Friday, January 21, 2011

What's My Name Again?

Source, with a little help from my mad paint skillz...

In a few months, Mr. Goodlaff and I will get our marriage license, and by the time we head into the Recorder's Office to do our paperwork, I will have made a decision about what my new name will be. But right now, I have no clue how I will fill in that paperwork.

When I was younger, I always assumed that I would take my husband's last name and drop my own; I didn't really know there were any other options. But there are options--lots of them: I can keep my current name; I can take Mr. Goodlaff's last name; I can add Mr. Goodlaff's name to my last name with a hyphen; I can make my maiden name my middle name; I can add my maiden name to my middle name.  In California, Mr. Goodlaff and I can even create our own last name (in fact, that's how this blog came to get its name). 

Right after Mr. Goodlaff proposed, I discovered my inner feminist. All of a sudden, dropping my last name and taking Mr. Goodlaff's wasn't a given.  I've had my current name for 27 years now, and I rather like it; I feel that to leave it behind completely would be a little bit like losing a piece of myself (and I mean that in the least melodramatic way possible).  Your name is so much a part of your identity--it's how you recognize yourself, how you define who you are. And not to go medieval on you or anything, but I have no brothers, and therefore there's no male heir to carry on the family name--I feel a need to represent.

I'm not going to completely give up my last name, but I am going to take Mr. Goodlaff's name too.  So, here's where the waffling begins: do I hyphenate or take my maiden name as a second middle name?

Decisions, decisions.

See, I actually like my current middle name, and don't want to replace it with my maiden name--so that option is completely out. But I have been considering adding my maiden name to my middle name.  Nothing fancy, but it's a way to keep my former name without having to, a. use it daily, or b. get rid of it entirely. 

Then there's the possibility of hyphenating.  Both last names are there and it's all good. Sort of.

One thing that makes this decision harder is that that both Mr Goodlaff and I have fairly lengthy last names. Both are eight letters long. If I were to hyphenate, I would have a ridiculously lengthy, sixteen-letter last name that would never fit in the boxes on any government form.  Our last names don't flow well, either--four clunky syllables tromping along to a plodding cadence. Add to that a nine-letter first name and a five-letter middle name and you have a whopping 30 letters (thirty-three characters including spaces).  Credit card companies would hate me.  My name would always get truncated. I would be that lady in line at the store who takes forever to sign her receipts. 


I go back and forth every week, but really it's all just semantics.  Either my maiden name will be the second half of my middle name, or it will be part of my last name.  The order is the same, the number of letters are the same, I just have to decide how to organize it. Unfortunately this isn't like choosing the flowers or the wedding colors--for me the name change is a big decision and I am spending a lot of time thinking about how my two options could affect me going forward.

And where, you may wonder, does Mr. Goodlaff stand in all of this? He would love me to take his name, but is perfectly okay if I decide not to take his at all (that won't happen). Right now, I'm pretty sure he just wants me to make a decision.  In fact, he's now trying to sway me with the good opinion of a local high school student who was working the e-waste recycling event last weekend. After taking Mr. Goodlaff's information, he said "that's a sick last name." I wonder if he would have thought that my potential sixteen-letter monster of a last name would be "sick" as well?

So ladies, let's talk name changes.  What's your opinion on changing your name?  How did you decide what to do? Anyone else out there with a potential monster last name like me?


  1. It is a tough decision for every woman. I took my husband's name for a few reasons: 1) I'm pretty traditionalist 2) Since my husband moved to America for me, I wanted to show his family in England I was doing something to be a part of their family 3) My name would've been KristIN ****IN ***IN. Way too many -INs! Good luck with your decision, definitely takes some soul searching!

  2. I support your inner feminist! Remember, your current passport has all those cool stamps...

  3. Sometimes I feel like one of the few people that didn't struggle with this. I don't have any attachment to my last name--I actually don't like it! For us, it wasn't even a discussion but I think that's mostly because I don't like my last name :) He has a much more "normal" last name than I do :)

  4. i totally know how you feel! I am going through the same thing! i have no idea what to do i want to keep both of my names and if it is possible i am going to keep them both and middle names and take his as a last name.