I’ve never liked my last name. It’s just plain weird, and I don’t have the kind of connection with the greater Sacharin family that might have made its oddness endearing rather than burdensome. I spent my younger years waiting for the day I could ditch it for something strangers would know how to pronounce. Something I wouldn’t have to spell out over the phone. And, above, all, something not quite so eminently mockable—if I never hear another joke about artificial sweeteners again, it will be too soon. Because my name is one so outlandishly bad, it seemed almost inevitable that any man I might get involved with would have a better one.
Now that the prospect of a name change is no longer hypothetical, though, I’ve changed my tune. I feel bad admitting this, but it’s partly down to the fact that Ben’s last name is every bit as weird as mine—sorry Ben! I’ve accepted that my dreams of a “normal” last name are not to be, but the prospect of going to all the trouble of changing my name for one that’s roughly comparable to what I already have isn’t very appealing.
But changing your name isn’t all that much trouble, you may be thinking. For most brides, that may be true. But I’d have to do it in not one but two countries. And while I gather that it can all be done by mail in the UK, that’s not the case in the US. I don’t know that I’ll be in the States much post-wedding, and I’d certainly prefer not to spend whatever time I have there waiting in line at the bank or the DMV. You may recall from my posts about the visa process that I get unduly jittery about bureaucratic processes of all stripes, which makes the admin side of the name change that much less appealing.
Plus, the idea of changing my name is disconcerting. I’ve lived with my last name for nearly 30 years now. Like it or not, my name is part of my identity. I can’t say I’ve built up a massive professional reputation or anything like that, but I’ve done a lot as Emily Sacharin, and I’m not ready to separate myself from all of those things, if that makes any sense. Maybe someday I will be, but not right now.
When I told Ben about my decision, I think he was a little disappointed. In a lot of ways we’re pretty old-fashioned, and it might have come as a surprise that I’m going the other direction on this name change business. There’s also the issue of us having (or not having) a shared family name. I’m happy for our future children to take his name—there’s no way we’re hyphenating, and I have no particular desire to pass mine on in any case. But I’m not sure when the time comes I’ll feel 100% great about not sharing a name with them. I figure I can reassess if and when it becomes an issue, though—there’s nothing stopping me from making the change a few years down the line if I change my mind. There’s also the option of going by Ben’s name socially and listing myself under it in school directories and whatnot while staying a Sacharin for legal purposes.
I get the sense that it’s much rarer to keep one’s name in the UK, where I’ll be living as a married lady, than it is in the US, where I’m from. It seems like it’s really the exception not to change it (or at least to hyphenate, or double-barrel as you Brits would say) in England I don’t have a ton of married friends, but most of my girlfriends stateside plan to keep their names when the time comes. Some are quite dogmatic about it, and others just find it doesn’t feel quite right to change for whatever combination of reasons.
How about you, married and soon-to-be-married readers? What did you do, or do you plan to do? Was it a clear-cut decision, or were you torn? As someone in the latter camp, I find it really interesting to hear different perspectives and stories.