What's In A Name: Should Women Change Their Last Name After Marriage?

"Hello! My Name is Ummmmm......."

Have you ever been stuck where you're having an identity crisis?

Going thru marriages and divorces, not liking your first name and changing it, then not liking your last name and changing it. Back and forth, and back and forth! Changing all the legal papers, passport, social security card, driver's license, bank accounts etc... the list is endless! It can be a bureaucratic nightmare and extremely exhausting to say the least.

Then one day you decide to get rid of your last name altogether.

Why not be like the rock stars: Cher, Prince, Madonna and others who are known only by their first name? Well I did get to that place recently and decided to make a trip to the Social Security Office to better understand all that would be involved and to fill out the appropriate forms.

There I met a woman who was waiting for her number to be called. She was clearly very upset. I happened to spot the only vacant seat available and found myself seated next to her. She shared with me the reason she was there. She had recently applied for a name change and decided to keep only her first name. What a coincidence! Maybe she could enlighten me on the process so I wouldn't have to spend an hour waiting for my turn.

I said, "That's great! Do you feel better now that you're not burdened with someone else's name? How freeing, is it not?" At which point she pulled out her new Social Security card and showed it to me. The card said " Brittany NLN" I said " Hmmm... What is NLN? I thought you said you dropped your last name?" It appears NLN stands for "No Last Name". Horror of horrors! I contemplated on this long and hard. Did I want my last name to be "NLN"?? What a dilemma.

If you're contemplating marriage then you're probably wondering whether you should change your name to your spouse's. That is an open-ended question as there is no right or wrong answer. Aside from the fact that having the same monogram would make it easier to get fancy towels for the bathroom and stationery, and having joint bank accounts and filing joint taxes may make life simpler, the choice is really yours to make.

Unlike in the past when women were legally required to change their last names for their marriages to be recognized, we now have the freedom to make this decision for ourselves.

A recent google survey conducted by the New York Times indicated women keeping their maiden names after marriage is on the rise with more than 20% of women deciding to keep their names and nearly 10% opting for hyphenated names. For these women their name is a crucial part of their identity and they cite that it's not necessary to become a different person simply because they exchanged vows. They wouldn't expect their partners to change his last name would they, so why should they change theirs?

Some just don't want to deal with the hassle of changing it legally because of all the paperwork involved. Others prefer the sound of their last name saying that they felt their probable husband's last name was lame! A woman told me that since she was the last branch on her family tree to carry the name it was left to her to carry the torch so she opted to keep her maiden name.

Then there is the whole online search engine to consider. In an age where much of our identity and our work exists online, and where Google results are based on the name you have established, the way people know you are you, your recognizable identity can disappear in the blink of an eye. Not to say your friends may even reject your Facebook friend request because they do not recognize your last name.

For the ones who want to have their cake and eat it too, they would rather opt for hyphenated last names. This way they are signaling their devotion to their partner while still retaining their identity. They feel it's also easier on their children in the long run so they get to have a part of one another's family names.

While you may think that taking your husband's last name is a sexist and retro tradition, a recent study shows that as many as 65% of women in their 20s and 30s changed their last names after marriage. These women seemed unattached to their names in any meaningful way and did so simply because they liked taking part in the tradition, out of a sense of forming a union with someone. They wanted to "feel married" and also to make it easier for their children.

Some preferred their partner's last name because it just sounded "better" and easier to say than their own maiden name. Others did so out of an obligation to their families. Their husband and his family might be appreciative and feel honored that they had taken his last name.

Although the decision is theoretically an open one, and yours to make without prejudice or judgment from others, that choice may not be free of social pressure and cultural context. Some men question their spouse's loyalty, with one who as much as said," One family, one name. If she didn't take my name I'd seriously question her faith in us lasting as a couple. And I don't want hyphenated kids."

Too bad it's not more of an equal conversation between the sexes. Men who marry women are never taught to even consider changing their names now are they?

So what's the right choice?

There is none. It's really your choice and others should respect your decision.

© Rani St. Pucchi, 2016

What are your thoughts on women who keep their last names? Would you hold on to yours or adopt your partner's? Feel free to comment and share.

For more information on Rani St. Pucchi please visit www.ranistpucchi.com