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Archive for the ‘Last Names’ Category

When I got a tattoo recently (my first!), one of the employees asked for the story.

“I have three sisters, and awhile ago we all decided we’d get the letter Z tattooed on us somewhere. Our last name starts with Z, and that way, no matter what, we’d always have that bond.”

“So… do all your married names start with a Z?* Or was it your maiden name?”

“Actually it’s our maiden name, but three of us kept it when we got married.**”

“Oh yeah? Wow. What did the husbands think of that?” (She asked with obvious disdain.)

“They didn’t care. If they had cared, they wouldn’t have been the kind of men we would have wanted to marry.”

Apparently, keeping your name is radical even in a tattoo shop. Where people are covered in gun tattoos. And drawings of aliens playing guitars and smoking joints.

*I think she saw my ring and concluded I was married.
**One actually hyphenated.

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When people hear that Mike and I each kept our own surnames at marriage, the most common question we get is “What about the kids?” And we’ve mulled it over greatly, and decided that we’ll hyphenate their last names.* The decision to hyphenate was a hard one for me. I kind of hate hyphenated names, but it was the best compromise for us. And Zone-Morris really isn’t a bad name.** In response to that, the most common question is “But what about when they get married? Pretty soon there’s going to be a Jane Marie Zone-Morris-Smith-Miller walking around. The horror!”

To that I say, whatever dude. I figure my kids can do whatever they want when faced with that decision. I admit, I’ll shed a tiny tear if they someday drop Zone, but I won’t take personal offense. I won’t make them feel bad. At least that’s my plan. I’m free to make my surname decisions, Mike’s free to make his, our kids will be free to make theirs when the time comes.

ANYWAY! The point of this is to direct you to this interesting real life scenario on one of my favorite naming sites.*** Seriously I find this name shit fascinating.

*We reserve the right to change our minds when actual children appear.
**Those are code.
***It’s actually a baby name site, but I like how she tackled this issue.

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Now that I’ve written about how happy we are with our last name situation*, let’s talk about the kids. I’ve never really been sure what I’d want to do with my kids’ last names knowing that my husband and I would likely have different names, but I always hoped a good answer would emerge at the right time. Well now we’re getting serious about having (as in adopting) kids, so we’ll probably need a solution sooner rather than later. Let’s review our options so far shall we?

For the sake of this post, I’m going to pretend his last name is Morris and mine is Zone.

Option 1: Zone as their last, Morris as a middle
When we first addressed this issue, before we were even engaged, Mike was strongly considering the idea of giving them my last name and making his last name a middle for each child. His last name works really well for a boy’s middle name, and works just fine for a girl.** I was totally on board with this idea because my name is much more unique and interesting and very special to me. Also, Mike’s family has a tradition of passing on the father’s first name as a middle name to the oldest son.

So our first son would be: First Michael Morris Zone

And we’d probably therefore name any subsequent children in a similar fashion, two last names, the second being Morris. I also loved the idea of starting all middle names with M, and we have the perfect girl’s middle name: Marill (pronounced like Meryl Streep). It’s a combination of his mom (Marilyn) and my mom (Jill), plus he has a great great (or something) grandfather named Merrill.

So our first daughter would be: First Marill Morris Zone.

We were leaning toward this option for a long time, until Mike began to think about Option 3. Don’t jump ahead though. Check out Option 2 first.

Option 2: Morris as their last, Zone as a middle
We could just switch the first option around, right? Well, technically yes, but I’m just not cool with that. I know it’s a double standard — I’m ok with making his as a middle and not mine. But like I said above, my name is more unique and interesting, and it’s very special to me. I want Zone somewhere in their last name, and of course I totally respect Mike wanting the same thing. Which brings us to option 3.

Option 3: Hyphenate
Oh yes, the old hyphenation trick. When I shared with Mike awhile ago that one of my favorite feminist bloggers had a baby, I happened to mention that the baby was given a hyphenated name. I think Mike had an epiphany, and now this is his preferred option. I’m actually not a huge fan of hyphenated names for a variety of reasons. And I just keep thinking, if we weren’t willing to hyphenate ourselves, is it fair to do that to our children? It just seems like it could easily be a burden, and I’m not sure I want to willing put that on my children. BUT! It is a very fair compromise for a couple with two last names, so it might be the way we go.

Anybody out there grow up with a hyphenated name? I would love love love to hear your opinions on this.

Option 3a: Zone-Morris and Option 3b: Morris-Zone
I need to talk about these two together. It’s hard to talk about these options without revealing our names, but I guess for anyone who knows us, it’ll be easier. Beyond just how they sound, which I’ll get into, are there any kind of “rules” or guidelines for hyphenating? Not that we’d automatically follow them, but I’m curious. In my mind, the first spot is the preferred spot. I’ve known people who were hyphenated in childhood and dropped a name in adulthood, and they always drop the second name.

But I’ve also heard that the second spot is more coveted. I guess the assumption is that when a woman gets married she keeps her name and tacks his on the end, making that the “family name.” My sister, who hyphenated when she was married, tells me that people often assume her “real” last name is the second one, which was actually her husband’s. I’m just really curious what people think about the “rules.”

Aside from all of that, I can’t decide which sounds better. We sort of think that Morris-Zone (only with our real names) makes Morris sound like an adjective for Zone. On the other hand, Zone-Morris maybe doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily.

Option 4: One for each!
I think this is the most bizarre thing, but it has been suggested to us in all seriousness more than once, so I’ve got put it out there. The idea is if we have two kids, we make one a Morris and one a Zone. I just can’t wrap my head around that, but I wonder if it’s ever been done before and how it worked. I also wonder what you do in the event of a third child.

Option 5: Make it up
Zorris? Mone? Zonis? Morone? I remember when the daughter in Father of the Bride 2 says that she and her husband are considering combining their names to create a new last name for their child. I thought, WHAT? You can’t do that, you lose all the meaning and history of the original names. And I still pretty much feel that way. Sometimes it works, and I really don’t have a problem with others doing it. But I would hate to lose either of our names in some strange mishmash. Mike is not a fan either, by the way.

Anything else?
Did we forget or overlook any other options?

I’m looking for major input here. Any advice or opinions or stories you’d like to share would be so much appreciated.

*I guess I didn’t write about Mike’s feelings on the issue, only mine. I think because for Mike it has always been a total non-issue. Maybe that’s something he should write about though, huh? Hon, you want to work on that?

**We like to keep this blog somewhat unsearchable by our names, but I’ll give you a hint for those who don’t know. His last name is a very common English/Scottish/Irish last name starting with M that also works as a male first name. Mine, by the way, is a really sweet Dutch name that, despite its brevity, is almost always mispronounced.

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As most of you know, I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t change my last name when I got married. Before I met Mike, I heard several times from several people that once I met the right guy I’d change my mind. Once I was actually getting married, I’d understand why most women want to share their husband’s last name. I also heard that if you really love a man, you take his name. You just do. I called bull shit every time I heard it, and even though spite is not at all the reason I stuck with my last name, it sure feels good to say, “See? Suck it.” to all the doubters.

Kidding. About the suck it part. But I am proud to say that I don’t regret my decision for a second. It’s been almost 8 months since the wedding and not once have I thought maybe I’d rather be a M—–. It just doesn’t suit me. I am and always will be a Z—.

So what has it been like to be a married couple with two different last names? Pretty insignificant. There have been a few times that I’ve had to explain the difference, but it’s usually a non-issue. When I called my car insurance provider to add Mike to my policy, my agent asked for his name, and when I gave it, she paused and then asked, “So did your name change then?” When we go to adoption meetings, I usually introduce us like “I’m Shannon Z— and this is my husband Mike M—–.” I make a point to say my husband so nobody assumes we’re not married when I say his last name, but I also make a point to say his last name so nobody assumes it’s the same as mine. That’s about as complicated as it’s gotten so far.

We do get the occasional piece of mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Michael M—–, but unless it’s someone we think should be aware of our situation, we just laugh about it. I don’t go by Mrs., I’m not a M—–, and what? A Michael? Definitely not a Michael.

I love my last name and I’m glad I didn’t lose it. Plus, it’s extra special because one of my (married) sisters is still a Z— too, and another one hyphenated. Of four sisters, that’s pretty cool. How modern of us, right?

Now, the other thing I’ve heard is that I’ll change my mind when kids come along. One happy family with one happy last name. Who knows. I’m still willing to bet we’ll find another solution, but I’d hate to eat my words, so again, we’ll just see.

Speaking of kids and what last name to give them, we’ve been discussing it a lot lately. More on that later.

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Did we ever tell you that we were rock stars at premarital counseling? We were pretty much star students, the valedictorians of premarital counseling, as Dooce might say. Before our first appointment, we were given an assessment to take separately. It was supposed to tell the counselor what areas we needed to work on, where we were strong already, etc.

At our first meeting with the counselor, she was looking over our results and basically told us we had no weak areas. The whole time, she seemed to be grasping at straws for advice on how we can improve our relationship. Now I don’t know how accurate or effective those assessments are, but even in our conversations with her, she kept stumbling, like she didn’t know where to go next. And she kept repeating, “you’re very strong in that area” or “you don’t seem to need any improvement in this area.” There were a few issues that came out in our discussion, but nothing we weren’t fully aware of already (like the fact that I don’t hold back on my feelings, and Mike sometimes does in order to keep the peace).

At the end of each session, our counselor said she normally assigns some sort of homework to her couples — something to help them work and talk through their problem areas. But she admitted she didn’t really have anything to assign us. And at our fourth and final session, after about 10 minutes, she finally gave up. “We don’t really have anything else to go over. You guys are great, so unless you have any questions, I think we’re done.”

Yep, we pretty much rocked that shit. Too bad she totally screwed up our certificate of completion. When it came in the mail, we discovered it said “Mr. and Mrs. Michael M—–.” Clearly she didn’t understand that I was not only keeping my last name, but my first name wasn’t changing either.

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Over the weekend, I made a map to accompany our invitations (which are SO cool by the way – I’ll show you when they’re done). I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but I found this tutorial incredibly helpful. Basically I pasted an image from Google Maps into PowerPoint, then drew over it, added pertinent information, and deleted the map image.

This image is kind of lame with all the block-outs. But because this is happening at my dad’s house, I didn’t want to give away too much information in this public forum. It looks much better when there are words instead of big grey blocks, trust me.

I printed them four to a page so they’re about the size of a postcard. I just used plain white printer paper – people don’t need their map on fancy paper! Everyone figured out how to get to our Family Meet & Greet with nothing but an address, so I’m not too worried about the wedding. But because my dad’s house is kind of in the middle of nowhere, we thought a map would help.

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Because it’s my favorite topic, I enjoyed reading this post and its comments on So You’re Engayged. I swear someone needs to pay me to do a study on the culture of last names because I find it absolutely fascinating!

With straight couples it’s usually assumed that the woman takes the man’s last name, and anything else is considered different and nontraditional. But what about gay couples? There isn’t a centuries-old precedent sent here, so it’s really important for these couples to have the last name discussion. I don’t want to generalize too much, but I’m guessing there aren’t very often assumptions made about last names when homosexual couples get married. I’m guessing there are discussions and decisions made together.

Which is SO GREAT! I think that’s the way it should be. For all couples, gay, straight or otherwise.

(Mike and I have already shared our thoughts on last names and our plan as a couple here and here.)

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For those of you interested in more of the great last name debate, I cross-posted the Last Name Ultimatum at the Feministing Community site, and it generated some interesting discussion.

Check it out.

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Shan and I have had many conversations regarding name changing in marriage. I don’t really get it. Who cares what people do with their last names? Here are some arguments I’ve heard:

It’s tradition. And? There are lots of traditions that we don’t observe any more. Did you know that the word ‘bride’ comes from an Old English word that translates roughly to cook? How’s that tradition working out? It used to be traditional (and by traditional I mean legal) for men to propose to women. Women were only allowed to propose to men on February 29, since leap years were not officially recognized by English Law. It was only ok for women to propose on a day that didn’t officially exist. Marriage announcements were traditionally used to allow the community notice of a wedding so that they could object to the marriage. “Oh, look honey, we got a letter from…what the hell?! Not on my watch!” Bridesmaids and groomsmen were traditionally used in ancient Rome to confuse evil spirits that attended weddings to cause mischief. That’s why they all wear matching clothes and stand on either side of the bride and groom. How stupid were these evil spirits? Just go for the ones in the middle. I could go on and on.

Taking the husband’s name makes you family. Family isn’t that simple. At least not for most people. Families are groups of people, regardless of last name, that plow through all the shit of life together and somehow continue to love each other. Plain and simple. And as far as the kids having the same last name, it’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world to figure your way around, but lots of families find a way. Also, wouldn’t taking the wife’s name make you a family too? Why don’t people insist on this and get mad or insulted or give ultimatums when men don’t blindly accept it?

Women take the man’s last name to honor him. Trust me ladies…the fact that you’ve agreed to marry us is enough. We’re so happy that we’ve found someone who is wiling to tolerate us. In all seriousness though, I would be greatly honored if Shannon wanted to take my last name, but I would feel horrible if she did it just to appease me or because she felt obligated to. I don’t feel at all like Shannon doesn’t love me or honor me as her future husband because she’s keeping her name.

So, is it really that big of a deal? Not for me. People like to do what they want, and then all of a sudden when they get married they think there are things they have to do. If you want to change your last name (and this goes out to the men, too) then you should. If you don’t, then don’t. But either way, I think you should have a conversation with yourself and make sure you know your reason for the choice you make. After all, you’re marrying a person, not a surname.

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I was scanning the radio this morning and stumbled upon a local morning show that I don’t normally listen to. I was intrigued by the few seconds the scanner caught because it was a woman explaining why she didn’t change her last name when she married. This is one of my very favorite topics, so I listened. In the next segment a man called and asked the hosts to help him with an intervention. I got the idea that these interventions are meant to be fun or funny, but this one very quickly went very wrong.

The man, Ryan, said he is getting married in three weeks, but something has been bothering him for awhile. His fiance doesn’t want to change her last name. She told him a long time ago, but he was never sure how to bring up his problem with the idea, so it was never discussed. Hence the intervention. So they get Stacy, the fiancé, on the phone and break the news to her: Ryan feels very strongly that you take his last name.

She stayed very calm and explained that she felt very strongly about keeping her name. She said the kids could have his name, but she liked her identify—for professional and personal reasons—and was going to keep it. He kept repeating that he wanted them to “be a family,” as if having different lasts names renders you not so. Ryan said he’d be ok with Stacy hyphenating her name, but his last name must be incorporated somehow. Stacy didn’t want to do that, and never once did either of them suggest that he hyphenate as well or that he take her name in order to “be a family.”

Neither was budging, and while Stacy remained calm (though a little shocked and teary at her fiancé’s proclamation), Ryan started to get really upset, even hinting that he may not be able to move forward with her if she didn’t agree to change her name. At this point the radio hosts were befuddled and I think they were leaning toward ending the call and letting these two deal with the issue in a more private forum.

But suddenly Ryan said, “You have to make a choice Stacy. I feel strongly about this, and if you can’t change your mind, I have to call it off. Who cares about all the money we spent. It’s either me or your name.”

And then he hung up.

And everyone else was shocked and confused. They quickly took Stacy off the air after asking her if she was ok (she just cried and said she couldn’t believe this was happening). And they went to break shortly after.

Wow right? I mean, change your name or I won’t marry you? Holy shit. Even if she gave in and agreed to that, how could he accept it? She’d be marrying him under an ultimatum. She’d probably always regret her decision on some level, and maybe even come to resent him in some way. She’ll have made the choice not willingly, but out of desperation and resignation. Maybe eventually she’d get used to it and accept her decision, but it will always have been made under these circumstances. Is it worth that? I surely hope not.

Full disclosure: I plan to keep my last name. And I’ve always been very open and passionate about it, even writing about it several times on my personal blog.

I’ll write more about that decision and our plan as a couple later, but for now, what do you think of the above scenario? Should Stacy give in? Was Ryan crazy for posing the ultimatum? Should they even get married at this point? How might they work this out?

Also, what did you do or what do you plan to do if you marry?

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