real life

BLOG: The ultimate argument AGAINST taking his last name.

Did you change your name when you married? What about your Instagram username?


When I was in high school, it wasn’t unusual for the loved-up girls in my class to while away the hours during maths by practicing their ‘married’ signatures.

Susan Delany would scrawl, ‘Sue Battersby,’ so she’d know how to sign a cheque when she became Mrs Battersby, wife of Damian. It never happened (Damian ditched her for Jodie Geary) but good on Susan for being prepared.

These days, apparently, girls are reserving gmail addresses just in case their fella pops the question. This is especially crucial if the fella has a common name – like Smith or Jones or Hunter. Yikes.

Of course, you could always keep your own name – and your email address. Lots of women do, but even in 2013, some 80% of women in the USA take their husband’s name.

It’s hard to find numbers in Australia, but some studies suggest about 64% of women change their name when they marry. Fewer than our American sisters, but still more than half.

The data is woolly – possibly because you’re legally allowed to call yourself whatever you like, as long as the intent isn’t to defraud anyone. Lots of women will continue use their birth name at work but their married name socially, or when kids come along. Or when booking restaurants – especially if your husband’s name is easier to spell.

Unlike most of my friends and colleagues, I did change my name, officially, when I married in 1999. I’m not sure why, I just assumed that’s what I would do. I don’t feel I lost my identity – it’s just a name. If I’d decided to call myself ‘Iris Free Spirit Unicorn’, I’d still have been the same chick churning out punny headlines in an ad agency. Back then, the name-change was a bit of a hassle  – passport, drivers’ license and a few other official bits and pieces. I made a list of what had to be changed and within a week it was all sorted.

Mr and Mrs

BUT these days it’s way different. Changing your name involves changing your online identity.

The law won’t get in your way, but the sheer number of people who share your name or initials might. I’m not sure I’d do it today.

I went from being the only person with my old name on the planet (my family name is Croatian) to one of thousands of Kate Hunters.

Hence, the ‘name bagsing’ that’s going on – especially for well-educated women who aspire to high-profile jobs.

Just as people worry their digital footprint will come back to bite them 20 years after the uni toga party, now there’s a real concern that if you change your name, no one will find you on LinkedIn. Or on Facebook, Twitter, or even in a random Google search.

The Atlantic reported:

Today, not only are more and more women obtaining higher degrees and becoming an influential part of the workforce, they’re also getting married later, and have an even larger digital footprint to consider. In the digital age, it’s not just the journalists and published authors out there who are considering their “bylines.” Social media and the ever-growing, searchable self have opened up public personalities for nearly everyone, particularly young professionals.

So deciding to change your name is no longer as simple as queuing at the passport office.

Many women are managing the dilemma by effectively having a bet each way. The Atlantic wrote about one woman who’s tackling it that way:

Angel Brownawell is getting married next June. She plans on keeping her surname on her online accounts but changing it legally to match her husband’s. Her decision is prompted by a combination of factors — a feminist attitude, wanting to be a good digital role model for the people she advises in her public relations job in Washington, DC, and the practicalities of trying to come up with a whole new set of usernames — that are driving her to split her identity in two. “I’m still trying to figure out if that will work.”

Brownawell’s approach may well become more common. After all, in the digital world, names are malleable. If you want, you can be one person on Instagram, another on Facebook, and someone totally different on the books at the Social Security Administration. It’s possible that this flexibility could be an advantage for women who want to define their professional selves outside of the private world of marriage and the family.

Personally, I think an all-or-nothing approach is the way to go. Be a singular person with one name.

If you’re going to change your your name, jump through the hoops and change it on everything, even if that means your email address is [email protected]

Or get on with life and leave your name the way it is. No one gives it nearly as much thought as you do.

What did you do when you got married – or, if you’re yet to get married, what do you think you’ll do?

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