Monday, June 23, 2008

How about this? Don't change your name.

Name change tricky for working women [I guess the change is simpler for the lazy bums who can't find a job?], at [where the Women's issues are shoved] via AngryBlackBitch.

Well before her wedding, Lauren Abraham decided she would take her husband's last name, Mahoney.

First, she became Lauren Abraham Mahoney, then Lauren Mahoney, confusing her co-workers at Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta. The tedious legal process of switching her name took about nine months to complete.

Finally, more than a year after her wedding, the 29-year-old e-mailed 160 friends and acquaintances to alert them to a new e-mail account and clarify her identity.

"As I was meeting people over the last year with my new name, and I gave them my e-mail address, it was my old name, which they didn't know," she said.

Changing one's surname after marriage is still more common than not for women, often because they hope it will make for fewer complications in the long run, when they have children.

Except for the fact that 1 out of every 2 married couples will get divorced, and the husband, the wife and the kids might all end up with different names.

Leslie Levine, a health policy analyst, took a more gradual approach when she changed her name twice for two marriages over six years. She first used her maiden name as a middle name so the network of contacts she built up could find her.

After "two marriages over six years", one would think the impracticality of changing your name multiple times would sink in.

"There are costs of keeping your name and costs of changing your name and it's a matter of balancing the two," said [Harvard economist Claudia Goldin].

Other tips for changing your name after marriage include:

• Don't throw your old driver's license away for at least six months. It will help when traveling. Hotels, airlines or car rentals may have your old information, especially if you're using a travel agent through work.

• If you travel internationally, make sure your passport matches your ticket. A new passport can be ordered in the mail.

• Order extra certified copies of your marriage license. You'll need one when you change your name with Social Security.

• Change your Social Security card through the mail by downloading an application the Social Security Administration Web site. It may take longer, a few weeks, but you won't need to take a day off from work.

• Remember to change the title to your car, your voter registration, bank accounts, credit cards and subscriptions. Notify your college alumni office, frequent flier programs, etc.

That doesn't sound complicated at all! What I want to know is, Ms. Goldin, what exactly is the cost of keeping your name? The quiet disapproval of your uptight family and friends? Because you're going to get that no matter what you do.

I have been pondering this question for the past month, ever since another of my female Facebook friends got married, changed her name, and made me question yet again, "who the heck is so-and-so, and why is she my Facebook friend?" It's not like these people have distinctive first names, like AnnaSophia or Weeping Willow. So when they change their last names, their past identity is practically erased. They are now someone's wife, not an individual with a valid, vibrant past. Luckily these friends can't see me in person, because the disappointment is written all over my face. It's so sad.

I have many complex issues wrapped up in this name-changing situation, so come along with me for the ride. The train stops here for today, but next week, we will continue to chug along. Choo-choo!



Natasha said...

You know, I never thought of all the hassle you would have to go through to change your name... but I still want mine changed after nuptials, I figure when I get married it will be once and would last forever! Yes great aspirations (that are possible). Its not such a bad thing, right now I am using my father's name so either way I always use a man's name.

Bianca Reagan said...

Welcome, natasha! How did you find my blog?

Why do you want to change your name when you get married? Is there a reason your husband wouldn't change his name to yours? Also, there is a difference between keeping the family name that your father passed down to you, and instead changing it to another "man's name."

Anonymous said...

While my reasons for keeping my name were mostly personal/political, I am really happy that I don't have to go through all the hassle of changing/getting new everything. Planning a wedding while finishing school and then moving and then starting a new job has been stressful enough! I don't need more stuff to do.

Natasha-- When I was thinking about changing my name, I thought similar things about always having a man's name. But despite the fact that I got my name from my father, it's still tied to my family and my personal history in a way that my partner's last name never will be. That's the biggest difference for me.

I don't care if family members disapprove; they made their choices and I'll make mine. If someone gets offended, let them. I'm not going to let their discouragement change who I am.

Alara Rogers said...

I find the concept that your name, that you were born with, is your father's name and therefore you might as well change it to be a pernicious, sexist meme that basically boils down to "women can't have last names."

I mean, think about it. If you, who were born with the last name from your father, don't have it because it's "his", why does *he* have it? Didn't he get it from his father? Didn't your granddad get it from *his* father and so on? Either the name you are born with is *yours*, or no one has a last name that is theirs, or only men get to have last names.

My father may have passed his last name to me, but it's what's on my birth certificate, so it's MINE. It is not a man's name -- I am a woman and it is my name, so it is a woman's name. If I were to change it, I would be changing my name to someone else's, not trading my ownership from my father to my husband.

And yeah. It appears to be a fantastic fucking hassle to change your name, and could even interfere with your right to vote. So. WHY do 90% of women who marry do it? Come on! You'd think sheer laziness would take over where feminism hasn't touched. Why would anyone want to fill out more paperwork than they have to?

mouse said...

I agree with Alara 100%- my name is MINE, and I kept it. I also solved the different-name-from-the-kids problem by giving her my last name. Surprisingly, I haven't gotten much flack.

But that aside, I want you to question the "fact" that 1 in 2 marriages fail. It's not true and it has never been true. When you look at marriage statistics some surprising things come to light:

1) Divorce has been declining for decades- it's currently around 36%, about where it was around WWII

2) Higher education for the female spouse is a good prediction that the marriage will last

3) Divorce is highest in the midwestern red states and lowest in the east coast blue states

Why does this matter? Because conservatives like to yammer about the marriage crisis (which like most conservative crises doesn't exist and obscures real problems) and use it to push their agenda regarding gay rights, feminism and "pro-family" strategies that hurt women. We can't afford to toss off false statistics that give them ground that by rights should be ours.

carpedia said...

"The quiet disapproval of your uptight family and friends? Because you're going to get that no matter what you do."

Hell yeah! I found this blog through feministe. I didn't change my name when I got married two years ago. My husband and I want to have the same last name, though, so he's going through the process of changing his.
While lots of people disapprove of this, they pretty much disapprove of nearly every decision we've made. For example, my career will be the dominant one (I'm in law school now), we are not going to have children, and we get our news and information from sources other than Fox news.
I believe people cling to outdated traditions because it was THEY did. They followed blindly and so should we. It can be threatening to realize that what "everybody does" doesn't have to be what you do.

Bianca Reagan said...

Welcome, new readers, and great comments!

Aiden said...

I've already commented on this on Feministe so I'll try not to repeat myself too much. Just wanted to say how great it is to know that there are other women who are disappointed that their friends unquestioningly take their husband's name! I've been quite shocked recently by how many intelligent, independent women I know who have taken their husband's names without apparently even thinking about it. I know they're still the same people, but I can't help losing a tiny bit of respect for them.

To me this seems to be going backwards, as many women I know of my mother's generation (she's mid-50s now) didn't change their names upon marriage. Perhaps this was a feminist statement that women my age don't feel they have to make? Surely this should have started some forward propulsion, but it seems to have stalled with the new generations.

Anonymous said...

my husband made me change my last name (just the cost of admission to him i guess). some of my issues were trivial but really important to me like the fact that i like my signature for my last name. also, i felt that i was letting go of part of my heritage since my last name was readily recognizable to west indians.

my ss card has my maiden name followed by my last name, but i always sign with my married last name and did change everything over. it's a dumb rule. i prefer taking both names as a tradition in america or just letting the couple choose which one they want to use. i mean what would happen if the guy took the gal's last name? i knew a guy friend who has a real common last name and swore to change to the girl's last name if he got married.

i guess if you're gay, it's a toss up. i guess that's one of the few "rights" they can claim. ;-)

Stephanie said...

I might change mine, if he has a really cool last name or something. Like what if his last name is Fantastic? Then I'd get to be Mrs. Fantastic. I'm sorry, I'm just not passing up that chance. ha ha!!!!

Bianca Reagan said...

Welcome, aiden!

affrodite, that cost of admission seems high. My last name isn't readily recognizable to west indians. Neither is my accent. :)

stephanie, you could be like Rose in this episode of The Golden Girls.