The best decision I ever made was keeping my last name when I got married in October 2010.
I didn't change. I didn't hyphenate. I didn't merge. I didn't decide to use my name professionally and his name socially. I didn't make my name a middle name and take his as a last name. I didn't take any of the plethora of options out there regarding this important decision. I simply kept my name the way it was.
There are many, many stories out there about why women have chosen to change their names upon getting married. In fact, a recent survey by TheKnot.com stated that 86 percent of women getting married are changing their names. Furthermore, another survey by the Gender and Society Journal has stated that about half of the participants think that changing one's name should be a requirement for marriage.
Women keep their name for a variety of reasons. For some, it is a feminist decision that defies patriarchal norms that often come along with becoming a wife. For others, a name can reflect one's culture; when you have a culturally specific name and your partner does not, giving up that name can feel like giving up your culture, too. For still more women, it's about working hard to build a career in a culture that uses social media to associate people with their names. This is not a conclusive list, but the decision to keep one's name — no matter the reason — is an important choice for many women, and one that should not be taken away.
Granted, sometimes changing your name seems easier than keeping it — after the visit to the Social Security office, and the DMV, and calling credit card and billing agencies, to be sure everything is up to date. When you don't change your name, that stuff is easy; you don't have to do anything at all. But socially, when you are constantly asked, "What's your new name?" and then given disapproving or confused looks when you respond that you kept your name, it can be disheartening. Even more disappointing is when you start to receive cards in the mail from friends and family addressed to Mr. and Mrs. His Name.
However, the benefits for me have been immense. My name symbolizes my identity, and it was very important for me to be able to retain my identity when I got married. Of course, you have to fit your life in with another person, but the symbolism of completely becoming part of him, while he wasn't symbolically becoming part of me, was too much to bear. Plus, as a little girl, I never dreamed of having articles or books published or earning advanced degrees as Ashley Lauren SomeoneElse'sName, but I did dream of seeing Ashley Lauren S___ on bookshelves and diplomas.
There are as many reasons to keep your name as there are to change it, and the decision is not one to make lightly. The choice should be ours to make with our families, whatever that choice is.