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Friday, June 15, 2012

Choosing a Surname

Kacie writes:
I recently came upon your blog, and I love it!! I'm not a mother yet, but I'm already obsessed with finding the perfect names for future spawn. :-) My fiance and I have a long list of future names we might use, but I'm starting to find that I have a more pressing name problem. I REALLY hope you can help us!!
Since we got engaged, I've been internally debating the surname issue. It's a little complicated. My fiance loves his last name, Ba$$, because he believes it links him to his Italian heritage. He also finds it easy to dictate to other people when anyone asks for his name. It is short, sweet, and easy to spell.
I don't really like the name because the only other living relative with the same name is his mother, and we both have a strong distaste for her (we won't get into that whole thing, but she has many issues and did not provide a good childhood for my fiance). I would definitely prefer not to have a link to her.
My last name, Mi$chler, is German, longer, and a little trickier to spell, but it has fantastic associations to my large family, who have pretty much adopted my fiance as one of them (my father is the dad he never had). We are much much closer to my family than his 1-person family.
But he doesn't want to take my name, mostly due to social conformities, and I don't want to take his because of his mom (also: really, a fish?). But I want us to have the same last name.
I actually really love the idea of mashing/creating something new, but we've tried to mash our surnames together and it always sounds similar to a swear word: Ba$ler (ba$tard), Bi$ch (b!itch), etc.
Is there anything we haven't thought of? I really don't know what to do. Please help if you can!

There's hyphenating (with both spouses taking the hyphenated name), which I assume you've thought of, and it works nicely with the two names: I'd probably go with Ba$$-Mi$chler because I prefer that sound, but both ways work.

I think my favorite mash-together name would be Baschler. It sounds like Bachelor, which isn't too bad.

If being connected to his heritage is important to him, are there other family surnames further up the tree that he could switch to, or did the Italian heritage only come down through the Ba$$ males?

But if your fiance loves his surname and wants to follow social norms, I think any of these other options will be a tough sell.

I had a similar situation when I married Paul: I loved my surname/family and disliked his. He wasn't fond of his family either, and was open to other ideas. His favorite idea was choosing an entirely different surname, not connected to either family. We tried out a number of them when giving our name to restaurant hosts. We also considered both taking my name, me hyphenating, both hyphenating, various mash-together options, keeping our own surnames and matching the girls/boys to mine/his, etc.

In the end, I took his name. I was resentful of the social norms, but also found I wanted to follow them and didn't want to explain an alternate choice. I liked that if someone heard my surname and said, "Oh, is that Dutch?" or "Oh, are you related to the Minnesota branch of the family?," I didn't have to say, "Oh, no, not really---we just sort of picked a name." I liked the idea of being able to say to the kids things like "The Thistle side of the family" and "The Paulsurname side of the family." I knew we could have more than one surname in our household and it wouldn't be a huge deal, but I didn't want to. And I didn't mind so much having a different surname than my husband, but I didn't want to have a different surname than my children, or to be the only one in our household with a different name.

It boiled down to ranking the various elements of the choice and choosing the ones that were the highest priority to me---while realizing that every choice had downsides.

I put my own surname in the second-middle-name position (but I use it as the default on any document that allows only one middle name), and we gave it to all the children as their second middle name. I have it spelled out on my license and on my bank accounts: I'm Swistle N. Thistle Paulsurname. If I needed to use a name for a writing column or something, I'd use my maiden name. I also periodically mention how resentful I am of the social norms, which can be soothing.


I think it would be interesting to hear everyone's stories. Did you give up your name, or keep it, or both take something new? Did you struggle with the decision, or was it easy? Have you regretted the choice, or are you happy with it? If you went non-social-norm, has it been a big hassle or no big deal or somewhere in between? If you each kept your own names and then had children, whose name did you give to the children? If you're not married, what do you predict you'd want to do?


Brenda said...

It is such a hard decision! My husband made it very easy for me, he made a suggestion, I went with it and it's been great.

I took my husbands surname, dropped my middle name and took my maiden name as my middle name. I continue to go by my maiden name at work but any other time use my husbands surname.

Works for me!

Meg @ Mr.C and Me said...

I changed my name as soon as I could. My dad and I never had a good relationship so I felt no ties to his name and as I have a brother, felt no need to "carry on" the name either. People constantly mispelled my maiden name and I was always at the end of every list (last name started with a T). Now I'm at the top of the list, starting with "C", I get to say Carty like Party, my husband and I are our own litte unit, and I love that when we have children we'll all share the same name. :)

Me said...

I changed my last name the moment I could and left my maiden name behind. It was D1ck. If it wasn't for the negative social connotations maiden name had it may have been more difficult. My family was never offended which is good.

Ginny said...

Ooh, I think you all will love this! It's just lots of people -- mostly women, some men -- talking about how they dealt with the last name problem, and how they feel about it in retrospect, and what they are doing or planning to do with their kids' names. My story is in there too!

I like Swistle's suggestion of Baschler: it sounds like a real name and isn't too hard to spell or pronounce.

The thing I eventually came to terms with was that there's no perfect solution: each of them has its drawbacks. It's a matter of weighing the pros and cons, based on which factors are most important to you.

Anonymous said...

I took my husband's name. While I love my family and the history, my maiden name is difficult to say/spell and it's very uncommon and I don't like sticking out!! His last name is common so I was very glad to take it! If he had a terrible last name we would have done something else (he agrees!) But we would have had the same last name regardless- we and our children are one family.

Martha said...

A great question for discussion! I wanted my husband to take my last name. His is very common (sixth most common in the US) and my last name has a very strong heritage and background, and I am one of five girls so none of my sisters or I will pass on the name. We discussed the idea, he was open to it, but his parents HATED it. We discussed me keeping my last name and him keeping his, but he wanted us to share a last name. The final solution, after discussing it with family friends who did the same thing, was for me to hyphenate my last name, him to keep his, and our kids to have his last name. We have been married for seven years now and I am very pleased with the decision. Ultimately, we thought that we didn't want to burden our children with a sixteen character hyphenated last name, which is what my last name is. We plan to use my maiden name as a middle name for one of our sons, which is a tradition in my family.
There are no easy solutions, unfortunately. When you hyphenate, you often pass the decision of what to do on to your children when they marry, but I still think hyphenating is a great option. I love my hyphenated last name but not every last name would have worked with mine. My husband's five character last name sounds distinguished when tacked on to the end of mine, but a longer name wouldn't have worked and I probably would have pushed harder for the option of me keeping my maiden name in that case. I think Swistle's hyphenated name suggestion sounds very distinguished.

hasenfefferinc said...

My husband and I both hyphenated. Our daughter shares our hyphenated name. Before giving this long last name to our kid, we both agreed that we would be fine with whatever she decides to do with it when she grows up--lose my half, David's half, take her spouse's name, do a mash up of some sort, whatever. I love that I wasn't the only one who had to change names, and, as an added bonus, our (admittedly, very liberal, feminist-leaning) friends LOVE it.

Lauren said...

I decided (after much debate) to take my husband's name but never got around to filing the paperwork. It has been 8 years and I'm happily still using my maiden name so I think the choice has been made by my subconscious brain!

The kids occasionally complain that I have a different last name but they are 4 and 6 and it's never for a real reason. "Mommy, you're the only one with a different last name at the dinner table. You should change it so you can be in our club."

Anonymous said...

not a hard decision for me at all. i kept my name, husband kept his, kid got both. she will do as she pleases with her name in the future. i never even considered changing, or did husband. we've not had any trouble at all.

Anonymous said...

I never seriously considered changing, really. My name is long and hard to pronounce, but it was ME for three decades. My husband is as much a part of my family as I am part of his, and if he didn't see the need to change, I didn't either.

Our son has his last name, though. Combining was not an option for us (would have added up to 20 characters, not including the hyphen!). I also wasn't crazy about finding a new or mashed-up name, as connection to family is important to us. I am trying to negotiate for our soon-to-arrive daughter to have my last name, but I think it will be a really tough sell to convince him that siblings can have different surnames and still feel like a pair...

Laurie said...

I had a hard time with this too, especially because my husband's surname is Czech, doesn't roll off the tongue & I end up spelling it a lot for people. I went from H@milton (nice, easy to say, most people can spell that) to Dolez@al. And don't even get me started on the correct Czech pronunciation.

But the deciding factor for me was that I wanted everyone in our household to have the same last name & I didn't want my kids to have a hyphenated last name. I have many friends with long hypenated names growing up & it was just a mouthful. That's my two cents!

Also, my son, neice & nephew LOVE that they share the same surname & whenever they get together, they put their hands in the middle & say "GOOOOO DOLEZ@L" & then collapse in giggles. I die from the cuteness.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

I took my husband's surname, but it wasn't EASY. I fretted for a long, long time about losing my last name. I love it. I love my family. It's easy to spell, which was nice because my first name is ALWAYS problematic for some reason.

My husband's surname is beautiful and French and romantic. But it's hard to spell and pronounce and, well, I have to spell my ENTIRE NAME now.

But I think in the end, it was important to him that I share his surname. And I am a traditional type of gal, so I liked the traditionalism of it, even though I don't like social conventions being FORCED on people. And I replaced my old middle name with my maiden name, which I use for business and will use if I ever write a book.

hillary said...

We went through something similar. My husband's surname is shared only by his brother. His father has not been part of their family since they were quite young. However, my husband is a junior and as such was unwilling to give up his last name for mine. I also liked my last name and did not want to change it. We briefly played with changing our names to a new last name but never found one that we liked more than our own names. So we just kept them. My daughter has my husband's surname and so will future chilldren. So far we are all happy with our names and it hasn't caused any problems. In fact, a lot of mothers I meet through my daughter's school and activities have chosen the same route, including my sister-in-law. A couple of times people have been unsure who my daughter's mom is from looking at a list of parent names, so they email or call my husband instead of me, but that is really not a big deal.

Clarabella said...

My partner & I are not married nor do we intend to any time soon, so it's really neither here nor there, but I think we'll both just keep our last names because it doesn't seem a pressing issue to us. Our son has his last name. Any future children will as well.
But MAINLY, I just wanted to give a shout out to the ORIGINAL POSTER, Kacie, and tell her my last name is only ONE letter (the "L" is a hard consonant in mine) off from hers, also German, and that is about the closest I've seen outside my own family, & that makes me happy. Just a note!

Swistle said...

Anonymous 10:22- Perhaps you can put it to him that spouses can have different surnames and still feel like a pair, and so siblings likely can as well.

L said...

Wow, I'm shocked to see that, as far as commenters go, I'm the minority! I didn't bat an eye at taking my husbands last name, easy decision. It had nothing to do with the names, for me I love the idea of two becoming one in every sense, including the traditional route of taking his name. It wasn't for his parents, it was for us, it was his name. I think if he loves his name what an amazing way to show him you respect him and are willing to honor him by taking it. It doesn't have to be a loss on your part. Just my two cents! Congratulations!

Megan said...

This was a struggle for my husband and I as well. He is biracial/bicultural and so felt strongly about keeping his last name...but as a women's studies major, he also didn't want me to "just" take his name. So we hypenated- feeling it would be important for everyone in our eventual family to have the same name. 7 years later I really, really wish that I had just taken his name. I hate having to explain/spell the name every time..."it's two words, hypenated, first is..." and I hate that our kids are saddled with such a long last name and it makes booking plane tickets/applying for credit cards/ filling out any online form a total pain. That said, I am glad that we all have the same last name, and it certainly does make us unique.

Anonymous said...

So just to try a different spin on your sounds like because of whatever problems your husband has with his mother, he is the ONLY Ba$$ that matters, and if you were to take his name, then the two of you would be the Ba$$ family, along with any children that you had, transforming Ba$$ from the crummy name of the crummy family that he came from into the fantastic name of the fantastic family that he created.

Joining a fantastic family might also feel satisfying for him, but I think it can be hard to feel the same sense of ownership when a family is already as strong and well established as yours sounds like it is. One of the things I personally like about my husband's name is not having to share it with anyone...the ties to my big, crazy, force-of-nature family are strong enough that the name is implied even if it's not on any government documents (Maria Shriver is still a Kennedy), but having our own name for just the two of us gives us a sense of autonomy I really value.

Anonymous said...

I originally thought Baschler was the way to go, but I do like the last suggestion that this is your chance to transform the Ba$$ name!
I kind've want to share my naming story too :) For my entire single life I had a very manly, Scottish "Mc" last name. While I always thought it was just ok, my Grandpa was so proud of it and eager for it to carry on that I thought I'd probably get talked into keeping it. TURNS OUT my Grandpa is not actually a "Mc" but the result of my Great Grandma's torrid affair!! A bit of a shocker to learn this late in life, but his real father's last name is going to make a perfect middle name for my future son, and I feel free to take my fiancees last name which is THE most common name, but it's also my occupation which I kind of like.
Good like deciding! I think your names mishmash quite nicely.

Anonymous said...

I kept my last name, my husband kept his. When it came to our kids, we thought of many options - giving them his last name, my last name, hyphenated, or a boy getting his last name & a girl getting my last name. In the end, we gave each our boy and girl my last name as a second middle name and his last name as theirs.

We call ourselves by both last names - the Rudolph Jens Family (name made up!) We often get mail for the Jens family, I'm sometimes called Mrs. Jens and my husband occasionally gets called Mr. Rudolph. The kids (who are 3 & 5) know themselves as Jacob Jens and Emily Jens, or Jacob Andrew Rudolph Jens and Emily Anne Rudolph Jens if they're practicing their full names or wanting to sound fancy! You get the picture.

It all works for us and hasn't been complicated at all. We live in Canada and, amongst my contemporaries, it seems about 50/50 women keeping their maiden names or taking their husband's. I know two couples who took a new name for both of them when they married. I also know two families in which the kids have the mom's last name. This is the great thing about living in pluralistic, open societies - you really can choose what's right for you without offending many (if any) people!

Anne said...

T and I are both female, so we don't have a set of social norms telling us what to do with our last names. We are closer to my family, but in the end we decided to both keep our own last names. Baby boy, due in July, will have the same last name as me, and will have T's last name as his second middle name. I was worried about the paperwork hassle of a second middle name, but you told me that all of your kids had second middle names and it was fine, so we're going with it. :)

Esther said...

My husband and I each added my maiden name as a second middle name. Yes, we have very long "official" names now, but I like that we both share our surnames without the hassle of hyphenating (our last names were too long to consider that.) Our two kids both have four names: First Middle Mylastname Hislastname. Normally they just go by First Hislastname, but again I like that "my" name is still in there officially! If they want to drop any part of their names as adults, that's fine by me... you can't add names forever I guess. :)

Elizabeth said...

I read an article last year on The Baby Name Wizard that might be of help. Here it is:

StephLove said...

I'm in a lesbian relationship so there was no convenient social norm. We each kept our own names and hyphenated them for the kids. We are considering adopting the hyphenated name ourselves when/if we can get legally married. (We live in Maryland where it's on the ballot in November.) The kids like their name and there have been so significant downsides. The reason we're thinking of changing our own names is so that everyone can have the same one. It seems like it would be a little hard to acclimate, though, after 45 years with the same name. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

At first, I wanted to keep my last name. I considered doing the hyphen, but my husband asked me not to. He thought it just complicated matters and was a "failure to make a decision". He didn't pressure me to take his name at all, he just wanted me to pick one or the other. What finally changed my mind was the thought of having kids. I come from a blended family and spent my entire life having to explain the 3 different surnames, along with the various family connections involved. It dawned on me that for the first time, I had the opportunity to avoid all of that. I still feel a connection to my maiden name, but I like having the name connection to the family I have created with my husband. In your case, I really like the hyphen-if you are both willing to take it.

Anonymous said...

I took my husbands name and wish I hadn't. It sounds pretty to but looks ugly and nobody ever pronounces it right from seeing it written. And people always assumes its a different ethnicity than it is. And I just find it bothersome to spell and explain. And now we have a daughter. We adopted her and she had to take our last name. And I feel bad for her getting burdened with this name when her original last name was so easy and better reflected her roots.

Anonymous said...

You say that your husband's mother is his only living relative that shares his name...has that been the case his whole life? If he has grandparents, aunts, uncles, or a dad who may have passed away before you had a chance to meet them (or even before he had a chance to meet them), it might be a good idea to ask him to tell you any stories he has about them that are meaningful to him. Whatever you end up deciding to do about the are symbolically joining his family just as much as he is joining yours, even if his "family" is just him so far.

Anonymous said...

I think this is hard for most every woman.... I liked my name and didn't really want to change it but I did and I'm glad I did. I am glad that we and our children all have the same last name and feel like one unit.

If I really hated my husband's last name and he didn't want to change it, I would probably consider keeping my last name and giving our sons his last name and our daughters my last name.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how it's respecting and honoring him to take his name, but not to have him take hers? And if taking the same name makes them one, probably she should take his first name too.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of some children I went to high school with, they had a hyphenated name of both of their parents last names. Then the parents ended up divorcing (not trying to be negative, at all!) and the mom remarried, and took her new husbands name. So the kids and Dad had a hyphenated name, and mom had a different name. It was a strange situation, and seemed awkward for the kids, whose names were eventually changed to Dad's last name. Obviously this is a rare situation, too.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure it's a gesture of honor and respect whether a woman takes her husband's name or a man takes his wife's name...and usually not a sign that honor or respect is missing when an individual decides that changing their name doesn't work for them, for whatever reason.

Anonymous said...

It was a completely easy choice for me and I didn't give it a second thought - I took my husband's last name. I've always been a traditional sort, so I thought that was the way to go. I'm pretty indifferent to what last name I like better, since both are one syllable and easy to spell/pronounce. I know my husband would have been completely disappointed if I didn't end up taking his last name - mainly for reasons of family unity, with a little masculine pride thrown in. I do plan on giving my maiden name as a middle name to one of our future children and feel I can honor my side of the family by doing so.

Anonymous said...

I took my husband's last name, but kept my last name as a second middle name, and he added my last name as a second middle name. I love that he changed his name to incorporate my name into his name as well.

Been there too... said...

I didn't change my name, mostly because I strongly identified with it but also because I had already established myself professionally with my maiden name. Husband kept his name because of the same reasons. Kid #1 has husband's last name, with my last name as middle name. Kid #2 (due soon) will either have the same middle& last or will have a different surname from my family as a middle. (I really wanted 2 middle names for our kids, to have a set space for my last name, but couldn't convince my husband)

We are very happy with our choice, and have never felt "less" united simply because we have different last names. I've never run into issues having a different last name as my kid either. We travel a lot, and I do make sure to carry a copy of kid's birth certificate with me when flying or crossing borders, but no one has ever asked for it, or questioned the different last names.

My husband's parents divorced & remarried others when he was very young, and he was raised by his mom & stepdad. So their household had 3 last names-- his (his dad's), his mom's (she switched back to her maiden name after the divorce), and his step-dad's. As far as I know, they never had any problems with this. For reference, they lived in the pacNW and we've lived all over the pacNW and upper Midwest US. Not sure if geographical location makes a difference in how people react...?

Change, don't change, or make up a new name-- just follow your hearts! And know that you aren't alone in making a tough decision and having to weigh family history, identity, emotions, careers, and social norms... There are many of us who have struggled with the same decision. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I kept my name. Though it's the most generic name there is -- $mith, it has always been my name. I was strongly in favor of keeping it, of not taking on another person's name and losing my identity. (Though I don't look down upon anyone who makes a different choice, I understand the simplicity of everyone having the same name, etc.) My husband was fine with my keeping my name, and, since he's Colombian, we went with the Colombian tradition for our child (and will do the same for the second child due any day). We wanted the two last names to always go together, so the child's last name is hyphenated. First Name Middlename HusbandLast-Smith. Works well for our family. Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

I took my husband's name because it was easier. I was worried I'd lose my identity of course, but luckily it turned out there was more to my identity than just my name! :)

Allison said...

So you married ladies are telling me that my choices are to honor and respect my husband or else keep my identity? Tough call. I wonder if there's an option to honor and respect my husband and also keep my identity? I feel like I could do that whichever way I decided on the name.

Jessica said...

I hate my husband's surname. It's a pain-in-the-ass name no one can pronounce or spell. I took it because I wanted to have the same name as my (eventual) children. We've been married for five years (and now have two kids) and it does kind of feel like it's just my name now, but I still don't especially like it. It feels "right", but still annoying.

I took my maiden name as my middle name (dropping my original middle name) and it does make me feel better to have my maiden name on my driver's license and such. It's especially nice since, though I've tried SEVERAL times, I can't get one credit card to switch to my married name and if someone asks for ID when I use it, the name on the card (Jessica MaidenName) is on my license (which says Jessica MaidenName MarriedName). Saves a lot of hassle!

Jessica said...

After reading Life of A Doctor's Wife's comment, I am at least happy that though I now have a hard last name my first name is very easy!

I know it comes up often here and I'm in the minority on this one, but I really love having a common name. People don't constantly mess it up or need clarification. I get asked all the time what nationality our last name is and it's nice not to have people asking (nicely, I'm sure) the origin/story of a unique first name.

Karen L said...

I came to regret taking my husband's surname about 5 or 6 years later (6 or 5 years ago). I just miss my old name, H0bbs. I just like it better than L3w. And I really started to miss it once I was naming children. Missing it for its own sake and also because it's easier to work with for choosing baby names. I didn't want to think about it too hard at the time but I do resent the social norms. Anyway, I had wanted the same name for everyone and since my husband is of Chinese descent, I think it would be problematic to suggest his taking an English/White name.

If I had it to do over, I would consider either,
a) I change to L3w and add H0bbs as a second middle name AND he adds H0bbs as a middle name (he has none) - or -
b) we keep our surnames and I add L3w as a middle, he adds H0bbs as a middle - and/or -
c) we keep our surnames but boys get his surname, girls get mine. Which, at the time, would not have seemed like much of a break from tradition because we were not expecting to have daughters. There had been 19 boys in a row, across 3 generations in his family. But we do have one daughter.

I am hoping that if/when my children are naming children, that people will be looking further afield Cooper/Jackson/... for surname-names and they'll consider H0bbs for their babies.

If I still miss H0bbs once the kids are out of the house, I might revert even to H0bbs.

On the topic, one of my close friends insisted that while he had no opinion on whether his wife takes his name (her name after all, she can do whatever she likes) but he'd put his foot down when it comes to his children's names, it is simply a man's prerogative (his words: man's prerogative) his pass down his name. Which made me see red, oh yes, indeed.

Janelle said...

Oh dear, I feel like this discussion is on the verge of a misunderstanding. One commenter said that for her, taking her husband's name was a way to show respect and honor to him, and she wanted to do that.

BUT! it does NOT mean that failure to take someone's name means you don't respect or honor them. There are many ways to show honor, and this is one of them. You could think of it in the same light as giving a child a grandparent's name: having another person's name is one of many ways to show a connection to them. So a woman who takes her husband's surname is saying "You are a person I want to honor and I feel honored to be connected to you through your name" just like naming a baby after a relative. Same thing if a man takes his wife's surname.

But, of course, sometimes we want to honor a person whose name we hate, and perhaps in that case, it's best to have a different option. The honor is still there, though the connection is not obvious to other people.

I'm not married, but I will likely take my husband's surname when I marry, because I like variety, and I want my family to have one name in common.

Michelle said...

I kept my maiden name as my new middle name and took his surname. I have never felt that in doing so I lost anything. I mean, it wasn't just someone else's name that I took. It's my husband's, and my new family's. They were proud to offer it, and I was proud to accept it. Besides, as another poster said, I am so much more than my name.

phancymama said...

My mom married my dad in the early 1970s and kept her maiden name, and my brother and I have her last name as our middle name, and dad's as our last. And we were known as the momsname-dadsnames, and I can't recall even one time that it was confusing or really even that I noticed as a kid.
So, I also kept my name when married, and our daughter has my husband's last name. I didn't consider hyphenating, but that is only because our names rhyme (think Delaney and Muhlaney, or Anders and Sanderson). Also for that reason, my daughters middle name is my mom's last name, and I'm still a little cranky about that, but I couldn't punish my daughter for my own desires.
Truth be told, it is a little difficult to read the comments that say a variation of wanting everyone to have the same name to feel like a family, or changing a name to feel like a unit, because it makes me feel like it is implied that by not all having the same name, my family hasn't been able to achieve the same cohesiveness. (I know that isn't being said, and the flip side is that all the comments about keeping names to keep identity implies that the people who change their names lose their identity.).
So, I might be a little cranky about that too.
I kept my name because 1) my mom did, so it was a viable option my whole life, 2) I like flaunting patriarchal social norms, and 3) most importantly, ___ ____ ____ is simply my name.
Oh, and I gave kiddo husband's last name, because frankly, it. is a more interesting and unique, yet still easy to pronounce and spell, last name.

Jenna said...

When my husband and I married, I was pleased to take his last name... not because it was cool or sounded better or gave me great initals... but because I was honored to accept the role of being his wife.

Times change, and I realize that some cultures use surnames differently (from Columbia to Norway), but in America, as many have said, it IS the "social norm" for a wife to take her husband's surname. I'm unsure why that is considered a negative!

For the original poster: I agree with Anonymous at 12:48pm. YOU could be the feminine face of the Bass family from now on (which sounds like a major improvement over his mother). You have the opportunity to change a family tree!

Bad people have kids, too... but you're kids will have a totally different type of childhood than your husband. And, really, what does that have to do with any last name?

Anonymous said...

I think Janelle's analogy to naming a child after a grandparent is a really great one...of course it's a significant and meaningful gesture to share a name with someone else, but that doesn't mean it's the only way to achieve that kind of meaning.

For the original poster, it sounds like an invented combo name (I don't think Ba$ler sounds particularly like bastard at all), a hyphenated name (only three syllables total!), finding a way to think about taking her husband's name that isn't so focused on his mother, or helping her husband feel more comfortable about breaking social convention and taking her name all seem like workable options if it is important to them to share a name. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I think something going unmentioned here so far is that some names are simply much easier to live with, work with, spell, and combine first names with!

I think what would be most adaptive and creative would be for couples about to marry to have to come up with a new family name for their new family. Not necessarily a mash-up, but something inspiring.....But it would probably quickly get crazy if their was such a requirement.

When I married I was a single mom who had given my daughter her father's last name. (Major, major regret, even decades later). I took my husband's last name because I didn't want each of us to have different surnames. About ten years later, and having had another daughter together, he ended up adopting the daughter I'd had (her biological father died) and then we all shared the same name for awhile.

Anonymous said...

I was going to keep my last name, but my husband wanted me to change to his, so I compromised by hyphenating - still a sore point with my husband, for some reason. I have done some genealogical research on my family, and the female lines often become dead ends because you can't find out their maiden names. I realize this is no longer a problem, but it bothers me that my female ancestors were just property of their husbands - they were somebody's little girls, too, darn it! I gave my daughter my husband's surname, which didn't bother me - she is at least related to him by blood, after all.
Ooh, and some people have trouble with the hyphenated name (pharmacies and such), but not as many as you might think.

Mia said...

I am in a weird position with regard to surnames right now. My maiden name was Harper (common, eh?). I married a man with the last name Sweetman. I took his last name for a while, but when I changed my first and middle names, I also adopted the last name Harper-Sweetman, which matched the kids we had together. Later, we divorced and I remarried and took my new husband's name, Soderquist, because, let's face it, it is an awesome last name. It has a Q, for goodness' sake! But we've since divorced.

In the meantime, I was forced to have my birth certificate amended to match my name change because the state I live in wouldn't accept my original birth certificate + court order for name change as ID, even with all the marriage and divorce certificates to show the chain of identity... So now I can't legally revert to my maiden name, because it's been pretty much erased. I could go back to my first married name, but while I like my first husband well enough to be his friend, I don't like him well enough to take his name back. So I use Soderquist for all instances that require my legal name and Harper everywhere else.

Now I am kind of pre-engaged, and I plan to take my future husband's last name... unless we can come up with something better. :)

Kristin said...

Wow! I guess I am the only one who has kept my name AND gave my kids my name!
My last name is unique. It's hard to spell but I have a super common first name, and I'm 99% sure I'm the only person in the world who has my first and last name combination. My partner on the other hand has a very common last name, and I've never considered taking it. We're in a long term relationship and we've chosen not to get married for a variety of reasons, mostly because we feel it's a waste of money and I would never change my name anyway. Traditionally marriage and taking your husband's name was simply a transfer of property; you left your father's care and were now owned by your husband. As feminists this is in no way appealing to us.
When we got pregnant I was pretty sure I wanted my kids to share my unique last name with me. My partner had no issue with this, so all our kids will have my last name! Matriarchal family, I guess :)

Melle Alberts said...

I've been married two times and the first time I jumped at the chance to change my name as my maiden name is hard to spell/pronounce (it is actually pronounced differently within the family!).

The second time around I hypenated our names and used that until our son was born. Now I just go by my husband's last name and I really have no regrets about it. My identity is much more than what is reflected in my last name.

However, as a teen, I was very tempted to change my last name to my mother's maiden name when our dad briefly left the family. But that would've been yet another hard to spell and pronounce ethnic name. The good thing was, it represented the side of the family that was more supportive and nurturing.

I do know that our son likes us all having the same last name. We did give a shout-out to my maiden name by choosing a first name for our son that starts with the same letter and uses the same number of letters. It also an alternate version of my paternal grandfather, dad's and brother's names.

Nedra said...

My husband and I went through this when we got married. It was really important to me hat we have the same name. But I didn't like the sound of my first name with my husband's last name. My husband wanted to take my maiden name, but I was also pretty sick of that one too because it is a common female first name and I wanted to stop the confusion of people thinking my first name was my last name.

We considered a "blended" name and both of the possible combinations would have sounded good and like real names. But one of them sounded similar to a bully who picked on my husband in elementary school. And the other... I don't know, it just didn't feel right.

We looked back at our family trees, but again, nothing felt quite right.

I ended up pushing for hyphenation. I liked that it would keep both families' names intact and that it would still give our future kids the possibility of JUST passing on my husband's surname (since his surname is more rare). I also liked that it would be an easier choice to explain to folks.

Our grandparents still address stuff to us using my husband's surname. I don't want to make a fuss over it, so we don't. But sometimes I wish we'd chosen a completely different name so that it would be more clear to them that we do NOT go by his surname.

Most of the time I am happy with our choice, although I will admit that it took me at least a year to feel comfortable in my new name and not wonder if we'd made a mistake. People still call me by my maiden name as my first name, so it didn't solve that problem. And now a few people have even accidentally called my husband by my maiden name as his first name too!

Overall, I think the biggest benefit to hyphenation is the flexibility. I kept my email address the same ("first.maiden@...") and it doesn't confuse people who know me by my married name because my maiden name is right there in my married. If we'd done a mash-up it would be harder to explain that it wasn't a typo in my email address. Same thing for credit cards. I have one card that does not allow my full married name due to the length. So I just left it with my maiden name. Not a problem -- at least for that credit card company -- and it's clear to others that I'm not a thief.

Overall, I've grown used to it and I like it. But, at least in my case with our particular combo, it has made finding baby names all that much harder because of the length, and needing to sound good with both last names. It's just more complicated. But that's why we have Swistle!

One final thing: a lot of people have insinuated that we're just passing on problems to our kids for when THEY get married. I have to say that I just don't buy this argument. I think that we all have the same choices to make, it's just that some people feel more comfortable with that choice being already made for them. If we have a child who gets married, we will not pressure him/her into hyphenating as we have done. Our kids will get to make the choice that works best for them as we've been able to make the choice that worked best for us. If they WANT some guidance about which of the two names to continue, I'd advocate for passing on my husband's surname as it is more rare. But that's only if they are looking for advice. It doesn't matter to us whether they keep one, both or none of our surname parts and so I don't see how passing along TWO reasonable options to our kids will make it problematic for them. If you hyphenate, there will always be people who will jokingly/sarcastically ask you, "what happens if Jane Smith-Johnson marries John Jones-Wilson"? And the answer will be (as it should for EVERY surname) "That's up to them."

Anandi Raman Creath said...

Fascinating! I got married just short of 30 years old so I had my maiden name for a long time and wasn't ready to give it up. Also, it reflects my Indian heritage and changing to my hubby's last name would have been sort of weird-sounding with my first name (which is also Indian). but I did want to change *something* to signify our marriage.

But I didn't want to hyphenate (not sure why, just don't like the look of it) nor did I want to relegate my maiden name to my middle name, which would eventually get dropped.

So I changed my last name to be two last names - mine and his, with no hyphen. It works great. Some computer systems automatically put in a hyphen but it's easy to correct. Some people drop my maiden name thinking it's a middle name or whatnot, but I correct them too, and 7 years later, nearly everyone uses the correct last name for me (by the second try anyway!).

Our kids have just his last name (I didn't want to complicate matters, also if we have a son, his middle will be my maiden name) and when we go somewhere together, I'm fine being "The HisName Family".

We did discuss him changing his name to match my two-name last name, but he had some concerns since he's the only grandson on the paternal side of his family and wanted to pass down his name "as is",so to speak. I'm cool with that.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were sure we wanted to have the same last name (there's something about being called "The Somethings" that I liked) but we were both sure we didn't want to give up our names and our link to our ancestry (I had a very traditional Jewish name, he a very Irish one). So we looked at all possible combinations and decided to both adopt two last names, His Name My Name, with no hyphen. The no hyphen thing gets confusing sometimes (most people assume it's hyphenated) but it generally works. Everyone knows us and our son by our two last names and I love that we both kept our heritage and get to share the names.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm the only mashup...?

Husband and I wanted the same name; neither was especially interested in keeping our own name (to make long stories short) nor were we interested in taking one another's names. Husband (before we were even engaged) suggested our last names meshed well together to become a name that sounded good (and it's an actual existing surname). So now we are the Ourlasts (Stryk3r); it's similar enough to Hislast and Mylast that we don't get a ton of double takes and we feel like a real team. His parents were totally on board with it; his grandma was a different story (again, more historical drama) but eventually she came around.

Jenny said...

Before we got married there were two things we bickered about a lot: What to Do with My Name, and What to Do with My Hair, which had always been short. I came up with the Great Compromise, offering to grow my hair out if I could keep my name, and he agreed. We're coming up on 5 years, and I think we did the right thing for us; in fact, I've offered to change my name anyway and he's declined. Both our names are impossible so it would have been like going from Ms. Flugelhorn to Ms. Glockenspiel anyway.

liz said...

I took my husband's last name, but not without a lot of angst.

Brooke said...

I took my maiden name as my middle name and dropped my "old" middle name. I was very much wanting to take his name, and my messy, hard-to-spell maiden name that easy. I do know of a couple who wanted to have a sort-of new name, and they made it work. Let's say they were Mary Dawn Jones and he was Daniel Charles Walsh. The wife took her husband's last name and added it to her own, so she became Mary Dawn Jones Walsh, with Jones Walsh (no hyphen as her legal last name). He took her maiden name as a second middle name, becoming Daniel Charles Jones Walsh, but Walsh is his only legal last name. Socially, they are the Jones Walshes. I thought it was a cool way for everyone to win.

liz said...

"And if taking the same name makes them one, probably she should take his first name too."

Actually, this really was the case up until recently. Look at newspaper reports from the 1960's and before. "Mrs. Thomas Smith of 14 Lark Street had a garden party on Saturday attended by Mrs. Mark Jones, Mrs. John Jenkins, and Mrs. Carl Miller"

Marriage was two becoming one, and that one was the husband. And this is one of the many reasons why I'm still torn by my decision to stop being a Ube11 and change my name to Miller.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting married next year and we still have not decided what to do. My fiancé and I both have only sisters, and he wants me to take his name. I'm not completely opposed, but I do find it very irritating that he is not willing to take my last name as a second middle. That way, we'd share both names, even if socially, we go by his.

But what I find even more unbelievable is that most men think it's a given that their children will have their names, even if their wives don't. If anyone should have the same last name as their child, it should be the mother. I don't consider it "feminist" at all to keep your maiden name and give your child his name. Many times, I see unmarried women make this choice, then end up with a child bearing the name of it's deadbeat father!