Your advice to "A Split Opinion in the Midwest" left a lot to be desired. The woman who wrote wanted to keep her maiden name after marriage. Her husband, however, insisted that she take his name. You suggested she compromise by using her maiden name professionally, and her husband's name socially.
I compromised by hyphenating our names when we married. It's made my husband happy, but I feel a tinge of resentment every time I sign my name. Of course, it is too late to change back to my maiden name, because people will assume we are getting a divorce, so I am stuck with my hyphenated name.
There are few things in life as personal as one's name. "Split's" fiance should not ask her to do something he would not be willing to do himself. After all, she is the one who has to live with her choice, not him. A fiance should make only those decisions regarding his name, and give his future wife the same privilege.
Mrs. Been There-Done That
You are not the only one who thought my "compromise" was less than ideal. Here are some additional letters on the subject:
From West Hartford, Conn.: Your "compromise" was a cop-out, Ann. Maintaining two names will not last, and "Split's" name will be the one that falls by the wayside. I not only kept my own name, but with my husband's encouragement, our two daughters also have my last name. I admit it can be confusing on occasion, but in 16 years, I have never regretted my decision.
Kansas City, Kan.: I changed my name because I believed it was silly to hold out when my fiance and I loved each other so much. Ten years and one divorce later, I see it differently. His insistence on my name change was the first in a long list of things he did to control me. He told me how to wear my hair, what clothes to buy, what couples to spend time with, where to take our vacations, what time I was to wake up on the weekends, and how long I could talk on the phone to family members and friends. If her fiance threatens not to marry her if she doesn't change her name, she should run as fast as she can in the opposite direction. The man is a control freak.
San Diego: In 1964, I was madly in love. When I told my fiance I wanted to keep my maiden name, he said, with tears in his eyes, "You don't love me." His mother said, "What if you have children? People will think they are illegitimate." Hyphenating Di Napoli-Poffenberger was ludicrous, so I caved in. I cannot describe the feelings I had about disappearing as an individual. I did not receive class-reunion invitations, and my friends could not find my name in the phone book. Twenty-five years later, I told my husband I was going back to my maiden name and that he should know I loved him by now. It was a pain in the neck to change everything, and some of our friends asked if we were splitting up, but it was worth the hassle. Please tell that bride who wrote to stick to her guns.
Buffalo, N.Y.: I just read this in the Buffalo News. I hope you will print it.
When a 29-year-old man took his wife's last name, he was accused of trying to ingratiate himself to his new father-in-law, a powerful attorney. The man said, "My maiden name was a big hassle. I had to get a court order, and my credit-card companies still don't believe me." Surprisingly, the easiest thing to change was his Social Security card. After all, to the government, he's only a number.
Gem of the Day for all those who wrote (credit William Shakespeare): "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." If Shakespeare were around today, I would say, "Get with the program, Bill. Times have changed."
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