Thursday, August 30, 2007

Married name.

When Torsten and I get married, I'm going to change my last name to his.

Although I realize that the majority of American women do change their names when they get married, this was not an obvious decision for me. It was one that I thought through very carefully. And now that I've made the decision, I feel extremely comfortable with it. There were a few different issues that I considered when I thought about changing my name:

1) Unity. It's nice to have the same name as your husband. We are merging our lives, and I am excited to be merging our lives, and I am excited to have a name for the life that will be merged. We are not merging ourselves as two people into one, but that's what first names are for. The shared last name feels like togetherness to me. It's nice to have a little family unit, all with the same name. I like the idea of being "The Xes," as opposed to the "Y/Xes."

2) Kids. I want to have the same last name as my kids. Part of the unity thing, and also part of overall simplicity. I remember in elementary school having a directory of parents, and if someone's mom had a different last name than their dad, it was impossible to find them or if you did find them, to know whose mom they were. Yes, I realize that this was an organizational flaw on the part of my school and that the parents' names could easily have been listed with the kids' names. But I do like the simplicity of being attached to your kids by a name that makes you all recognizable as a family.

3) Career. I am just starting out with my career, and as of yet I don't have anything published under my name (unless you count the few pieces that I had published in magazines when I was in middle and high school, which I do not). My work identity is not tied in with my name. Someday, perhaps it will be. But that will be with my new name, and I'm comfortable with that.

4) Aesthestics. Torsten and I have vaguely similar last names, both one syllable, although mine is very British and his is very German. The name Jess sounds better with my last name. However, my full name, Jessica, sounds better with Torsten's last name. In college, everyone referred to me as Jess Y, because there were three people named Jess in my dorm. However, now that I'm not in college, people refer to me Jessica Y or just as Jess. So aesthetically, this does not make a huge difference. Also, I like the fact that our family name will be very German. Incorporating Torsten's culture into our lives and our kids' lives is very important to me.

5) History. I am not particularly close with my dad's side of the family. The Y name does not hold great meaning for me, or for anyone in my immediate family. In fact, as far as my mother is concerned, being a member of the Y family is more of a pejorative thing, anyway. I feel no real attachment to my last name and will not feel like I am giving up some sort of family tie when I change it.

6) Torsten's opinion. Torsten feels the same as I do in that sharing a name is a sign of our togetherness. He would prefer for me to take his name. If I really didn't want to, he would be okay with that. He's happy that I do want to.

7) Practicality. Torsten's name is shorter and easier to spell than mine. People always spell my name wrong. I hate that. The only thing I dislike about Torsten's last name is that it starts with a letter toward the end of the alphabet, which means that our kids will be last in line for everything at school. But I guess somebody has to be, and maybe they'll have some of those cool teachers who go in reverse alphabetical order for things.

Black Sheeped wrote a really interesting post about why she decided to keep her own last name when she got married. She said some fascinating things about feeling connected to her name, like it's a part of her, personally and professionally. I don't have those feelings about my current last name. But I do have them about Torsten's last name. I feel connected to him, on every level. He and our lives together are a big part of me and my personal life. They don't define me, but they are integral to me. I want my name to reflect that.

So actually, even though she and I made opposite decisions, our reasoning was similar in many ways. And I'm so glad that we both live in a society where we can make those decisions for ourselves, and feel comfortable with them, and not feel the need to justify but rather just to be thoughtful. And I really look forward to being a family with Torsten, and expanding our family to include children, and having one simple name that identifies the entire family as a unit. And I am so happy to become one family unit with Torsten, and be sharing my life with him.


  1. i like the idea of taking my (potential hypothetical) husband's name, in theory. although i do really like my last name (and my dad) and would like to see it continued with my kids. but obviously that wouldn't work unless my hubs agreed to take MY name, which doesn't seem that common. or likely.

  2. I am currently struggling with this very same issue. I have no idea what I'm going to do. Reading your post and Black Sheeped post have been enlightening, but I still have no idea. It is great that we have these options though!

  3. Alice--You know, before I met Torsten when I only thought about marriage in a totally abstract way, I figured that I'd always keep my last name because why should I change mine any more than he should change his? But I have heard of people doing all sorts of different things, including using the woman's name or creating a brand new last name that is a blend of both people's names. But yeah, you're right that those things aren't so common.

    Flibberty--I look forward to reading your own agonized post about this issue sometime in the future. I am eager to hear what you decide and why.

  4. You do have to do what you're comfortable with. I know a couple in which the man took the wife's last name, because she had a son from another relationship with a hyphenated last name, and the mom having yet another last name would confuse the issue even more.

    A boy at my son's school has a hyphenated last name, and his first name is the same as another boy's in the class. They are referred to as Joe S. and Joe M-L. That's a bit much to me.

  5. I think that hyphenating kids' names must have been popular in the early '80s, when I was born, because tons of kids in my class had hyphenated names. But that can't continue because if all the hyphenated kids grow up and marry each other and do the same thing to their kids, eventually people will have like sixteen last names.

  6. I'm glad we have the option, too. I wish there were better options, though. I took Paul's last name, but I don't like his last name and I don't like his family, and I felt attached to my own last name, and also I feel indignant that things would be set up this way. But--I chose what would be least confusing, because I dislike confusion.

  7. I'm looking forward to taking his last name because I like it. It's different (Russian), unlike my last name. Of course, this will mean that his sister and I will have the same name!

  8. This is such an interesting issue to me. I didn't keep my last name, for many of the reasons you mentioned, and also because I never really liked it. It's long, spelled weird, and confusing.

    I think if I got married NOW though, it would be a tougher decision. There are a whole separate bunch of issues with BR's last name, since he's Hispanic and we all look like your typically Whitey.