Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunkist Miss by any other name

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” – Anne Shirley in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.

So, then, what did Sunkist Miss decide to do about her hyphenated name when she got married, and why?

Short answer: I kept my name. My husband kept his name. We will give our kids hyphenated names. Don’t worry, they will only have one hyphen. It will be my_mom’s_name-his_dad’s_name.

Longer answer: I couldn’t see myself getting changing my name. My name is very tied into my identity. This is perhaps true for different people to different degrees. For me it is certainly the case.

That said, I really want to feel like the (hypothetical) kids have a family name, not just one of their parent’s names. Because of this desire to have an identifiable family-name it was also important to me to decide ahead of time what we would plan on naming our hypothetical children; after all, depending on the answer it might affect what I wanted to do with my name. This is because the answer that would be most unacceptable to me would be to keep my name but give my kids only my husband’s name.

I felt that the kids’ names should be identifiable (which is not to say identical) with the names of both parents. After all, that’s what my parents did and it worked well for us. We clearly had a family name, people could easily identify us with our parents by name, and yet they each kept their own name. As an added benefit, my cousins also had hyphenated names, so our names were also identifiable with theirs. I liked this idea in theory, although I would also have been fine with an option where we all chose to have the same hyphenated name as each other (but that didn’t make sense for us for a variety of reasons). Both of these answers (in contrast with the more traditional everyone, or everyone except mom, takes dad’s name) recognize that both parents are independent individuals with their own histories and identities coming together to make a new family identity. Neither of them is wholly subsumed by the other, nor do they remain completely independent.

Longer Still: Ask me in person. :)

PS. I was talking about this with a friend recently, who is also thinking about what to do with her name when she gets married. But there’s an added twist. She’s German, and apparently in Germany if you are not taking your husband's name you have to declare what your children’s last-name will be when you get your marriage-license. Now there’s some added pressure! I actually wanted to think about this up-front myself, because I felt that what I named my kids and what I did with my own name were not independent of each other, but it certainly wasn’t required by law!

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