'I Didn't Want to Lose My Identity': 16,000 Readers Reflect on Their Surnames
By Hanna Ingber, The New York Times
This is a great read. I particularly identify with the introductory story about Katherine Yuk, who hated her name as a child due to schoolyard teasing but eventually decided to keep it. I, similarly, was teased as a child for having the last name Dickson. I mean, kids can be mean when you have a slang word for male genitalia hanging out in your surname.
I've also had some fun with automatically generated email addresses that cut off after so many letters; I believe my automatically generated one for law school was along the lines of "RDickso" or "DicksoR." It was bad enough that I called the IT department and begged them to change it for me, but they refused. I'm pretty sure I logged into that e-mail address only once, to set it to forward all my e-mails to my personal e-mail, and then never used it again.
It also doesn't help that I have the less common spelling of a fairly popular last name, so my entire life, I've had to fight people spelling my name as Dixon, or alternatively, Dickens or Dickinson. (Nope. Fail.) It's become enough of a problem that if I don't receive an e-mail I'm expecting, I call and make sure they had the right spelling of both of my names (oh yeah, my first name is the less common spelling of a fairly popular first name as well, so that just adds to the fun). But as I get older (I'm 29 now), I've grown to embrace it more. I wouldn't call it my identity, but at the same time, I'm not certain I'd recognize myself by a different name. Dealing with the problems that go along with my name are just part of the package, to me now.
I'm actually a bit disappointed in this NYT article. The stories from various women about their choice is truly lovely but that's all there is. Give me some statistics, people! Did you survey 16,000 women and then not come up with numbers about how many kept their name vs. changed vs. combined? How many gave their own names to their children? How many women in homosexual relationships responded? What trends showed up among those couples? Really, this seems like a failed opportunity. I'm very much hoping that there are more installments in the future that provide more information from the survey.