One of my best friends was born with a hyphenated name. A hyphenated name that goes back many centuries, that is. She couldn't wait to get rid of it upon marriage. Another friend, a deeply religious woman, mind you, retained her maiden name when she got married. I changed mine, but I didn't realize how difficult it would be. For one thing, I absolutely loved my maiden name (Ziegler) and was quite proud of it. For another, the bureaucracy surrounding a changed name is made even more difficult when you live in Washington, D.C. I told people my name was Hemingway for about three years before I actually changed it.
The New York Times has an article about what happens when you're raging against the patriarchal machine using last names. It goes through various feminist groupings and lesbian pairings and how folks have decided on names. We begin with the story author explaining the limited benefits of growing up with a manufactured hyphenated name. And then the downside:
The problem, of course, is that this naming practice is unsustainable. (Growing up, I constantly fielded the question, “What will you do if you marry someone else with two last names? Will your kids have four names?”) Like many of the baby boomers’ utopian impulses, it eventually had to run up against practical constraints.
We hear from a Planned Parenthood attorney who wasn't sure what combination of names to give her son. Some hyphenated males took different routes to naming their children. My favorite, though, is the invented last name. So a woman named Cora Stubbs-Dame and her female partner, surnamed Jeyapalan, created a new name -- Jeyadame -- when they brought a child into their union. They crowdsourced the name, by the way. On Facebook.
The Oregonian once ran a front-page story about a celebrity chef couple divorcing. Their surname, Hebberoy, was their own creation. One was a Hebb. One was a Pomeroy. I think he went back to his old name and she went back to her hers. That will show the man! Their child may have kept the new name.
I know names are a sensitive topic, but what strikes me about deviating from the conventional practice is how shortsighted and arrogant it is. I don't much care if you're from a culture that carries the mother's name down or the father's name. I do think we should be respectful of the practice of giving kids a name that connects them with their ancestors.
One interesting statistic from the article was that only 6% of married women do something other than take their husband's name ("meaning they kept their birth names, hyphenated with their husbands’ names, or pulled a Hillary Rodham Clinton").
It is interesting, though, that this hyphenated craze that began with Boomers died such a quick death. The kicker to this article speaks volumes about disrespecting both your ancestors and your children:
What did our parents expect us to do when we reached this stage of our lives? They trusted it would all work out somehow. As Ms. Segal-Reichlin’s parents told her, “We figured that was your problem.”