Ask Amy: For this couple, last names come first

June 28, 2012

DEAR AMY: I have a very slight problem. My wife and I have been married for seven years. When we got married, I didn’t care whether she took my name, and she didn’t ask me to take hers (I wouldn’t have).

We have blissfully retained our individual identities for our entire married life, and it doesn’t bother anyone in the slightest.

My wife and I have a child, with another on the way. While she was gestating our first, we discussed last names and quickly realized that neither of us was going to be happy with his or her last name relegated to the exile of being a middle name or any other decision that favored one last name over another.

The result is that we hyphenated the last name. Our daughter now has a first and middle name to go with a hyphenated last name that’s of considerable length. This seems grossly unfair to me. We have saddled our children with the consequences of our inability to compromise. As they grow, our children will undoubtedly lament the length of their last name. I can’t even begin to contemplate the possibilities for when they get married.

Can you imagine when a hyphen marries a hyphen and both feel attached to their names? And will their kids have hyphenated names consisting of four last names joined together?

At one point we discussed a hybridization of our last names, but the most natural way to accomplish this includes my complete name and only a part of hers, which seems unfair as well. Any advice would be appreciated. Also, any anecdotes from readers about the ups and downs of having long and/or hyphenated last names would be great. -- Conflicted Father

DEAR CONFLICTED: This problem is only slight if you think names aren’t important, but obviously you (and your wife) believe that names are the only window onto one’s identity.

So you need to answer this question: Who can claim primacy to your child’s identity — you or your wife?

Okay. That was a trick question.

Your child’s primary identity belongs to the child. So far, your child, who I will call “Brittany Clovis Stevenson-Glockenspiel” is mainly the symptom carrier for her mommy and daddy’s unwillingness to identify as anything other than their individual selves.

One way out lies in the symmetry of your growing family.

You could give one child your surname and the other your wife’s.

This keeps everything fair, with each of you clinging to your respective separateness.

Or you could read this letter back to yourself and notice (as I did), that you are a very smart person locked in a sad and silly conflict.

I also take issue with your characterization of a middle name as being some sort of identity exile. Maybe because I love my own.

Because you wrote to me, I vote for your name to go in the middle.

DEAR AMY: We have good friends who are renewing their vows next month. I’m not a fan of these ceremonies, but we wouldn’t miss something that is important to them.

We received a somewhat formal invitation, including a response card. The ceremony and barbecue reception will be at their house.

Are we supposed to take a gift — just like the first time they recited their vows? -- Former Matron of Honor

DEAR FORMER: I vote no on a gift.

However, I do think you should dig up a photo from this couple’s original wedding, if possible, and write a fun and sweet caption on it.

You could note that styles may change and hairlines may recede, but a long and happy marriage never goes out of style.

DEAR AMY: Like “Flush With Funds,” I recently had the great fortune of coming into a sizable amount of money. People lined up with their hands out.

My financial adviser handed me a stack of business cards and instructed me to hand one to anyone who asked me for money, instructing them to forward their “formal business plan” directly to him.

I told anyone asking for a personal loan that all requests needed to go through my attorney. -- Problem Solved

DEAR SOLVED: I like it.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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