what’s in a name

This blog isn’t really anonymous, since I have it linked on Facebook. I’ve kept up with the blognames for my family and vague references for my friends because I’m not sure I want this to be searchable by my name. I’m not sure why, but that’s where I am. Now I want to write about my name and I’m not sure what to do. I think I’ll leave my first name out of it (It’s the name I use when commenting on blogs, so most everyone knows it anyway, even if you don’t know me personally) and symbols for the vowels when I mention my last name(s).

The statistic is that 80% of women continue to take their husband’s name upon marriage. I am part of that 80%. My motives seemed sound at the time (and I suppose still do). It was my gift to my husband. Our families are fairly conservative. It makes life easier all around. Our whole family has the same name. Blah blah blah. I also thought his name was cuter than mine. I was a L0ng. It’s a fairly common name, a good English name, a short-easy-to-spell name, but it is an adjective and I was called the short L0ng and it was occasionally a little annoying. My husband’s name, on the other hand, was L@mb. It’s a fairly common name, a good English name, a short-easy-to-spell name, and it’s a noun. (And my high school boyfriend, the only other person I ever really thought I might marry, his last name was L@ke. I don’t know what to make of that, but there it is.) By the way, for those who may have been looking for a stuffed sheep to hide for last week’s parable, we’ve got plenty. Lots and lots and lots of sheep/l@mbs in this house. And if I ever call the kids the Little L@mbs, the pun is fully intended. But I digress…

So I took my husband’s name. I had always thought I would keep my maiden name as my middle name, my family’s tradition on both sides, but I thought Bookgirl L0ng L@mb sounded goofy. (Since I started using it on Facebook so people from the past can recognize me, I’ve kind of gotten used to it. It doesn’t seem quite so goofy.) So I kept my middle name and justified it because it was a name my parents chose for me rather than being a name handed down through the patriarchy. And I got to keep my initials, which I thought was pretty cool. So. Whatever.

I’ve kind of regretted it ever since.

Now I’m getting closer and closer to actually graduating and I’m not sure I want to be Dr. L@mb. Six years later, and I’m not sure the name is a fit. Partly it feels like it would be giving his family my degree when it is my family who has supported me for 39 years in every way imaginable and in a very practical way the past 2 years by taking care of my kids so I could finish this. But Computerguy has certainly supported me for the past 7 years. And we’re in it for the long haul. I’m not going anywhere, regardless of what name I might use. I need to make a decision before I graduate. I think I could just make a name change (again) at the university and graduate as Bookgirl L0ng, Ph.D. I don’t know if that’s what I want to do, though.

So my choices as I see them:

(a) Do nothing. Graduate as Bookgirl L@mb. Live with it. All the reasons I had for changing my name when I got married do still stand.

(b) Change my name at the university and keep my professional and personal lives separate. I’d be Dr. L0ng, but Mrs. L@mb. I’d have to remember who I was when and it might be confusing for others. It also might be less confusing for others because they could just call me Mrs. L@mb and use Mr. and Mrs. Computerguy L@mb (I hate that designation and refused to let my poor Baptist pastor use it to introduce us at our wedding. He was a good sport. He instead introduced as as Computerguy and Bookgirl L@mb.) All my many other degrees are as Bookgirl L0ng after all. I’ve done conferences under L@mb, but haven’t published anything (more’s the pity, but that’s about the job search–not the name).

(c) Change my name back entirely. It would be a pain and a lot of paperwork and some money I think and I’d have to do a lot of explaining to people up front (and a lot of assuring people Computerguy and I are just fine), but I’d get my name back.

I see positives and negatives in all the choices. I probably most want to do (c), but will choose either (a) or (b). Any thoughts?

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5 Responses to what’s in a name

  1. Silent says:

    That’s a tough one…When I got married, I debated for a long time. My dad died when I was young and it felt like the one thing I had from my dad was his name. Of course there is more, but that was the most obvious.

    So, legally I have two middle names (taking my maiden name as the second). My husband was married before and has two kids; he would have been willing to change his name if it wasn’t for them having his name. (Their mom had remarried also and so has a different last name.) There was no way I’d ask him to change because of that.

    Now, nine years later, I’ve kind of grown into this new last name. But I still carry my ‘old’ name too–it’s just a different layer.

    I know more and more people who do (b) so I don’t know that many people would find it terribly confusing. So I’m no help, really! Have you talked to your husband? What does he think? That might help you clarify what is right for you.

  2. mompriest says:

    when I got married I kept my maiden name for business because I was already known by it., but took my married name for all other uses. When we had our first child and I quit (forced too) that job and went to using my maiden name as my middle name and my husband’s last name. His name is so much more ridiculous than mine was. But I had already had another last name, my parents were diorced when I was little and my step dad adopted us so my name changed then….I kind of figured that I was not defined by my last name.

    I know. that’s no help at all. It’s really confusing. But you know what ever you decide will be fine. The rest of the world around you will adapt…

  3. quackademic says:

    I did the take maiden name as middle name thing as a way of honoring the hard work I had done in grad school. It got cumbersome, so I now just go by my middle initial. I thought I would not like having my married name as my professional name, but I really do like it. My husband was with me for all of the Ph.D. process, and in a way taking his last name honors that support. We grew as a married couple while my diss was “born,” too.

    The one thing I do feel badly about is that my dad always refers to me as “Dr. Maiden Name” instead of “Dr. Married Name.” One other reason I changed names is my folks are conservative; I thought they would be upset if I went the non-trad route. But I think on some level that dad wishes the Dr. were in HIS family and not my husband’s family…

  4. bookgirl71 says:

    Thanks for the responses. They really are helpful. I need to remember that I am not defined by my name. I was talking it over with Computerguy last night and he really supports whatever I want to do, but think (b) might be confusing. He’s not in the academic world, thus has not run into that sort of thing so much. I think it could work, but I think I’ll probably do the First Name Maiden Name Married Name thing–even if it does sound a little goofy all together, unlike Quackademic’s names which are all really elegant and just cool, but I can see how they would get cumbersome.

  5. Robin says:

    I’ve been married for 37 years and never used any name other than the one I was born with. It seems to me that whatever is comfortable for and meaningful to you is the way to go.

    I have noticed that most women I know who originally chose your option b eventually abandoned it and went with their husband’s name as their sole last name. They had to spend way too much time explaining to someone from their professional life why their home voice mail indicated a different last name, and vice versa for personal friends and professional identity.

    Now that I am Old, I find the three name identity very confusing except for women whom I have known a long time. If I knew someone as Sally Smith and she married Joe Green, Sally Smith Green is easy for me. But if I meet her as Sally Smith Green, I am forever trying to remember whether it’s that or Sally Green Smith.

    Interestingly, one of my seminary friends got (re)married during our last year, and wanted very much for her new husband’s name to appear on all her ministry documentation. In my law practicing days, I had a colleague who was Sally First-Husband’s Name because that was how she had established herself professionally, even though by then she was also divorced from Second Husband.

    My kids have on occasion expressed frustration at having to explain the two-name parents, even though that is a very common choice around here. They have mostly encountered people who assume I have been divorced and remarried, which was the case for my step-siblings and their mothers — and is itself an interesting commentary on what women’s names mean in our society!

    Do what you want.

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