I Didn’t Change My “Maiden” Name
There are plenty of traditions when it comes to a wedding. White dress? Check. Cake? Of course. Changing my last name? Not so fast.
When I was a kid, I always assumed I’d change my last name to my husband’s. It was expected, after all. Teachers would marry and go from “Miss Smith” to “Mrs. Jones” over the summer. Every woman in my family changed her last name when she married.
But a few years into my career, I realized I liked my name the way it was. I didn’t see the appeal of erasing my old identity.
A friend listed the problems she had changing her name after marriage. “The bank still doesn’t recognize my new last name,” she said, “so my account is listed under the old one.”
I had not only bank accounts, but a driver’s license, car registration, credit cards, and three degrees when I got married. I was in the process of buying a home. Changing my name sounded like a nightmare. (And, my realtor assured me, it would be.)
Yet, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for everybody. After all, eighty percent of women change their last name when they get married.
I received a lot of comments when coworkers asked what my “married” name was going to be, and I told them I wasn’t changing it. “But don’t you want to have the same last name as your children?” someone asked me.
I didn’t think it would be a big deal; after all, I knew women who had never married — or who had married twice — and therefore had different last names than their kids, and they were getting along fine.
In the end, it was my wild feminist streak that made me hold firm and keep my last name. Changing your name upon marriage is something that is only expected of women. In the essay “There is No Unmarked Women,” Deborah Tannen wrote,
“A man is never said to have ‘kept his own name’ because it never occurs to anyone that he might have given it up.”
So far, keeping my name has had a lot of benefits. I didn’t have to teach a new name to everyone I knew; it’s easy for people to find me on social media. It’s often hard to search for female classmates I’ve lost touch with on social media since I only have the first name to go by.
Paperwork has been a breeze; I even needed fewer documents for my Real ID, since my birth certificate lists my current name.
There have been some snafus. I’ll admit, I have gone as “Ellie Husbandslastname” when calling up the veterinarian, just to make things go smoother. (They don’t blink when I swipe my credit card under my maiden name, though.)
But after I kept my name, another woman in the family kept her name upon marriage. Maybe it’s the start of a new tradition.