What’s in a name?

Posted on October 14, 2008. Filed under: deciding |

Mrs. Hydrangea posted recently about her decision to change her name in a rather unusual way, and it got me thinking about my name decision (ahem, more like a non-decision). Having been married before, I’ve done the name change thing (and then reversed it). The whole thing was awful. When I first adopted my new married name, I felt lost, like all of my history up to that point had been wiped out, even though I was 21 at the time. Then when I reverted to my maiden name, I was even more devastated. In the years I was married, I graduated and my career really took off. Suddenly, the plaques and awards on my wall were in a different name. “That’s not me anymore!” I’d think each time I’d look at them… but I’d left my maiden name so long before that it didn’t feel right either. And I won’t mention the awkwardness of being congratulated by coworkers (whom I obviously didn’t know very well) on my marriage when in fact my name changed because of the d-word.

In desperation, I did the only thing I could. I decided that my real name, my true identity, was my first name. Gone went multi-letter monograms. I’ll take just the “M”, thankyouverymuch. My last name is evidently dynamic, but my first name won’t change.

Now I have the freedom to choose to take Mr. Cheese’s last name… or not. He’s pretty firmly on the name-change side of the fence, and I’m pretty firmly ON the fence. I would love for my future children and my current pets to share my last name; as a side benefit, his last initial is the same as my first initial, so the single letter monograms are still useful! On the other hand, I don’t want to change my name professionally again.

If I worked for a different company, I’d change my name personally but keep my name professionally. {Side note: which one becomes your legal name? If it’s the personal name, how do you handle your taxes at work? If it’s the professional name, how will you sign your kids’ permission slips?} Unfortunately, at my very large corporate employer, your identity is dictated by your tax records. If my name changes legally, so do my email address, IM name, corporate directory, and business cards.

I’m leaning toward changing my name once I have kids. We’ll call that the procrastinator’s solution. But then I wonder, when, exactly? When I find out I’m pregnant? When the child is actually born? And not to be too pragmatic, but what a mess to change my name while dealing with insurance and doctors and hormones! Ugg, I also dread bringing my personal life into my professional life again by changing my name. I deal with hundreds of people, and every one would have to be notified of my new name.

So, for now, I’m not deciding. The beauty of engagement is that it gives you (me) the opportunity to ponder these dilemmas while not forcing you (me) to decide immediately. I suspect that in the end, I’ll take Mr. Cheese’s last name, but I’m holding off on checking that one off the list.

What are your plans regarding your last name? Will you take your fiance’s name or keep your own? Will you hyphenate or have you come up with some other hybrid solution? Details, please! I’m a practical gal!


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    I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and divorce papers) to prove it. Here I am again, pledging my life to my (new) love with eyes wide open (and heart racing) knowing full well how emotionally traumatic this can end… and doing it anyway.


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