marcusmarcusrc: (Default)
[personal profile] marcusmarcusrc
I had a discussion with a colleague at work today about changing last names (don't know how we got there given that I know our conversation meandered through unions, climate change, Paris, and workplace performance reviews). Two things I hadn't really thought about before:

1) Keeping one's own name: I'd known that it means having a tough decision about what last name one's kid will have: what I didn't realize is that apparently for traveling on airplanes, this requires that the parent with a different name have a certified letter of some kind attesting to relationship with the kid to prove they aren't kidnapping it.

2) I had seen in a couple places proposals for academic publishing to tag every author with a unique identification number: the rationales I remembered hearing were to improve the ability to do author searches in the literature by avoiding confusion of people with the same name, problems with misspellings, and not needing to care about inclusion/exclusion of a middle initial: probably listed in the standard rationales, but I'd never made the mental connection, was that if an academic chooses to change his or her name this would enable searches to still pull up all their articles, which would eliminate one of the arguments for not changing names.

Just some musings. I lean towards being a "keep your name" sort of person - I like my own last name and identify with it and at least at this moment would be hesitant to change it even if that would add a greater sense of "family togetherness" or whatever (I'm assuming that for me, this would only come up in the context of marriage), and it would seem weird to me to have someone who had always occupied a space of -theirfirstname- -theirlastname- in my head to suddenly become -theirfirstname- -mylastname- though I suppose I would get used to it... I also often have trouble remembering whether or not my friends who have gotten married have changed or hyphenated their names or not, which occasionally makes life difficult when I try and write them postcards... Also, keeping names constant makes it easier to find people I've lost touch with even if they've gotten married in the interim (though I suppose maybe we could start using our journal personal identifier as a social identifier too... I mean, my name is unique so anyone can google and find me, but other people are much harder to find online. And I presume some people are quite happy with that status quo. But that's another issue entirely...)

Date: 2010-05-20 05:43 pm (UTC)
desireearmfeldt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desireearmfeldt
I believe that this is An Issue for women in academia, and probably goes a long way to accounting for the number of women who choose double-barrelled (often not hyphenated, just double) last names, e.g. Deborah Lowenberg Ball (in my field), who you can find early citations for under Lowenberg if I remember correctly.

Also, I feel like you on wanting to keep my name because a) it's a pretty unique identifier in my case, and b) people from my past can find me. And I feel I've been pretty well justified in that philosophy: I've been tracked down by a middle school pal by the power of Google, and had an old lady taking my name to donate blood tell me that she was in my great-uncle's choir. And so on. :)

Date: 2010-05-20 05:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You don't truly lose your name until you have kids.

I publish under my legal name, which for the purposes of this comment I will call Iso-Nomer, while DH's last name is Nomer. In fact, I go by Iso-Nomer for pretty much all purposes, except when it comes to kids stuff. Then it's just easier to be called Mrs. Nomer rather correcting them to Dr. Iso-Nomer, because it just sounds pretentious. So really, it didn't matter what I'd chosen to do with my name to begin with.

Also, I have never run into issues flying by myself with the kids. But maybe new rules came into place since the last time I did this.

Date: 2010-05-20 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If your legal last name is Iso-Nomer, then maybe the Nomer-Nomer bond might be strong enough to avoid any legal issues. Or maybe my colleague's spouse was just being extra-paranoid.

Date: 2010-05-20 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
at least you didn't call us Poly-Nomers.

Date: 2010-05-20 06:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Changing your name as a way to avoid workplace performance reviews?

Date: 2010-05-20 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ooh... I should figure out who gets the best reviews in my division, and change my name to theirs, and hope my managers gets us confused!

Date: 2010-05-20 06:27 pm (UTC)
dcltdw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dcltdw
I've had people who I hung out with pre-marriage but not post-marriage call me by my bachelor name. It doesn't bother me at all -- I feel like, well, that's -also- my name, just not my current one.

Very quickly, I thought, everyone I knew had switched over to calling us by our new surname. It sorta helps when Firstname NewLastname appears in email messages, I suspect.

For social networking, most sites let you specify optional search names. Has it worked for me? No idea: I don't expect HS people to contact me, soo.... :)

I rather like it when married people have the same last name, because it means I can stop wondering what their status is. That said, I think it's goofy if one person changes their name to the other's. I realize *cough* that this is a total and complete surprise to everyone. ;)

Date: 2010-05-20 06:51 pm (UTC)
desireearmfeldt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desireearmfeldt
The thing that gets odd is when I want to refer to you back before you were married. It's like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy bit about what the grammar for referring to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe is. People who change their first name/handle present this dilemma, too. (Even trickier, for me, is figuring out the grammar of referring to someone I knew back before they changed their gender-of-presentation, particularly when I'm talking *to* someone who only knew them before the switch and hasn't had contact in eons.)

Date: 2010-05-20 06:52 pm (UTC)
desireearmfeldt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desireearmfeldt
(In fact, I was referring to you-back-in-the-day just this afternoon, and it was a little odd, gramatically. :) )

Date: 2010-05-20 07:28 pm (UTC)
dcltdw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dcltdw
Gosh. I wouldn't've thought I would come up in conversation all that much. :)

Date: 2010-05-20 07:27 pm (UTC)
dcltdw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dcltdw
See, here I would've figured that the different names would be a great temporal marker in the conversation. :)

But yeah, gender, definitely trickier.

Date: 2010-05-20 07:42 pm (UTC)
desireearmfeldt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desireearmfeldt
Well, yes, they could be great temporal markers, but then you imply that old-you and new-you are two different people, and that ain't right. :)

You came up in re: The Dark Is Rising.

Date: 2010-05-20 08:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Maybe people should change their names gradually, one letter per year or something, to show that they are changing over time. And then, their kids would take their names and slowly mutate them. And just like DNA, you could figure out when two branches of a family split by basically dividing the genetic differences by the mutation rate...

Date: 2010-05-21 01:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As someone who has done a lot of genealogical research, I'd just like to say that sounds seriously nightmarish!! :)

Date: 2010-05-23 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I know of at least one instance of recombinant last-name splicing among the MIT community. You kinda need name particles that will splice properly.

Date: 2010-05-20 07:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Since you have a ubiquitous first name, people often refer to you by your full name, so I think your new last name propagated comparatively quickly. If [ profile] marcusmarcusrc changed his last name, I might not realize for years.

Date: 2010-05-20 08:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
See, you've totally mutated to your new name for me, to the point I had to think hard about your pre-marriage name.

But I've been known to refer to your spouse by her pre-marriage name, especially when discussing ET stuff. I think I've mostly gotten over that by now, but it was still true even a few years ago...

Date: 2010-05-20 07:37 pm (UTC)
katybeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] katybeth
I've thought about the kid's last name thing. The airplane travel part hadn't occurred to me; thanks for mentioning it.

I also identify fairly strongly with my name, despite it not being unique. Plus it's in most of my usernames. :)

Date: 2010-05-20 10:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Plus it's in most of my usernames

Yeah, that.

We agreed that we wanted one family name, and that was as far as we could agree.

After several years we decided on flipping a coin, and he won, so I took his last name.

Date: 2010-05-20 07:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
James and I had LONG discussions about the name change issue when we were engaged. He comes from a family where all the women change their names. Every. Single. One. I come from a family where it's fairly mixed, and people just sort of go with the flow a bit more. James has exactly one published paper, and that actually ended up being part of the deciding factor (I have none). Another part was that when I casually mentioned to James's sister and her husband that my mother had kept her maiden name, the conversation went something like this:

Darlene: WHAT? Why would she *do* that??
Frank: I mean, doesn't she love your father??
Me: (mumbles in response)Well, they've been reasonably happily married for over 30 years, so I would think so (I was pretty surprised that, even given that I knew what they thought about name change, their response was so dramatic)
Darlene: Really, though, WHY would she bother?
Me: Well, she was one of the first women to work at her agency as something other than a secretary, and she thought the men she worked with would take her more seriously, so it was partly about her career.
Darlene: Career? It's not like she was famous or anything, not like Angelina Jolie (um, yes, this is a direct quote... I couldn't make this up).
Me: umm... well... yeah, moving on...

My parents, meanwhile were both fairly horrified that I was contemplating changing my name. My mother's reasons were mostly about "screw the patriarchy -- if anyone takes anyone's name, why not have James take YOURS?"

My dad on the other hand had his own, um, special reasons for being upset. When he and my mom were engaged, he asked her why she wouldn't take his name. She gave various career-based and "I've always had this name, it's mine"-based answers, which mostly satisfied him, except he couldn't understand one thing -- why she would want to be at the end of the alphabet. He tried in vain to convince her that really, a B last name was much better than a W last name. She mostly laughed at him, and ultimately he didn't actually care that much. Several years later, my dad's dad died, and my grandmother remarried. A man with the last name of Wool. She changed her name, ignoring my dad's protests that she would be doomed forever if she went to the end of the alphabet (really, there were other issues my dad had with that marriage, like my step-grandfather is certifiably crazy, but he didn't go there). Another one lost, alas. Then, it was my turn to get married and who did I pick to marry, but somebody who's last name starts with W. Horrors!! My dad, amusingly, failed to convince me as well. It makes him sad in a funny sort of way.

Ultimately, I decided it was not worth dealing with the hassle James's family would give me if I kept my name, and I was attracted to the idea of having an easier-to-pronounce, easier-to-spell last name as well. James also felt really strongly that we should have the same last name. I did ask James if, in hypothetical-land, he would have been willing to change his name to mine if he didn't have the paper, and he said yes, which made me feel I wasn't caving *too* much to the patriarchy :)

Ack, sorry this is so long...

Date: 2010-05-20 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, and one other thing -- I do get mail at my parents house to Mira Mom'slastname because the director of an art program my mom signed me up for for a week in third grade didn't believe we could have different last names, but that was actually the only time it was ever a problem to have a different last name from my mom.

Date: 2010-05-20 08:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I do have one friend who, when they were deciding the name issue with their spouse (after already having been married for several years and deciding that they wanted to have the same last name after all), ended up flipping a coin because neither one really wanted to change their name. That was fairly convincing in terms of the "would you have changed _yours_ in different circumstances?" question.

I'm amused by the "W" story. And a little surprised by the vehemence of James' family, but I guess my baseline has been set by years of MIT and grad school, which is perhaps not quite representative of the larger population. =)

Date: 2010-05-20 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
after already having been married for several years and deciding that they wanted to have the same last name after all),

We always knew we wanted to have the same last name, we just got stuck at that point for a while.

Date: 2010-05-20 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ah, I hadn't realized that. I still really like your solution. =)

Date: 2010-05-20 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

It's stopped a few angry people in their tracks.


"I lost the coin toss"

"oh, all right then"

Date: 2010-05-20 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have been slowly shifting to being [ profile] pekmez [ profile] pekmez [ profile] zubatac (no hyphenation, just as [ profile] desireearmfeldt mentioned seems common in academia), but my legal name is all [ profile] pekmez.

I haven't tried to travel alone with my kid, , yet. I don't know if it would be an issue.

Date: 2010-05-20 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
that should hvae said, with my kid [ profile] gljiva [ profile] zubatac. :)

Date: 2010-05-20 08:23 pm (UTC)
desireearmfeldt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desireearmfeldt
For some reason, I find the idea of going by a family name that doesn't match one's legal one...disconcerting. Despite the fact that I don't find it particularly disconcerting for given names. :)

Date: 2010-05-20 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Eh, I have credit cards in both names. I just accept whichever offer is better.

Date: 2010-05-20 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think I would find it more disconcerting if I was going by only the family last name, rather than both. Since I've added a name rather than changed a name, I don't mind not having bothered with the legal change - I still think I might someday, but it's taken a while to even be interested in it.

I actually find it more disconcerting when my grandparents send me a check for my birthday addressed only to myfirstname husbands-lastname, and then I endorse it with the signature of myfirstname bothlastnames. But one reason I don't want to change my last name officially / legally is that signing my name differently is just...wrong somehow.

Date: 2010-05-20 08:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
:) I kept my name. Some people are clever and keep their last names as well-stated middle names.

Date: 2010-05-20 09:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I reckon I'd keep my last name. I like it, even if I do have to spell it all the time. I'd want to pass it on to my kids too, especially given the lack of male brothers or cousins to hand it down.

Different names does cause problems though - I know a girl who has her biological father's surname but lives with her mum (who kept her own surname) and her step-dad. So, three people, three different surnames. The school have just about figured out the mum thing, but the step-dad has trouble if he just tries to sign permission slips. Part of me thinks it might be because they live in a very suburban part of the world and you don't get away with that kind of parochial 1950s world view in inner London any more.

On the academic side, a friend of mine decided to change his surname to match the rest of his family (long story) at the start of his PhD to avoid any problems of publishing under more than one name. Since he left academia at the end of the PhD it all seemed a little pointless.

Not sure what the point is, except maybe that there is something in a name, and even if you get through traumatic family experiences you may find yourself faced with a lifetime of irritating bureaucracy as a reminder.

Date: 2010-05-20 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As per issue (1), my mother had a different name than mine since I was 7 yrs old. We've traveled together many times, including when I was underage, and it was never a problem. Sure, there's always the school teacher that asks "who's mother are you?", but on the whole, it's really not so much a problem as people make it out to be.

... which made me feel better about keeping my name and giving any future kids his name. It'll all work out!

Date: 2010-05-20 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmm. I'll have to ask my coworker further details about his spouse's experience once he gets back from Paris and I get back from Boulder/Boston/Asheville/NYC... maybe she was just being hyper-prepared, but it would be interesting to hear if she actually had a sticky incident somewhere. It does seem like the situation is common enough that it shouldn't be a problem, but I could see it being one of those "letter of the law" almost never put into practice sort of things?

Date: 2010-05-20 11:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was originally going to speculate that it was due to the TSA security era, but it appears to be an international issue:

ETA: The wording was so identical in so many places that I suspected it was old; I now think the issue is coming from the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Best Practices document for that has a lot about (non-legally-binding-but-still-really-suggested) prevention of kidnappings before the (slightly more legally binding) agreements to work with other countries to make sure kids get returned. Though I could not find anything explicitly talking about different last names.
Edited Date: 2010-05-21 12:02 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-05-21 12:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I went the double-barrelled route referenced above, though technically the middle part of the name is actually a middle name. Though it's been terribly confusing trying to get that across, and nobody who knew me before knows what to call me. Enh, well. We tried to be egalitarian about it by both of us taking my name as a second middle name -- we liked the symbolism of that -- but in practice I use the name and he doesn't, so it doesn't actually look publicly very different from that standard academic compromise.

One thing I had no idea about -- if you take on an ethnically obvious last name, people who are of that ethnicity (by birth, not just by ancestry) will assume that you are also of that ethnicity. My "ethnicity by marriage" is Lithuanian, and two times I have run into Lithuanians who have been so sure I'm one of them, and I have to tell them... well, no, not even my grandparents, it's just my husband's name. Lame.

Another thing that surprised me -- and this is something others tried to tell me, and I didn't hear -- is that even though name-changing was actually my idea, I felt really weird and conflicted about it afterward, like I was wearing a false nose or something. (For instance: who but the illiterate have to learn how to sign their names as adults?) And I know from experience that name changes feel very strange to friends; I inwardly refuse to re-file any of my married friends under married names, though I don't tell them this of course. My new name is cooler than my old and I'm pretty used to it now; my in-laws are wonderful and I love the symbolic tie to them; and yet I think were I to do it again, I ... might not, actually.

Date: 2010-05-21 12:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My sister-in-law changed her last name to my brothers/mine. It totally threw me off, especially because we have the same first initial, so it was like "Gah! Doppleganger!"

I'm over it now. :)

Date: 2010-05-21 01:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My husband is not keen on changing his name, and we both agree that hyphenation is stupid and unsustainable. I'm fine with giving the kids his name because it's just simpler. He doesn't care At All what I do with my name, so it's been all up to me. My middle name is my mom's maiden name, so adding another last name in the mix makes the situation just as ridiculous as multiple generation hyphenation. Dropping her name would feel just as sexist as dropping my dad's, and dropping my dad's just to be different feels unfair too. When I went to the wedding of a certain Thetan commander and heard she planned to "take his name socially, but not change anything legally," I decided "yeah, right on, that's a great idea, that's exactly what I'll do."

But I haven't had any particular social situations in the past couple of years where I might be introduced as Mrs. W, so I effectively haven't changed the name at all. Also, the Reasonable Excuse I gave to all the family members--scientific publications--kind of evaporated when I failed to publish before I married. A family member on the other side asked me "why don't you want to be a W?" which seemed rather unfair to me. I actually run into the issue most often at fencing. People hear that I'm married, and since the husband is rarely at my fencing events these days, they've asked me whether all sorts of random people are my husband. A couple of fencing parents I know were actually arguing about whether I should take his name at a recent tournament: hippy mom stands up for my name, jolly dad says it's dumb to fight tradition. Sometimes I wish I did have his name, just to show them what it is, while he's so far away in England and all. Then again, I'd have to buy new equipment/patch the printing with My name.

This airplane issue has me worried now, too. Especially because our kids (when we get around to making them) will be rather more Chinese than I am.

Date: 2010-05-21 02:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Have you seen my kids? Son the Elder looks like my kid. Son the Younger looks like my husband's kid. You never know. Genetics is funny that way.

Date: 2010-05-21 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Gosh, I guess I haven't seen StY since he was Really Young. I always thought StE looked like a perfect blend of you two :).

Date: 2010-05-23 05:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I find this whole issue intensely frustrating. And most of the people in my family change their names. But I don't like either the solution that my identity changes and his goes on unchanged or that I keep my identity and form a family unit in which there is one name for everyone except me. And I don't like the implication that keeping or changing one's name says something about how committed one is to the marriage. (do people who say that mean that my dad isn't committed to his marriage? My brother?) It's silly, but it gets to me.

And I have the funny situation that there aren't any other people with my name, so changing to a name that is *very* shared feels even more like subsuming an identity than it might otherwise.

I have a friend who changed her name nine months before the wedding, because she knew she wanted to, and that way her diplomas and publications would all be under the same name. (not undergrad, but all the doctory stuff)

Date: 2010-05-23 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah. The dcltdw method does feel like it solves some of the issues I have with name changing - it still requires changing away from a name that you've had all your life, but at least it is a change with your partner, not to your partner. More mutualness. But... I really like my last name, and still don't want to change it.

Maybe this is why there's that meme about female teenagers doodling -firstname- -cute boy's lastname- in their notebooks: get them used to the idea that their last name is malleable at a young age so it isn't a massive shock to the system later.

Date: 2010-05-23 05:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It does. It's a really nice solution. In our case, we have the publications issue (which is not only a publications issue but a reputation issue).

Another name-changer here

Date: 2010-05-29 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Another thing about changing your name.

I had a friend who got married to an airman, didn't change her name, and then 3 years later had a kid. So we have Ms. Maidenname, Mr. Airmain, and Baby Airman. They lived on base. She had to produce documentation that she was Baby Airman's mom EVERY time she went on or off base. 2 months in to living on base, she started the process to change her name.

I don't think that it's such a big deal with kids who are old enough to talk; little Napoleon can clearly identify all of his family (Mommy, Daddy, Nana, Grandma, Aguelo, Uncle Chris ... etc) even though he's only 2. But when I had to fly with him before then (we bough him a seat every flight) it was a huge timesaver to be 1-family 1-name.

Of course, my college diploma and my entrie work history is in Ms. MarriedName, so I have nothing to worry about there.

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