In the comments to this post about men changing their last names, I got this question:
I don't want to change my last name, and my fiance is pretty open to changing his. But he's got 10 years of work under his belt with his name, and ffhe'll be the first to admit – he works with a bunch of macho types who will probably not be so supportive. So he says, "Show me another man that has done this – let me talk to him, let me learn how he navigated these challenges." … But I can't find him a single one, except anecdotally. So where are the men who have taken their wives' names? And how do I find them?!
I know a couple men who've taken their wives' last names in two different ways (one got rid of his last name, the other hyphenated), so I pestered them for some answers:
The dude: Will Merydith, CTO of software startup
His maiden name: Will Anderson
Macho cred: Former competitive snowboarder, watches COPS.
Why did you decide to change your name? When we got married, we decided to keep our own last names. It wasn't until Dawn got pregnant that we decided a unified last name was important. We decided to take Dawn's last name for three reasons:
1. Dawn's father died at an early age, when she was in college. His last name carried extra significance for her.
2. My father has been estranged from his first family for over fifteen years. His name carried little importance to me.
3. Hyphenated names are great symbols of unity and compromise, but silly.
What responses have you gotten? It's been weird. I think Dawn's friends see it as nothing surprising because they know her feminist past. My friends really never knew what to say. They responded with puzzled looks or statements indicating they would never do such a thing. Taking Dawn's last name ended up revealing that a lot of my male friends are more macho and conservative than I would have suspected.
What advice would you give to men considering changing their names? Don't make the decision lightly. It's been a complete bureaucratic pain in the ass. Government agencies, my work, my insurance company, my credit card company, banks, the car loan agency, anything requiring a credit check … they are not accustomed to men changing their last names. It's been five years now and I still have a stack of photocopied documentation of my name change, ready to send in order to prove, yet again, that I am who I am.
The dude: Rob Rummel-Hudson, Author
His maiden name: Rob Hudson
Macho cred: Known for cave-mannish confrontational outbursts, watches COPS.
Why did you decide to change your name? When we were talking about getting married, Julie expressed hesitation to change her name, and I agreed that really, there was no reason for her to let go of the identity she'd had all her life just because of tradition, particularly one with perhaps some misogynistic origins. At the same time, we wanted to acknowledge our new family with our names, so it just sort of grew out of that, a desire to illustrate our new reality without either of us letting go of the identities that we'd grown up with. (Also, my student loan people lost me for about three years. Woo! Maybe I should change it to Hudson-Rummel and see if they lose me again.)
What responses have you gotten? Responses have been mixed, largely depending on where we are. When we lived in Connecticut, it was less of a big deal than it has been in Texas, but even here, it seems to be less of a big deal than I thought it might be. Our families are both pretty conservative (surprisingly, since we're both such liberal heathens), and my family in particular isn't in love with it (my brother is like, "I guess it's up to me to keep the family name going now"), but honestly, I don't think either of us care much.
What advice would you give to men considering changing their names? Balance out how you feel about the traditions that seem to suggest you should keep your name and leave the changing to her. Do you value those traditions? If they don't resonate with you, then really, they're not so much traditions as arbitrary rules without reason. Keep in mind that you're sending a message to the world, and while some people may react negatively to that message, I suspect that if you're considering it in the first place, you probably don't give much stock to those kinds of opinions. In the end, it's about how you identify yourself, in the context of your marriage and your new family.
I'd love to hear from more men who changed their last names! Feel free to share your story in the comments.