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I Wish I Had Two Last Names



This month three sweet couples we love got married. Wooo hooo! All the shower and ceremony hopping has been so fun, and we are thrilled for each of the new families.

I dig weddings. I always enjoy a good Cha-Cha slide, and I love the reminder of the beauty of the marriage commitment. It makes me tear up every time we celebrate friends beginning this journey.

All this marriage has brought up some conversations about name changing for the wives. There are so many options now: change it, hyphenate it, merge it, or simply don’t take a new name at all.

I changed my name… and I’m glad I did. I really like everyone in our family having the same last name. I will also add that, given our immigration situation at the time, I felt any other choice could jeopardize our legal process.

However, while I was excited to take on a new name, I really felt sad about saying good-bye to my maiden name. It’s memorable… with 11 letters and a whole lotta German. Many friends did (and sometimes still do) call me by it. And hey, I’d always had it. Ultimately, I changed my middle name to my maiden name because I just didn’t want to say good-bye.

I asked Billy to add it as his second middle name, but it was a little more complicated - partly because of immigration and partly because he already had four names.

Here’s the thing. In Guatemala, kids take on the last names of both parents. The father’s last name is first, but it is still used as the more “dominant” last name… especially for immigrants to the States. So my current last name is the last name of my father-in-law. For Billy, though, it’s the third of his four names.

The second last name is the mother’s maiden name. It causes a little bit of confusion in US circles because this is so unfamiliar to many of us. For example, Billy has one rogue credit card in his mother’s maiden name because that’s what the company saw “last” when they looked at his full name.

At the time of marriage, a woman does typically “drop” her mother’s maiden name, but she keeps her father’s last name. Then, they add the preposition “de” (meaning, “of”) and then includes the new husband’s last name (his father’s). The groom still keeps both his father’s and mother’s last names.

So for me, I would’ve kept my full maiden name and added “de Quezada” at the end. This is kind of what I did by changing my middle name, except I “lost” my original middle name and left out the preposition.

Anyway, it’s just been interesting as over the years I’ve watched so many girlfriends struggle through the question of what to do with their last names. We often feel attached to our birth name and may have degrees, publications, or other documentation that is associated only with that name.

In the States, the question is often framed as a sometimes controversial or feminist or women’s rights issue. But to me, it’s always interesting to look at how the same topic is being addressed in another culture. There are so many other approaches, and it’s enlightening to learn from others. In actuality, I sometimes wish we would have done our names the Guatemalan way. Then I’d get to hang on to both.

Did you (or will you) or your spouse change names? Was it a question or an automatic? How do you approach this topic?

10 comments

  1. Our 11 letter last name is also now my middle name and I don't miss spelling it our pronouncing it in the slightest! It's still there, hiding out on my SS card to not be completely forgot. But I know longer have to (well, mostly because I'm not in school anymore) wait with anticipation for roll call as they start with the hesitant butcher of the first half of the last name...as I cut them off, explaining, "like I-K-E" and then mumbling something about soft boiled eggs....

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    1. I love that soft boiled eggs part! :)

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  2. Emily from Oh Hello Love shared your post with me because of the recent debate I started on my blog about the issue of women changing their last names. I'm in the unique situation that my husband had offered to take my last name.

    Anyway, here is the original post: http://www.trialbysapphire.com/2013/03/can-i-take-my-maiden-name-back.html

    And here is the follow-up:
    http://www.trialbysapphire.com/2013/03/youve-been-heard-follow-up-to-maiden.html

    So... now you know where I stand on the issue! :)

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    1. Hi LIndsay. Thanks for stopping by & thanks to Emily for sharing the post. I will definitely read your posts. I love hearing others' thoughts!

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  3. Well as you know, me and the hubby both hyphenated! We get weird comments every now and again, but we couldn't be happier with our decision. Our name represents our individual cultural and family backgrounds coming together and being connected as one! I love it.

    I'm just glad we live in a society where women at least know they have *choices* when it comes to changing or not changing their name. But I really hope we get to a place in society where a person's personal decision about what to do with their name isn't considered "controversial.:

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    1. I love that you both changed your names! I am curious because I read once that in some states it's a lot more expensive for a man to change his name than a woman. Did you run into anything like that?

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  4. My husband already had a double-barrelled name. His sister and brother-in-law had both changed theirs when they got married (she dropped one half and added his and he picked up one half of hers), so we had a precedent if we wanted to change it but the Danish-English combo just didn't sound good. So I took his, because it had more history connected with his particular family than mine did. I'm happy with our decision, but I'm more happy that he never just assumed I'd take his and we had the chance to find the right solution for both of us. There are definitely myriad approaches here in Europe, which are so fun to discover.

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    1. "I'm more happy that he never just assumed I'd take his and we had the chance to find the right solution for both of us."

      Yes! Well said, Fiona. Thank you!

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  5. Have you ever read the blog "From Two to One?" She has a whole 19 post series on this! You should check it out - I found it to be fascinating!!!

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    1. Hi Grace ~ Yes! I have seen some of that series. Great stuff!

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