Welcome to "By Any Other Name"

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet. 

So goes the famous refrain from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as our heroine, a Capulet, bemoans the fact that her newfound love Romeo is a Montague, a sworn enemy of her family's. As someone who has loved the glorious Bard since I was a child, when my parents raised me on Kenneth Branaugh's Much Ado About Nothing and took me to see Shakespeare in the Park every summer, my blog dedicated to exploring the phenomenon of surname changes upon marriage could never be named anything else.*

Romeo and Juliet, by John Henry Frederick Bacon, 1896

Romeo and Juliet, by John Henry Frederick Bacon, 1896

See, I'm currently engaged to get married to my partner John, the funniest guy I know and just generally my most favorite person ever. I am really quite ecstatic about this and will delightedly sing his praises to you, tell you about our plans to have tacos and pretzels at our wedding, and show off my insanely gorgeous Victorian-era engagement ring to you for hours.

However, I frankly don't know what to do with my last name, for several reasons. 

1. I don't actually like my last name really at all and would be happy to get rid of it.

2. However, I don't actually want to change my name to my spouse's name. My mother kept her last name when she got married and I've always been immensely proud of her for that decision. I honestly didn't even realize how much her decision meant to me until I started really thinking about this.

3. I identify as a feminist and am very proud of that. To be honest, I also have just a kneejerk tendency to not want to go with the status quo. I really, genuinely do not care if I do the same thing as everyone else on this. I want to be able to make a decision that will make me happy. 

The more I thought about and spoke to friends about this, the more I realized how interesting the entire topic is. So many cultures have so many different ideas on this. Did you know that while the number of American women who keep their last names upon marriage has risen in recent years (around 20 percent), only around 7 percent total of married women in the United States actually retain their surnames. Several countries in Europe and the Middle East actually require women to keep their maiden names upon marriage, while in Japan, women are actually required to change their names when they get married?  And what do same-sex couples or made up of people who identify as genderqueer do?

Each person has their own reasons, informed by the many many things that make them unique. It can be a hard decision for some, and an incredibly easy one for others. Sometimes it's serious; very often it's just a matter of who has the coolest last name or maybe the simplest to pronounce. Some use different last names in different situations. And an entire culture has popped up around celebrating new last names in the form of wedding hashtags.

As a former journalist who sometimes misses having an excuse to pick other people's brains and learn, I am really excited to research the heck out of this and share it with you via this blog. I will honestly also probably talk a lot about weddings and marriage in general outside of just last name stuff, because this whole thing is fascinating.

Things can honestly get really heated around this issue, so I want to make one thing really really clear here: I personally support whatever choice you make regarding your name. Keep it, Change it, Hyphenate it, Work it, Flip it and Reverse it** - as long as you're happy with your choice, I am totally happy for you. I'm also happy for you if you never want to get married ever. Any and all research, articles, podcasts, statistics and musings posted on this page are NEVER a judgment from me to you. It's entirely possible that some of the links I post to will have judgments on them just because of the nature of this topic, but be aware that they are not my own. 

As a sidenote, John really is a private person, so I'll be avoiding talking about him or his opinions too much on this page, beyond assuring you that he really is awesome. If you want to know anything more about him, you'll just have to get to know him in person.

Gratuitous engagement ring picture. Yeah. It's pretty awesome. We picked it out together at a vintage store and I love it shamelessly.

Gratuitous engagement ring picture. Yeah. It's pretty awesome. We picked it out together at a vintage store and I love it shamelessly.

*Even though, to tell the truth, Romeo and Juliet is one of my least favorite Shakepearean plays. My favorite is actually The Tempest. I can tell you all about this in depth if you'd ever like to know why.

**Shout out to Patrick, who I think of literally every time I listen to Missy Elliott. Miss you.