The Name Game

by editor
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It’s amazing how many of my friends started lamenting freedom of choice once they got engaged. Almost everyone felt like she got judged by half the people she knew if she kept her own name, and judged by the other half if she didn’t. And if she hyphenated, people made totally uncalled-for squinchy faces.

It sucks, and it’s a dilemma you face that your groom (probably) doesn’t. On the other hand, you’re not having anything forced on you, so yay, progress!

For a lot of women, there’s no contest. I’ve had two different friends who were dying to get married from about junior high on just to ditch last names they hated. And others who wouldn’t dream of handing over their last name no matter what.

For those of us in between… Well, we have some thinking to do.

It can’t hurt to talk to your fiancé about it. He may have some strong opinions about what he’s hoping you’ll do… Although one of the reasons I love Chris is that his strongest opinion is that I should follow my own mind.

(And, now that I think about it, it might be a good idea to check in with the guy even if you’re not wavering. If you’re leaning heavily towards keeping your name and he has some firm beliefs about you taking his, get that talk out of the way sooner rather than later.)

Taking his name is traditional and sentimental and you may have been dreaming about being Mrs. Dreamboat for a long time. Plus, nobody will get drunk at a party and accuse you of being a castrating bitch. Well, not for that, anyway.

Keeping yours is also sentimental in a different way, in my opinion. And I do admit that changing my name feels weirdly like giving up a piece of my identity. (Though, yes, I recognize that a few billion women have managed to get through that particular crisis over the centuries.) And if you’ve built up a business or a public profile under your maiden name, you may be reluctant to give that up. Plus, what if you have a kickass last name e-mail address? Switching over is a pain.

I know this is way out there on the edge for a lot of people, but I like it when the bride and groom both change their names to an amalgam of the two original ones. It’s a great way to symbolize that the marriage changes both of you, and that you’re a team. Plus if your names combine into something supercool like Starhawk or Awsetastic, so much the better. But even then, it might be a tough sell. It’s probably not going to happen unless your fiancé is already thinking in that direction.

I think hyphenating gets a bad rap from a lot of people. In my opinion, it’s a great solution that lets you honor both names, and your new husband can dive on board or stick with his own name as he pleases.

The main objection I hear to hyphenating is that maybe your hyphenated child will meet and marry another hyphenated child, and then what will they do? You shouldn’t worry about this for one very good reason: It’s not your problem.

Seriously. Your kids will figure it out. And they’re pretty much going to do what they’re going to do anyway, so let them make the decision when the time comes. I don’t have a single hyphenated friend who is worried about this. They’re pretty much waiting to see how their One True Love’s name or names shake out, and then they’ll work from there.

Besides, by the time your kids are grown, you’ll be much more worried about the fact that your son is marrying a hyperdimensional being from the planet K’rothNargh whose own hyphenated name is a sound effect that you can’t pronounce.

So enjoy your choice and have some perspective. It’s much better to spend your energy making sure your kids’ initials won’t form hilarious acronyms.