Wednesday, October 2, 2013

did you take his name?


I think I had already decided to keep my name even before my boyfriend-at-the-time told me his (rather long) surname was old German for "caveman", "neanderthal" or "man who lives in a hole in the ground". I would be lying, however, if that bit of information didn't help solidify the decision.

I got married at age 25, while I was still in medical school. No one in either my personal or professional life gave me a hard time about keeping my maiden name. I thought at the time that most people would assume I had changed my name and we would, at least socially, be known as "The Caveman Family", when children eventually came around.

But that hasn't been the case. People are, for the most part, careful to acknowledge that I do not share the same last name as my husband and children. I should also note that my last name is nothing beautiful itself - my sister describes it as a grunt and has vowed that, should she ever get married, changing it would be the first order of business. Perhaps now it is clear why I never really considered hyphenation. One borderline unattractive name is not improved upon by the addition of a multi-syllabic and even less attractive name.

Wedding invitations and baby announcements are addressed to Me Grunt, Husband Caveman, and Children (1) and (2) Caveman. When told I wont be home for dinner, my daughter will reply "We'll have Caveman family night!", the obvious implication being that my last name would exclude me from "Caveman family night", which is too bad because it usually involves movies, ice cream, and late bedtime. 

I have mixed feelings about this. I guess I just care less about my name now as compared to when I was 25. I think my self-identity would just as intact if I were Dr. Grunt or Dr. Caveman. The work I did in undergrad or medical school would not be wasted if I then practiced under a different name. 

I am not sure that I would make a different decision if I were getting married now (at age 33) and I certainly don't care enough to change it at this point. I am, however, surprised by how wistful I feel when seeing my name separated out from those of my family or when my daughter talks about "Caveman family night". Honey, I might not have given you my name, but that chin dimple of yours? That's from me. 

24 comments:

  1. I could have written this exact entry.
    And yesterday, my oldest told me she got made fun of for her last name. I felt so bad. Wish I could have given her mine.

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  2. Not only did I not change my name, I honestly and truly don't understand why any woman in the 21st Century would do so. It is such an archaic custom. My kids have 4 names (not hypenated) - 2 first names that reflect my husband's and my heritage, then my surname, then his. We are the G-P family and have had absolutely zero problems in our lives with the situation. If women stopped changing their names, we'd come up with new naming norms for kids and it would be fine.

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  3. I didn't change my name and we actually named our kids similar to Larissa - a first name, a "middle name", my last name, then my husband's last name. For forms/school purposes, they go by their first name and my husband's last name, but they understand that mine is in there too. And actually, my husband has had a harder time with being mistakenly called Mr. Myname, more often than I'm called Dr. Hisname :-)

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  4. I am planning on taking my fiance's name when we get married in a few months, during my 4th year of medical school. My family name is important to me, so I will be adding it as a middle name, but I think there's something special about sharing a name with my future husband and any children we may have. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with a woman keeping her name, and there's nothing wrong with a woman taking her husband's name. (Or hyphenating, assuming the names aren't too ridiculously long I suppose.) Whatever floats your boat. I think that names can mean different things to different people, so I wouldn't judge someone else's choices. ...Although if you decide to change your name to Metta Worldpeace or something goofy like that I may judge you a little :)

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  5. I changed my name in the 21st century and have no problems doing so. I'm not bothered by other people keeping their maiden names, but the majority of my associates have changed theirs upon marriage. Now that we have kids, I really like all being The XYZ Family together, and I've noticed that the few of my friends who have kept their maiden names often go to great pains to be "The QRS Family" on return address labels, Christmas cards, etc.

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  6. i love this post too--thanks for articulating the idea! i, too, kept my own name as i got married just before the start of residency. my too sons have their dad's last name and my last name as a middle name. i think i'm still pretty happy with my choice except sometimes i think it would be so much easier to be Dr. Hubby'sname because it is a nice but common name that I would never have to spell for a verbal order, unlike my own name:).

    i can also, however, relate to feeling a lot less strongly about it these days and feeling much less like i'd lose my identity by losing my name. i agree with do whatever seems important to you. i don't think a husband should demand a name change, but if they wife wants to, i definitely don't see that as a misogynist act.

    oh, one more thing. i'm one of those people like the post above me describes who often will refer to us as "the hubby'sname family"!

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  7. I did basically what Larissa and Brig did -- kept my name and the kid has 4 names the third of which is my last name. I did this in spite of liking my husband's name better than mine and in spite of being more easily pub-meddable had I taken his name. My mom kept her name when she got married 40 years ago, and she took a lot of crap for it, and it just felt disrespectful to her for me to change my name. I have no regrets. I've had a couple of comments like, "Doesn't your husband's family mind?" but otherwise it's been a complete non-event. Ironically, where my husband is from women don't change their names when they get married, and they can't understand why anyone would.

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  8. I kept my name, because I didn't feel in any way compelled to go through the MAJOR PITA it would be to get it changed, and change all my med school stuff. Also the whole thing is so bizarre--I've had the same name since birth and now I'm supposed to change it like I don't matter? and the partiarchal origin of the name-changing does bother me. My kids have his last name (my last name would be ridiculous as a middle name, kind of like "Smith". If I had a more interesting last name, maybe I'd have considered it. They think I have the same last name as them, and I don't mind people thinking that. I don't mind invitations addressed to The HisName Family or people calling me Mrs HisName.

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  9. I changed my last name, and was only too glad to. I have a very long last name (never enough letters on the scan-tron on test days). And it would have been ridiculous using it as a middle name for our kids. I've never regretted it. I like all of us having the same last name. But I also understand why people don't change their name. If my name had been anything I had been attached to, I probably would have kept it.

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  10. My husband took my last name. I had initially switched to his, but he revealed later that he actually wanted to take mine so I switched back and he changed his. It confuses people only a little because we live where my family (of Scottish descent) is fairly well known and has been living for almost 250 years and family connections are a big deal. He has to explain he married into the family.

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  11. I changed it. My husband has a cool last name (patients love it btw). And, his family is extra conservative, it amounted to one less battle to fight. At age 26 it did cause some internal struggle with my "I am woman hear me roar" upbringing, but then I (not joking) began studying matrilineal societies and felt that even my maiden name was mine from a man anyway since the maiden name, married name is a patriarchal/patrilineal tradition. After all this I wanted to drop my last name all together and move to a matrilineal tribe in west Africa. Then, I also had a lot of pause about going from the end of the alphabet to the almost end which in all honestly felt like more of an identity switch than the actual changing of the name (like a first born forced to be a middle child). My first name has a slightly different spelling so my googlability was still possible and I hadn't yet published a paper I was working on and could publish it under my new name. Then my head felt like it was going to explode and I just went with my husbands cool name partially because of the issue with kids. I would have hyphenated but then my name would have had 3000 letters and I'm already sick of spelling as it is.

    So, long ridiculous story short, I changed my last name.

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    Replies
    1. One problem with the name change though. I prefer to be called Dr. Cool name instead of Mrs. Cool Name because it makes my ears bleed to be called the same thing as my mother in law, but I don't want to be the pompous jerk that wants people to call them "Dr." - conundrum!

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    2. Ha, just the opposite - I entered medicine after being married over 10 years and sometimes I miss being "Mrs." instead of "Dr.!"
      - DoctorGrace (/MrsGrace)

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    3. Ha, just the opposite - I entered medicine after being married over 10 years and sometimes I miss being "Mrs." instead of "Dr.!"
      - DoctorGrace (/MrsGrace)

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  12. I got married halfway through med school & changed my last name. It just felt right. I haven't regretted it. If I'd already been established professionally, I'd probably have kept my maiden name. I have colleagues & friends who've gotten married since establishing their careers & it's a mixed bag what they've done as far as the last name goes.
    I think the main thing is to do what feels right for you about this. Oh, and to not be judgemental if someone else decides to do the opposite.

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  13. I kept my maiden name ( much shorter and easier to pronounce) but I do struggle a bit with having to introduce myself as "sons mom" whenever I call daycare or pediatrician. Also funny was when we went on a cruise vacation and brought my mother in law. She shares a name with my husband and son. I was the 4 th person with the different name and there was some confusion that those two were the parents and I was the in law! After my son was born he was in the nicu and there was mass confusion with my husbands family about why our son was under my name in the hospital. Our holiday cards are signed with first names. I am pregnant again now and am contemplating hyphenating my name during my family leave. It is a HUGE task though so I may change my mind yet again.

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  14. I got married fourth year of med school and decided to change my name before graduation, licensing, etc. It's important to me that our family share the same name. To me it reflects cohesiveness and commitment. I know it has different meanings for different people. My husband is very traditional and it was very important to him. I felt like it was a gift of sorts for him; very special for the 2 of us. He would have been ok with me keeping my name especially since I worked so hard to be Dr. MS4 but luckily I really didn't mind. It helps that it's a nice name too!

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  15. I come from a culture where women just don't change their last name when they get married. Like OMDG had mentioned, I really don't understand why anyone would. I grew up with my mom having a different last name than mine and had never viewed my mom as an outsider or questioned the cohesiveness of our family. I would be highly offended if my husband had asked me to change my name to his. But it's a matter of culture, really, there is not a right or wrong way.

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  16. Ditto on the cultural thing. In my culture women don't change their names when they marry. My husband wasn't too thrilled about it, but he had to deal with it. Neither of my two sisters changed their names either at marriage. Our kids have my last name as their middle name, in addition to another middle name.

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  17. I got married 4 years into practice. I was established, but knew that I wanted to take my husband's name. It was really not as big of a pain as I thought it would be to change all the licensing and insurance and DEA stuff as I thought it would be. I still have patients who call me by my maiden name 4 years later as they claim they can't remember my "new name". I wanted to share the same name as my husband and kids and for people to know that we are married. Granted, I went from an easy name (it was a color) to a Scandinavian name with twice as many letters. I haven't regretted it for a moment.

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  18. Just like my mother, I made my maiden name my middle and my married name as my last name.

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  19. I did not change my name. We were married in 1984. I figured that whole name-change thing was over and done with. Hah. I am the third generation of physicians with this name. And my husband's last name actually is Smith. And it just didn't seem like something I wanted to do. Our daughter has his name, and it's never been a problem. I don't make a fuss if people call me Mrs. Smith; I do make a fuss (gently) if people call me Mrs. Anything at work. At work I am Dr. At home I'm whatever they want to call me.

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  20. I got married less than a year ago (at 20) and took my husband's name. We wanted to have one last name for all of our family, so it was just a matter of deciding which one to keep. I liked my last name, but my mom never took my dad's name, so my last name mostly only had connections to my dad to me, which were, let's say, not very positive (he was never very present and moved out when I was in 3rd grade). I had one published paper under my maiden name, which will be fun to explain on my resume, but since it's just one paper, it won't hurt me if people Pubmed me in 20 years and it doesn't come up.

    My husband's name sounds nice, I like it, and I like us being "one unit" by name too.

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  21. I don't think about it too much these days (self identity established and all as you said), but loved your great post/discussion. I kept my name because it's mine in the "I am woman hear me roar" sort of feminist way (see Cutter, above, and Helen Reddy), indeed, but also because I had been with my husband-to-be for about a decade before we actually did the "getting married" thing. And more importantly because I wanted to keep my last name to honor my father who died while I was in college. He married a feminist and they (my parents) raised some strong daughters.

    Our 2 kids (and both of my sister's kids also) have the same middle name, which is my last name. Which is also just a word.

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