On Hyphenated Surnames #LoveBlog2018

Wife putting the ring on the husband during the wedding ceremony

In the UK, women traditionally take their husband’s name. It’s so common that the most common security question is your mother’s maiden name. Italian women tend to keep their name instead. A quick glance at announcements of passing in my hometown will show a number of “Molteni in Borghi” and “Borghi in Molteni”, or as my late grandmother “Molteni in Cesana”. It means that the woman married into a family but retained, fundamentally, her identity. I share a surname with my father and my aunt, who has often been mistaken for my mother because she looks more like me than my mother does. I’ve once witnessed a mother having to provide a marriage certificate at passport control to travel with her children without her husband and that settled it for me: if I ever got married I would change my name. I want the same name as my children, and don’t feel that much of an attachment to the family I come from, one of which my mother doesn’t even share the surname. It was a no brainer.

The one alternative to that seemed to be the prospective husband taking my name. It sounds good in theory, when you think about having built something over the long years of singlehood and how, as much as you don’t feel attached too much to your family of origin, you do feel attached to your own personal legacy from a life well spent. When I look at it from the perspective of my own family, compared to looking at my name related to what I have built under that name in my 29 years of life, I feel differently about it: it’s harder to give up my name when it’s about me and my achievements. Robert W. Lore makes a compelling argument about why he took his wife’s surname. However, I don’t feel strongly about the history behind changing my name as his wife did, so the question for me is: if I’m not happy to leave behind my name, would I ask that of my partner? He also built his own personal legacy long before he met me, and will continue to do so long before he’ll be married. The only rationale I see in doing that, personally, is reversing the tradition to make a feminist statement, which is perfectly valid if that’s how you feel, but that’s not how I feel.

However much Mr Lore thinks it’s a family and not a law firm (but don’t law firm names sound really cool?), the only option that I personally see as true equality, since I want to have the same name as my children, is to hyphenate the surnames. I’ve always liked that my Spanish friend had a part of both parents as part of her identity (and her parents are lovely), and even more so that it is the country’s custom. Many couples who keep the individual names hyphenate the children’s surname, and a number of women hyphenate theirs as well, but what seems less common is the husband hyphenating his. Over the Christmas holidays, a blogging world’s power couple tied the knot, and in between the stunning wedding pictures, the groom Ali Gordon (legally Millen-Gordon) shared his thoughts about why he took the name too. And it nearly made me cry, because it was beautiful.

I have been adamant that my life will not start the day I get married, but the truth is a new life will: that of the family that is created by that bond. From that day onwards, it’s a joint legacy as much as the carrying on of our individual ones. Children will be part of it, as I intend to raise good citizen that will give something to society according to their gifts, but it’s mostly about partnership. And if that sounds too much like a law firm, I don’t really care.

Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Legacy”. Find the rest of the series here.

Flowers and graphic saying the titles of the challenge

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  1. I think you know my feelings on my last name… 😉

    I would have been fine with hyphenating, if Dan wanted us to share the same last name. Our kids will have both our last names, but not hyphenated. Legally, they’ll be able to use both names together, or either name separately. We also want to use family names for first/middle names.

    1. You should have become the Flongs, it’s a brilliant joint surnane. I fear I need the hyphen because with a foreign surname people might think it’s the middle name! The struggle is real

  2. I am a fan of the combined, hyphenated name as taken by both parties. When I was young (kid young) I thought I would hyphenate, or even “keep” my maiden name, with the intention that I would have been so well known and successful by that point, “changing” my name to a married name would be silly. Then real life, and children, came into the scene and it turns out, I’m very happy with taking my husband’s name and we have given our son, upon his adoption by my husband, both of our family names within his – and that serves all of us well. So, you didn’t ask any of that, did you? To the point – Lovely writing on the Legacy theme, good food for thought. I’m pleased we’ve evolved to this being a personal decision for each couple to make.

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