I am getting married, for the third time. I swore I’d never marry again, but I adore my fiancé and have no intention of ever living without him.
In the previous two marriages, I changed my name for practical purposes when I married. I was getting annoyed with families where the mother was Smith, the father was Jones, the children were Smith-Jones; three names for one family. In one case, the parents alternated last names, the first and third children being called Smith, the middle one called Jones. I always have to remember whether the second child has the father’s or the mother’s name, and so on. It all seemed fruitlessly complicated, since this madness could only last one generation. Would the childrens’ children be called So-and-So Smith-Jones-Berkowitz-DiMarco, taking the hyphenated names of both sets of parents?
I started as Ann A, married my first husband, B, so my name was Ann AB. Then I married my second husband, so my name was ABC. When I divorced him I reverted to my maiden name. I was now Ann ABCA, which I shortened once again to Ann A.
Now I am marrying my third husband, D. Historically speaking, my name would now be Ann ABCAD. When I meet someone I haven’t seen in a long time, it is sometimes difficult to know whether they remember me as Ann A, Ann B, Ann C, or, again, Ann A.
The philosophical purpose for retaining one’s maiden name is illogical as regards women’s liberation, since my maiden name is also the name of a man. I had to choose whether to take the name of a man who was given to me, my father, over the name of a man I chose, my husband. If I want my mother’s maiden name as my name that, again, would be the name of a man. In women’s liberation terms, it would make sense to choose a moniker in the medieval tradition — Ann the Tall, or Ann the Writer.
My tentative solution to this is to retain my maiden name, Ann A, most of the time, but after we’re married the doorman will know me as Mrs. D, and the grocer, too.
I worry that some day he might be in need of urgent help, and I would arrive with all my documents in the name of Ann A. They might demand proof we were married. Would I have to carry around my marriage license?
Isn’t it amazing that people manage to stagger about their business with names that don’t serve to identify them very well at all. I know of men who are married to other men, and have become Mr. and Mr. A-B. I know one case where both men both took the name of the husband who was the biological father of the child they were raising.
Besides marital names, many of us, male and female, have taken anonymous online names, sometimes two or three.
This posting is confusing, and purposely so. What a gnarled mess we have gotten ourselves in. I’ll figure it out before we get married so I don’t have to traipse back into court for a name change.
P.S. When my son married, he decided to take my maiden name, by which I have been going for the past 15 years, as his last name, saying “You’re my family, mom.” I was, and am, tremendously touched that he did this. His wife took his name, er, my name, too. Meanwhile, my daughter joined a religious group which had a method for determining which spiritual name best suited her, and she has changed her first name, while keeping the name of her father.