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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What's in a name?

Where it all went down.


E and I have been married for two months now, yet it took me up until just a couple weeks ago to get around to deciding what I wanted to do as far as changing my name, or not, goes. Seeing as we had been together for years and engaged for a good number of months before being married and it still took me that long to decide, well, you can probably tell that it was not an easy decision for me. 

When talking to other people and researching what others have done I was exposed to viewpoints from every inch of the spectrum and in the end none of that really helped me in making my own decision. My name holds a lot of weight for me and my last name has been a big part of my life and something I've been called by exclusively during some periods. Friends from athletics or marching band in high school would often call me by my last name or first initial and last name and in my artistic pursuits I would always sign with the same combination of first initial followed by my last name. Beyond that, it's a name I have had for 27 years and have grown quite accustomed to, while also feeling it's one last link I have to my deceased father and grandmother, that last part being the hardest hurdle for me to overcome.

What really made this all a more pressing issue for me was having a baby on the way. Growing up I never shared a last name with my mother and also had a step-brother who was the same age as me and therefore in the same grade and sometimes involved in the same activities. He was also lanky and blonde, much like my mom. More often than not they would think he was her child and while he was by marriage, I felt hurt by the fact that our names set us apart and often left me appearing as the step-child when really I was connected by the very blood in my veins. For some this may seem trivial, but growing up in a rather unstable environment where I often felt misplaced and unsteady, this one final piece was enough to really leave an impact on me and I knew that I would always want to share a last name with my child. 

E was supportive of whatever choice I wanted to make and even suggested the option of my naming our daughter with my last name if I were to keep the one I had. While I loved that kind of support and openness on his part, I also wanted us all to have the same name and didn't see how leaving him as the odd one out would solve this dilema. We did think about both taking on an entirely new last name, but could never really find something that fit or that we agreed on so didn't really explore that option all that aggressively. 

One last stumbling block was that I felt like taking on E's families name made me seem more connected to them than my own family which is in no way true and in reality my mom, sister, and myself already all had different last names, with my brother and I being the last ones to retain the original. It was pointed out to me by someone I respect that taking on a different name does not create any additional ties or break any old ones and that it's really something that only matters for myself and my husband and any ties that are involved between us alone.

So with that in mind I pushed all the other stuff aside and looked at the amazing man in my life without anyone else in mind and chose to take on his last name so that our own family would share it. But, I did keep my last name as well. I chose to move my given last name to an additional middle name and take on E's last name as my new one, leaving me with a first name, two middle names, and a last name. I'm sure this will cause a bit of confusion on it's own, but it's the only thing I could truly settle on to fulfill my needs on all of these different levels. Shedding my given last name entirely was not a realistic option as it effected me too much emotionally, but not taking on E's last name would have left me feeling as if we didn't have a name to represent us as a single family unit like I wanted, so that's where we stand. I will continue to use my given last name for my writing and artistic pursuits, but will have a new family name to give meaning to with my husband and our little lady. 

As you can see this is a very loaded decision for me and while it's all new and something I'm still getting used to I think it's a good balance.

Did you struggle with this decision yourself or feel strongly one way or the other? I'm always interested to hear what other people have done.

Sara

16 comments:

  1. I hear you. It was a tough decision for me too. I love my last name, I ran a business that included my last name in the company name and it was who I had been for 23 years before we were married. And if felt very strange for me to not use it anymore. In the end I hyphenated, it works for me and us. Our little man has both our last names on his birth certificate. He can choose later what he wants to use as an adult.

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  2. I took my husband's last name. For me it was always what I had planned to do, I don't know why. One reason, like you mentioned is that I wanted to have the same last name as my children. I can see a ton of reasons to keep your original name though, especially if you are the last in the line or if you have used it for professional/artistic reasons.

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  3. i've been married for almost seven years and haven't legally changed my last name to peppy's. my license has his last name, but that's it. (for some reason they just took my word that i was married when i went to renew my license six years ago.)

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  4. I chose not to change my name, but I loved reading your decision making process for changing yours. It sounds like you made the right decision for you. That's the thing, I think the decision these days is different for everyone, and that's how it should be! Although I still have no idea what we're going to do when we have a kid, I guess that's something we'll figure out when the times comes. We combined our names on our wedding invitation as a joke, but maybe it's something we'll seriously consider when a kid is in the picture? I don't know, right now the combination is silly and makes me smile when our friends refer to us as the "Goldhollamans" :) Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed reading it!

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  5. The history is very different for me, but I ended up doing the same thing that you did. I had always imagined that I would take my husband's last name whenever I got married, but when the time came I just couldn't bear to lose my last name completely. It felt somehow like I was removing myself from my family of origin (even though I know rationally it wasn't like that at all). I also felt like I couldn't drop my middle name because it came from my grandmother and somewhat like you, I had been called by my first and middle names at different times throughout life. So I just decided to keep all four. We are also seriously considering using my last name as a middle name for our baby (definitely if it's a boy, maybe for a girl), which makes my heart happy because I feel like the babe will have a little of both our families in their name.


    As far as the four names, It's only been about a year since I changed my name, but in my limited experience it hasn't really been an issue. I just use my first name and my married last name (only those 2) for pretty much everything, but on official documents all four are listed.

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  6. I changed my name, and didn't really think twice about it. My maiden name is very English and my married name is also pretty English. If my husband had some crazy ethnic last name, I may have thought more about it, but to me, a name wasn't going to change who I am so I just did it. I also don't feel strongly one way or the other about other people changing or not changing their names. haha It's a personal choice and I never understand why some people feel so strongly about someone else's decision to change or not change their name.

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  7. i really enjoyed reading about your decision making process. i opted to keep my last name 3 years ago when i got married but always wondered what would happen when we had kids... we're still trying to figure that out and how we'll name our babe, and changing my last name is on my mind too because i had the idea of not sharing a name with our child. we'll see!

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  8. I changed my name when I get married (both times) and I had no qualms about it either time. My sister and I were the last in our family to have our maiden names but a name was never looked upon with such emotional ties... so it really didn't matter to either of us! :) I enjoyed reading about your name switch though, very intriguing!

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  9. Such a tough decision, but so good when it's just decided and done I think. Thanks for sharing what you chose. Seeing how many different choices people make really shows how there is no "right" or "wrong" but just finding what works for each of us.

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  10. I like that it was a simple decision for you, and many. I wish I could say the same, seriously! :) Thank you so much for sharing.

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  11. Ha, that works! :) It really is such a crazy mess trying to change it all. Well, I think it is anyway, so you probably took a good route!

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  12. It really is so different for everyone isn't it? Thank you for sharing your own decision. I'm really still so mixed up about it all, but think I've made the right decision for me, for right now, and if that changes I guess I can always switch it around. It's a bit crazy right now though since I have changed my name on some things but not gotten around to it on others. While filling out midwife billing information on Saturday I was so flustered not knowing what name to put, so I guess I should take care of that.

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  13. I am with you on feeling as if it would remove me from my family of origin even though, like you, I know that's not rationally how it is. And yes with the middle name. I also felt like it was a name my parents chose for me and I didn't want to just discard it so easily. I love the idea of using your last name for the middle name. I considered that for us too, but I just don't think my name works too well for that purpose so have dropped the idea for now.


    And thanks for sharing your experience with having four names so far. I really don't see that it'll ever be too complicated either, but it's nice to know it hasn't been for you.

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  14. Yeah, it is definitely weird that other people care so much about what other people choose to do, but also frustrating that most people just assume the female will get married and automatically just change her name, you know? It all can become so complicated when really it doesn't matter all that mucha at all. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  15. I always wonder how my decision would have differed had we been married sooner and not had already been expecting a baby. As you saw in my writing, my decision was way complicated for me, but I still think I may have done things differently had little nugget not already been in the picture, although I am still okay with what I did finally decide. Good luck deciding for yourself. I think at the end of the day it really isn't a huge deal, but it can definitely feel like one.

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  16. I love that it was easy for you, and I'm not joking. I only wish it were for me, really. :) My mind has a way of making everything super complicated and more nerve-wrecking than it maybe should be.

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