Thursday, October 18, 2007

What's in a Name?

To change, or not to change, that is the question - my last name, that is. I'm getting married, and I am struggling with this decision. I should note before continuing that my fiance is totally on board with whatever I decide (and even has expressed the opinion that maybe I should keep my own). Also, I am not resistant because his name is long and unpronounceable or anything of that nature - Ott doesn't cause much confusion. I am, however, resistant to hyphenated last names, which feel a little artificial to me.

I'm really partial to my last name. It defines me. My first initial and last name spell a real word, and it's actually fitting for my personality. People call me by my full name all the time, because there are so many Sarahs out there. Yes, I share my name with an actress, but that's kind of good - when you google me, you have to sift through all her pages before you get to any mention of me, and I like it that way. When I imagine going by a different name, I feel uncomfortable. Like I'm masquerading as someone else.

On the other hand, it's cultural tradition. Our children would have his last name, but mine would be different. People will want to call us the Otts, but I won't really be one. Maybe his family will be offended. Actually, even my mom said I should change it - "it's easier with the kids," she said. And part of me wants to be the Otts, just the way I'm part of the Miles family right now.

Most of my family members have changed their names, except for my aunt (by marriage), who never took ours. I certainly don't feel offended by that, nor is anyone else, but I know part of her decision was that there were no boys in her family to carry the name. Of course, it is ending with her, since her child shares my uncle's last name.

Help, ladies, I need advice!


Indigo said...

I have been in your shoes, and this is what I did. I kept my maiden name and just added my married name. My full name is First Middle Maiden Last. I work for my family business which is, ironically enough, called "Maiden Corp." My Husband's name is polish, has the cz thing going on in the middle of it, and no one knows how to pronounce it properly, including myself. So professionally I go by First Maiden, in real life I go by First Last, and according to the Uncle Sam I'm all of it. It made me feel better about not giving up my identity. My way might not be how you end up doing it, but it works for me. Good luck!

lizriz said...

Personally, I'll never change my name. I do consider it *my* name and an important part of who I am. I'm not asking my significant other to lose his name, why would I give up mine? Our keeping our names speaks to me of two individuals coming together in a partnership. Something like "the Otts" is easy and appealing, but is that really worth giving up your name? As for kids, with so many blended families these days, parents and children often have different names. I just think, well, this is who I am, and this is who you are. Of course, my partner is a actor who'll be going by a different name publically due to SAG rules, so my family will ultimately be all named differently!

Julia Henderson said...

I thought a lot about this issue when I got married. I came from a really strong family unit. My identity was heavily intertwined with our larger family identity. For me, part of starting my new life as a married person meant starting a NEW family unit, and in order to do this, I really felt that I should take my husband's name. It wasn't about me being his property, it was about me making a change that ultimately helped my own psychological idea about what family meant.

My other argument was that it is just as arbitrary to identify with my maiden name since it is my father's. The reason I felt such a strong family identity with my maiden name, afterall, was because my mother took my father's name, and we were a one-named family unit. I wanted to recreate this for my children.

In the end, there's no right way. Just do what feels comfortable. No one who loves you will judge you for your decision knowing how much you've thought about it.

Amy said...

I once married and changed my name, then divorced and changed it back. If I marry again, I will not change it. I sort of consider it a mistake at this point (the name change, as well as the marriage!) :-) Part of the reason I wouldn't change it again is that I grew up and still live around my father's family, not my mother's (if I had grown up around her family, I think I would feel less attached to the name), and part of the reason is because I am known professionally by my name-of-birth; I just couldn't see trying to change that, when name recognition is such a big part of being a writer.