How I Decided What To Do With My Last Name (In The Event Of Marriage, Etc.)

Bùi Linh Ngân
Bùi Linh Ngân

I have a final paper due later this week, so naturally, I have spent much of my time this weekend sitting in a coffee shop perusing Facebook. Earlier this evening, I stumbled across a picture a girl I knew in high school posted with the caption, “MY BEST FRIEND IS NOW MRS. ASHLEY JONES*!!!!!!!” The picture featured a smiling bride and maid of honor.

I feel like I should mention that the girl I knew from high school had been posting about the wedding for months. I have never met the bride before in my life, but of course I still looked through every picture from the bridal shower, engagement photos, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, and now the actual event itself. I mean, I really felt invested in the whole affair. And now, this was the culmination of all that planning and picture-taking. Ashley Smith was now Mrs. Ashley Jones.

When I was about 10-years-old, I thought about how sad it would be to give up my last name. Ledda. I liked it. I had never met anyone else with that last name. I tried to grapple with the idea that someday I would marry someone, and then I wouldn’t be Claudine Ledda anymore. If not Claudine Ledda, then Claudine what? I also just really liked the combination of my first, middle, and last name. Sometimes I would write my name over and over again just to look at the whole thing. (I was kind of a vain 10-year-old.)

And then I had a crush, the kind of crush that just wrecked my little 10-year-old heart. Chris Jordan. He rode the bus with me and got off at the stop right before mine. He was in the G&T class, like me. He was funny, and just a really nice kid. Of course, all the other girls in homeroom liked him too, but I was the only one who only lived a street away from him. I tried pairing my first name with his last name. I wrote it a couple of times in my notebook. “Claudine Jordan, Claudine Jordan, Claudine Jordan” Eh. Didn’t really do much for me. Crushes came and went, and I continued to “try on” other last names. None of them sounded particularly appealing, and I just pushed it to the back of my mind.

Several years after my brother was diagnosed with autism, I came to the realization that no one would be passing on the Ledda name. Besides my brother, it was just me and my sister. I felt sad. I was proud of being a Ledda, proud of sharing the last name with my dad — who I loved and admired an incredible amount. But what can you do? My mom took my dad’s last name, every one else’s moms took their dads’ last name. I accepted that someday I, too, would take my future husband’s last name. That’s just how it goes, I thought.

Earlier this year, the last name “problem” came to the forefront of my mind once again. I was now in a committed, long-term relationship, and there was a good chance that this was the last name I would be adopting someday.

I don’t know how it came to me, but one day, I was hit by the realization that I didn’t have to change my last name. I could stay Claudine Ledda forever. However, now that I knew what it was like to be in love with a person that I actually wanted to share a name with them, I felt open to compromise. Luckily, I also really liked my boyfriend’s last name, so I decided I could just attach it to the end. I could hyphenate. I could be… Claudine Ledda-Coronado (a mouthful, I know).

Now, apparently this is a somewhat controversial subject amongst women. In some circles, the hyphenated last name can be considered uppity, inconvenient, and just flat-out obnoxious. I read comments from women who complained that it made filling out legal documents more difficult, it confused children and teachers, and what are you supposed to do if your child wants to marry someone with a hyphenated name too? What then?!

And then, I realized that I really really don’t care.

Not to say that I haven’t built up a good case against changing my name. I could reference wanting to go against outdated coverture laws that originated the tradition of a woman taking her husband’s last name (under the assumption that a woman was her husband’s property), I could talk about wanting to keep my last name for continuity if I publish academic papers, or how I would no longer be the only person with my name if I changed it (Go ahead and Google “Claudine Ledda” vs “Claudine Coronado”). I like having my unique name. Probably because that vain 10-year-old is now an even more vain 23-year-old.

But you know, former Ashley Smith looked pretty ecstatic to be Mrs. Ashley Jones. And I am really happy for her.

She decided she wanted to take her husband’s name, just like I decided earlier this year that if I do end up eventually marrying my boyfriend, I’ll just add his last name on to mine. Maybe I’ll make a different decision down the line, who knows. But the point is that it is my own decision, and I have my own reasons for making it.

For now, I’ll just try to focus on writing my final paper for my History of American Feminism class and stay away from the engagement ring ads that Facebook won’t stop pushing at me. Ugh. TC mark

*All names, including my own, have been changed to cover my own ass should anyone I know actually read this.

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Image Credit: Bùi Linh Ngân

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