I felt the way about changing my last name the way some people feel about having kids: I didn’t feel too strongly about keeping or changing my name, and hadn’t yet decided what I wanted.
To be honest, by the time I was 30 and in a partnership, changing my name felt like a lot of work, especially in a digital age with internet footprints. People already knew me.
But then the question of kids came up, and we agreed we didn’t want hyphens. And we wanted to share the same last name. We didn’t want to have one parent constantly having to prove that yes, they were this kid’s parent.
We briefly thought about a new blended name (but our last names were Peck and Younger and all we could come up with was “Young Pecker” and that didn’t work for us.)
“I want to take your last name,” he said.
I’ll admit one of my first thoughts was: “Are you sure?”
Then I thought next about his parents: “But what do you think they’ll say?” I thought they might be a little sad to have their kid change his name.
The idea grew on me.
But was it really that progressive just to switch it from one gender to the other?
He went to file the court paperwork. The form didn’t have a field for “bachelor” name (or any fields for this), so he had to write-in his new name. The clerk laughed and gave him a huge high-five when he explained what he was doing.
But he came home without the task complete. It turns out, to submit the forms, he also needed my permission. I hooted at the hilarity of the wife giving permission, and sent him off with a copy of my drivers license and my sworn note that it was okay (it turns out you can’t just “take” someone’s last name, you actually need their permission.)
And then the cascade of changes came
His passport. Website. Email address. Online profiles. Social profiles. Github account. Reputations as a coder and design geek. Brand identity. Business name. DBA and EIN.
We conferred (as two geeks do) about what social handle he’d use, and searched long and far for one that was available across ALL of the profiles. “Alex Peck” was out. But @alxpck was available everywhere.
It kept going: Home address. Birth certificates (he now had to carry a proof-of-identity change alongside all documents, plus the court order). Credit cards. Bank accounts. Retirement accounts.
We were wiping and recreating this person from scratch
The amount of work it took to do was magnified by the fact that “this wasn’t the way things are done.”
I love having the same last name as him. I get a little thrill in keeping my name.
But I also still wonder if the “taking” of names is itself the most peculiar invention.
What do you think about the social invention of changing your name?
The social invention of changing our last names?
I hate it. I’ve hated it since my age was in the single digits.. I hate that I’m supposed to disappear my name and be subsumed into my husband’s identity. I hate what it has meant historically (chattel); I hate what it means currently (patriarchy is still so crushingly pervasive that throwing our names away is simply what is done, with seldom a moment of contemplation). I’m sad that the vast majority of women still submit to it. Or worse, bask in the naive notion that it will make their relationship deeper and more romantically bonded, that that thar man o’ theirs is gonna love and want and respect and protect them more for it.
My husband of many years loves me fulsomely, even with my own name. Our daughter has both our last names, no hyphen, and there’s never been a hassle with any official paperwork, or lack of bonding from her father, as friends direly warned me about.
[…] husband, Alex (who took my last name and became Alex Peck), has had the great joy of working with Seth Godin on a number of projects for […]