Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Name Game?

Today's post is about an issue that is lately near and dear to my heart. I got engaged this summer (biiig family party this weekend, the highlight of which will be the rented port-o-potty. Or so I keep telling everyone), and rare is the social event that raises more questions (and eyebrows) over etiquette, dress, correspondence, family matters and major moral quandaries than a simple, homey wedding.

Every magazine I've seen (and I may have gathered more than my fair share...just ask the roommates) is loaded with questions ranging from "can I just put out a bucket and ask people to throw cash in it?" to "Can I wear white even if I'm....impure?"

(The picture is of me in a salon on my friend Sarah's wedding day--you can recognize her by the headgear--consulting a bridal magazine for advice on vital matters like these.)

Mostly, the questions ask what one can get away with, while the columnists instead reply, pointedly, one what one perhaps ought to do (no to cash buckets, yes to white!). When the world gets all springy and Juney, these columns spill over like so much champagne from their rightful domain in bridal magazines into mainstream advice columns.

Which brings us to my issue today (yes, I have one, and I'm getting to it!), which is less about the wedding, and more about the rest of my (our!) life:

Amy's writer today is a 58-year-old bride planning her second wedding. After 24 years of marriage and 12 since her divorce, during which time she used her married name, she's wondering whether to take on her new husband's last name.

If you had to pick a columnist to answer this question, I'd say Amy's your best bet. She's been married, she's been divorced, she has a college-age daughter, and a thriving career, which is heavily dependent on recognition of her name...she can basically see the issue from all sides. And here's sum of her angles, which I appreciated:

Dear Bride: My own vote is for you to keep the name you've been using for more than two decades—especially if you have children with whom you share the name.

I ran your question past Arlene Dubin, a matrimonial lawyer, who says there are few negative ramifications for using one name on all legal documents and professionally and another surname for personal and social occasions. In fact, Dubin says that's what she has done for many years.

(I've decided from now on I'll use colors to distinguish among questions, answers, and columnists. I'm a color coder by nature.)

I'm comforted by this idea that you could use one name on legal documents and another personally...ideally, I think that's what I'd be most comfortable doing all around, but it seems to invite confusion (what happens when a personal friend or personal relative writes you a personal check using your personal name and you try to cash it at a bank that doesn't have that personal touch?).

What do you think? Does taking the name of a prospective husband start your brand new united family off the the right, dyeable pump-clad foot? Or in today's world is it an antiquated tradition? Or is there a happy medium? Did Amy find it, or do we need to keep looking?

Of course...this is a personal choice and everyone will have a different answer...but that's true of anything you could write to a columnist about. So no beating around the bush--if you were the columnist and this was your question, what would you say? How would you guide the greatest number of potential brides while still answering the single question set before you?

Oh the challenge. Oh the power.


Katherine said...

This post makes me wonder how authors who use pseudonyms handle having two names. I'm sure they constantly get mail that's addressed with their pen name.

The situation of whether or not to change your name gets especially tricky as you get older or if you have a professional reputation that relies on name recognition. At the same time, it can be awkward if you have children to figure out which last name to give them. It's just much more convenient if an entire family has the same last name.

Is it silly to change your name but continue to use your previous name professionally?

Anonymous said...

The real question at hand, and one that I think has been missed (or at least not addressed in full) is will you use different colors for each columnist and keep that consistent. Because if you do...that's just amazing. Or just Becky. Whichever.