Truthfully, I did not even seriously consider it. It was a combination of not seeing the point of taking my husband’s name and laziness–I liked my last name (and I still do), I was used to it, and I appreciated not having to fill out any additional forms. It was also a time when most of my friends didn’t change their last names when getting married, so it was not a big deal at all. My husband-to-be didn’t care either, saying that it was my choice.
But although he and I were totally fine with my keeping my maiden name, some others that I’ve met during my nearly 15 year old marriage are gobsmacked by the fact that my husband and I have different last names.
My first indication that this was an issue was when our daughter was born in a Manhattan hospital in 1998. I filled out the application for the birth certificate, listing my husband and his different last name as the father and the nurse told me that since we weren’t married, he’d have to consent to his name being placed on the form. ”But we are married,” I said, as my husband was saying “yes, I consent! That’s my daughter!” The nurse looked at the form again. ”Your last names are different,” she told me, as though that was indicative of anything.
But there has definitely been levity too. When my children were younger, one of them asked me if my parents were siblings, since they had the same last name. In their experience, moms and dads had different last names, whereas siblings often shared a last name.
So what’s in a name? To me, it’s my heritage and identity. To some other people, it’s a lot of confusion and inconvenience. Here are some comments that I have received over the past nearly 15 years about the fact that I have a different last name from my husband and my children.
1. Did you not think that your marriage would last? Yes, and every anniversary has been a bitter reminder that I seem to be losing that bet.
2. Aren’t your children confused about who their mother is? They know it’s the lady who tells them to turn off the TV and do their chores.
3. Why didn’t your husband demand it (as a sign of respect, commitment, etc.)? Because he wanted to live to see another day.
4. I think having the same last name as my husband is easier. I’m sorry you were under the impression that I’m working on legislation to prohibit women from changing their last names.
5. The kids have a different last name, are you their stepmother? (This was at a pediatrician’s office.) ::still thinking of a comeback to this one::
6. Well, if you get divorced, it will be easier. I’m always thinking ahead!
7. I guess that’s what people did in the 90s, right? Feminism and all that. It was either this or demand equal pay for equal work. I chose wisely!
8. But no one will ever call you Mrs! It’s one of the many disappointments I’ve had to learn to live with. It gets a little easier every day.
9. Is it some kind of a political statement? Yes, I’m avoiding the New Last Name Tax.
10. Well, I guess if your husband is ok with it, I’m ok with it. Had I known there was a chance you wouldn’t be ok with it, I would have reconsidered. Stupid youth!
Get a dad’s perspective on the last name situation over on Babble’s Dadding!