I’m getting married in September and I’m thinking about whether to hyphenate our last names or keep my maiden name. Losing my last name totally would be a shock to my sense of identity. I’ve had the same last name for thirty-two years and I can’t understand why I would have to give it up. How do other women handle the name change?
–F.E., Boston, MA
About keeping my maiden name. You don’t have to give up your last name.The English have been using hyphenated names for centuries and are even known for using three names connecting with two hyphens, but with early computers that didn’t read the hyphens in the names, many once hyphenated names no longer appear hyphenated.
There is always the option of not using both last names with no hyphen at all, which is evident in such names as Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber, Camilla Parker Bowles, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
About using just your maiden name, the problem is the IRS. They’ll want you to hyphenate your husband’s name with your own to put your Social Security number on your joint tax return. Why not use both names on your Social Security card, hyphenated or not, and continue using your maiden name professional and socially?
Then pragmatically giving your husband’s last name to any children you may have, or adopt, acknowledges your children’s paternity. You can have it both ways. Most medical records and credit cards will take both your last name and your husband’s with a hyphen or without.
The downside — or some might say the upside — is that by taking your husband’s last name, it will then be harder for people to find you on social media.
Approximately 20% of newly married women in the past few years have kept their maiden name — and another 10% have hyphenated their maiden name to their husband’s last name, but still use their maiden name professionally and socially. That’s a rise of 22% since the 1990s.
Researchers say the hike is most likely because many more women are having careers and more and more couples are living together longer before getting married, so changing their name is a genuinely drastic change. Statistics show the older you are when you married for the first time, the less likely you’ll change your name.
Personally, I never legally changed my name and still use my maiden name, but the IRS changed it for me because I used my maiden name and my husband’s last name on our joint tax return.
Do what you have to do to keep your identity.
Americans have been relaxing our traditions for decades. We are marrying later in life and less often. More often, older women are having children without getting married. And now, finally, we can legally have spouses of the same sex. Nevertheless, taking your husband’s last name is still “the norm,” albeit less and less.
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