I came across this project via Molly at First the Egg, who shared her story. She writes of "the historical resonance of the femme covert, of marriage as the transfer of not just a woman’s property but of a woman as property, of her loss of her legal standing and identity along with her original name" and that she is "suspicious of the rhetoric of free choice and interested in the structural and institutional forces that constrain people’s choices." She writes,
It’s hard not to notice that the vast majority of hetero couples who want ‘a family name’ choose the male partner’s surname. Sometimes specific factors of personal history or values make that the best option; sometimes the couple outright acknowledges not wanting to swim upstream; but often, friends making this choice insisted that they just coincidentally preferred the man’s name. This obliviousness to the historical and cultural pressures at play in one’s decision, to the larger statistical realities in which this individual drama plays out, worries me.The Huffington Post picked up the project and posted a slideshow with some quotes that represent some of the opinions of those who contributed to the project about changing married last names. The explanations include why the women and men decided to do the various options, both for themselves and for their children: The woman keeping her name, Changing her name, Hyphenating, Taking both names un-hyphenated, Keeping a name professionally but changing it legally, Being undecided, The man taking the wife's name, Alternating names, and Choosing an entirely new name. If you want to read the stories from any of these categories, they are all laid out here.
Long before my fiance and I became engaged, we discussed what we would do with our last names were we to marry. For me, hyphenating was out of the question (I'm just not a fan of everyone ending up with hyphenated names, including the kids. And then the hyphenated kids growing up and marrying hyphenated kids - ahhh!) I told him I didn't feel particularly attached to my last name (it is kind of boring and short, and has lame jokes associated with it, and was changed in my family's recent history so I don't feel like it connects me to my roots). He told me that he wasn't particularly attached to his last name, either, and he didn't want me to have to change my name just because I'm the woman. So we discussed choosing an entirely new name!
We toyed with ideas like choosing a really cheesy last name so we could be "The Darlings." We also thought it would be funny to pick a traditionally ethnic-sounding name, like "The Zhangs" so that when people saw our name before meeting us in person, they would be incredibly confused that we weren't Chinese. Ok, lame, but they made us giggle.
I was excited to find, through the Last Name Project, that we weren't the only ones with this idea. For example, [Abby] and her husband chose the last name Phoenix for a variety of reasons including the word's symbolism and that it sounds really cool. [Sue] and her husband combined their last names into one word. [M] and her husband shared an Irish heritage, so they pulled out the Gaelic Irish dictionary and picked a name that had meaning for them both. [Mike] and his wife [Danielle] also picked a surname that had meaning for them, and kept their old last names as their middle names. Click on their names if you'd like to read more about what went into their decisions and how their families have reacted.
Unfortunately, in my case, neither of us have a strong heritage that we'd like to express with our last name. I think picking a new name entirely would be fun, but I wonder if I'd ever get used to it as a name rather than the random word we chose. I understand the historical context that Molly brings up above, but feel that choosing a random name would be just like choosing his name - neither of them mean, to us, that he "owns" me. Since we're not married yet I still have time to reflect on this.
What do you think? Do you have a last name choosing story to share? What do you think of all the different options laid out above?