name)
    For me, part of it was a touch of feminism. Why should I change my name? Part of it was that I really like MY name better. (nothing wrong with his, just like mine better) Part of me realized it is a very Anglo thing to do...many cultures DO NOT take a new name. Being half non-Anglo, I kind of wanted to rebel against that tradition.
    I have one friend that hyphenated, but everyone else I know took the married named.
    You'll make the right decision for you!

  16. This IS a great debate. I'm not getting married anytime soon, but I often think about when I do what I would do about my last name. Growing up I thought my last name was weird (I honesly don't know why...Leo is fun, right?!), until I got to high school, and now I love it. I do feel like it's a part of my identity. A lot of my pros and cons look like yours, too, except for the teacher thing. I think the main reason why I don't want to change it though is that there are no boys in my family to carry on the last name.

    Such a debate...I'm glad I don't have to make the decision any time soon, because it will be a hard one. Good Luck! :)

  17. I think it's your choice, but it's something I feel very strongly about! Funnily enough, we were having this conversation today at work over Christmas cake.

    Here's how I feel(when the time comes). It's 2009. We've come a long way as women and I don't see why just because we get married to someone we have to change our names. To me, it's saying that "One person in this relationship is more important than the other".

    It's not 1935 anymore when a lot of women were reliant on men to buy our clothes, our food, our homes - so in a way, we were kind of "owned" by them financially.

    I wouldn't change my name ever ever because it's my name. I have built a career with it. I've tried to build a reputation as a good person with it. I've loved with it, worked with it, run with it, performed with it, been a friend with it.

    Plus - if I HAVE to have a man's surname? I want it to be my father's. He's never let me down in my life. He's loved me every moment I've been alive and I know he'll keep loving me until the first of us dies.

    Here's an AWESOME article about it by an Aussie writer.

    Still, that said, it's only as I get older that I've been so firm on this. Years ago, I used to imagine my name next to any boy I loved. As I've hardened up, I've been determined to keep my name.

    Each to their own, I guess. Still, I hate to admit it, whenever a newlywed friend of mine changes her name... I'm soooooo disappointed with her.

  18. I changed my name... but it wasn't a difficult choice. I didn't like my maiden name. It wasn't even a family name since it was really my dad's stepdad's last name. So, it had no meaning to me and nobody could spell or pronounce it.

    Have you talked to Eric about how he feels? He may have a preference.

    If it's possible to keep your maiden name for work, that sounds like a great idea! I don't know your last name but if the kids think it's cool one, it sounds like a great name for a teacher. :)

  19. I am in Hispanic and in our culture we use two legal last names. Mind you, some years ago I dropped my mother's name from everyday use.

    When I get married next year I will drop my mom's maiden name and add my Fiance's last name. I will be Karen Middle CurrentName FiancesName. Our children will have two last names too but in opposite order to mine. lol

    I love my last name. It's whom I've always been. Plus it's the only tie in my name to my culture. Not to mention I have plans to do amazing things with my life and when I do, I think the family that raised me should get some credit.

  20. My middle name as no meaning behind other than my mom liked it, so most likely I would drop my middle name and make his last name my new last name!

  21. I use my maiden name for my byline, but I did legally change my name. I wanted to have the same name as my kids. I haven't found it to be something that makes sense to me any more -- we feel like a family and we would even if I used my maiden name. I've looked into legally changing it back. My maiden name sounds much better. At the same time, I basically use my maiden name at least as often. When I registered my computer, since I use it professionally, I registered in my maiden name. Now, when I send emails, it always comes up that way -- so my maiden name is becoming the name I use more again. BTW, I've been married 15 years and have four kids -- the kids care less than I thought.

  22. I changed mine and never thought twice about it even thought my maiden name was a really nice name. I loved it. I did find that being a teacher REALLY helped me to get used to the sound of my new last name and being called by it because as you said, the kids call you by your last name all the time--well if they get past calling you teacher...I am a traditional girl when it comes to this topic and I wanted to take my husband's name. That was the right choice for me.


  23. I'm planning on doing what Amber and Kathleen are doing and using my maiden name professionally and my married name legally and for the kids. I have been an advocate in the diabetes community for about 10 years now, and people - a lot of people - know me by that name. I feel like starting out with Allison [Husband's Name] would be weird.

    However, like others, I like the idea of being the same as my husband and my kids. I actually DO NOT like my last name and I have never liked my last name. We have a funny way of pronouncing it: it's Bah-LOSS not Bah-LASS. Short "a", not a long "a". It's the same "a" sound that's in marsh, not mash. Get it? Yeah, no one else does either.

    I also think of it as a privacy thing. Most people will think to look me up by my maiden name, but I won't be listed anywhere under that. Hopefully I can keep Future Hubby's name under wraps, but it'll be one more baracade to people finding out.

    Just my 2 cents!

  24. Tough choice. My first thought was going with two legal last names (noi hyphen) and that way you can use both.

  25. Oh what a tough call... I would change my name. Not sure why. Maybe it's because thats just what your supposed to do? That's not a good reason... You'll know what's right!

  26. That is going to be a pretty tough call... All I can say is that I have a hyphenated name, and it's a pain in the arse :P

  27. aw this is a tough call, girl. I agree though - your maiden name is a huge part of who you are.. but it's also so special to take on your husbands name as a symbol of your unity. Yikes! I think dropping your middle name would be a great alternative!

  28. I'm going to have no problem with this when I get married because I hate, hate, hate my last name! It's extremely uncommon, very hard to pronounce, and just looks ugly. I don't like it at all and I really want to change my last name to my mom's maiden name because I feel a much greater connection with that side of my family than my dad's side.

    My brother and his girlfriend hyphenated my nephew's name and it's seriously the longest name ever. I feel bad when he goes to school and has to write it. It's 29 letters long, not including his 9-letter middle name!

    It's a much tougher decision when you actually like your last name and use it professionally. It's all up to you but, personally, I would change my last name to my husband's. I don't really feel that keeping a last name is keeping up with "feminism" but I do feel that taking your husband's does shown a stronger sign of unity and togetherness. It's also easier when you have kids.

    Just my .02, even if it is lengthy!

  29. hmm that's a tough one! Well, my last name is very confusing and a tongue twister so I'm kind of looking forward to having an easy 4 letter last name. It's definitely up to you and that's great that your man is so supportive either way :)

  30. i am in this same boat! well, the name-changing one, but we knew that since doh i am getting married next summer too :)

    i don't want to drop my name just 'cause it's my family name. i don't have any brothers who will "carry it on". my fiance wants me to take his name because he wants to be my protector and provider or something like that (and the "we'll be a family" reason). (i said OK so i can quit working? lol). i suggested we both change our names - and we can either be First mylast hislast or First middle mylast hislast. is that too ridiculous?

    i'm not attached to my name for feminist or career reasons, i just don't really want to change it... or at least have him "meet me in the middle" on it. i also am currently very firm on no-kids so i'm not worried about what their names will be. (i know i know, my thoughts will change on that. haha)

  31. I really like the idea of forming that new little family by sharing a name with my husband and any potential children. However, I REALLY love my name. It works great for me, and it's kind of important that people in my future career are able to find me. My plan is that I'll keep my "maiden" name if the guy's name is weird.

  32. I planning on changing last name. I agree that it kind of establishes the family unit. I don't know how it is in Mass, but in NH to change your middle name to your current last name you have to go to court and pay $90. Something you may want to think about!