Married Names

When Mel and I were married, I told her that she didn’t have to take my last name if she didn’t want to. I think it would be hard for a woman to abandon her last name, and I wanted Mel to know that she was free to keep her last name if she would prefer. To be certain, if she had chosen not to take my name, I would have supported her decision 100%, but the truth is I was glad she did. It satisfied some inner desire to perpetuate traditions.

None of the available name-changing options women face seem very attractive. All of the options (hyphenating, just adding my name to the end of hers resulting in multiple middle names, dropping the existing middle name, etc.) have distinct drawbacks.

As I mentally prepare for the idea of Mel and I having chldren and raising a family, I am beginning to consider naming conventions that might spare my daughters from having to decide whether to drop our family name.

I am somewhat attracted to the option of simply not giving my daughters a middle name so that they don’t have to “drop” any names behind when they choose to take their husbands names. But this option has several drawbacks as well.

First, it assumes that my daughters will get married. While I hope any daughters I may have will be able to experience the same joy I have found being married, I don’t want to put unwanted pressure on my daughters should they choose not to marry.

Second, it assumes that they will want to take their husbands name, which raises a lot of questions about womens rights and expectations. What if my daughters don’t share my same desires to perpetuate longstanding traditions of assuming the husbands family name? What if she and her husband would rather have him assume her name?

Third, it potentially robs my daughters of having a meaningful middle name throughout their youth. I like to think that when the time comes to name my children, I will choose names with meaning and purpose. By not assigning a middle name, I miss an opportunity to link a daughter to a past relative or other meaningful individual from whom she might gain inspiration.

3 comments to Married Names

  • Considering how difficult the whole "what to do about my name" decision was for me and the pain it was to actually change my name, in a way it was sort of empowering to make this large change in my life. I hope that our daughters are comfortable enough with themselves to follow their hearts and be willing to change their names if they want or keep them if they want and not feel pressure from us that anything is expected of them. Like you said, none of the options may be ideal, but as with most of major decisions we are forced to make in this life, I think you have to just do your best and do what makes the most sense to you.

  • Hmmm… So here is a secret. I didn't have a middle name… none of my sisters do. And it never ever bothered me. Kalie Carter is a super cool name. But, I'll tell you the most ultra awkward moment of my life… Graduation: Names being called left and right: Carly Cathrine Dahlen, Kelsie Anne DeWeese, Scott Adam Antista, Lauren Elyse Butterfield, Kalie (Pause) Carter. It totally messed up the whole precession.

    So I often contemplate the same issue. And in the end, I think it totally doesn't really matter. When they get married, they can decide to do whatever they want, including dropping the super hideous middle name that memorializes your favorite uncle. Plus, it gives them the better option of going by their middle name if they hate their first name.

    And just so you know, we already have dibs on the name "Seven."

  • I remember having a conversation with a bunch of girls in grade school when we were asking everyone what their middle name was. I was shocked that some girls didn't have a middle name. At the time that seemed really odd to me. I agree with you that middle names are often given in honor of an ancestor etc. Also I think that it sets you more apart as an individual. There may be people with your same first and last name, but it is less likely that other people are going to share all of your names. Additionally, as you mentioned, not giving daughters middle names pressures them in the direction of taking on their husbands last name. I was always glad that I had a middle name.
    I is strange because when I got married it was important to me to keep my maiden name as well as take on my husband's name. However, I realize that my maiden name comes from a long line of male ancestors in my family. I honor these ancestors, but I also feel strongly about the female ancestors in my family. In my mind, the ideal system would be for men to take on their father's last name and for women to take their mother's last name. The family as a whole would have two last names which you might think would be confusing, but I think it would work out o.k. So a family would be known as the Smith-Jones family (which might help differentiate families from each other as there are lots of families with the same last name). When the children marry they would keep their same gender parent's name and take on their spouse's name. So a daughter might become Richardson-Jones. I think this system would be neat because your mother's name would come go back through a long line of female ancestors and your father's name would go back through male ancestors. I know this system wouldn't be without its problems, but I don't think it would have any more problems than the current system (we are just used to the current system). However, striking out on your own and going against the current system would create problems for your children. One example of this is that currently men have to go through a lot of legal hassle if they want to take on their wive's name.