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Name Game

January 23, 2013
Logo by Christine Hepner

Changing one’s name has absolutely nothing to do with one’s level of commitment to one’s relationship. Take the fact that educated women, who are more likely to marry at a later age, also tend to have the must (sic) sustaining (and happiest) marriages.  (quoted from the Atlantic Wire, including the typo….)

This article goes on to cite a statistic that shocked me when I first read it and that my husband refused to believe when I repeated it last night: just how few women (about 11% on the East Coast) are keeping their names after marriage. The percentage is more like 5% in the Midwest. I should point out that this statistic only considers women who marry men.

It was never a question for me. I never considered changing my last name. D never expected me to, either. Then along comes our baby and not only do we have to decide what his first name will be, but we have to decide on his last name, too.

For the first name, we bought the books, we made lists, we had our personal favorites (usually loathed by the other). We wanted something unusual and fitting, but not Upper West Side pretentious and silly. D was in Downyflake Donuts on Nantucket a few years ago, and this Yuppy mom was asking her children, Francesca and Grayson, what sort of donuts they wanted. Hard to pull off the grandeur of the name Grayson with a dirty diaper and bib, but some kids can do it, I guess.

I very much wanted a real mick name (in fact, I love the name Mick) to keep my ethnicity apparent in my son’s name. D’s last name is so Anglo-Saxon that I had to go strong to the old country for my list: Declan, Aidan, and Liam, etc. D rejected all of them. His list wasn’t awful, with the exception of his favorite: Tristan. I considered putting in my living will that if I died in childbirth, I would return to haunt him if he named our baby Tristan. Fortunately, I was able to convince D that it sounded so unfortunately Wagnerian that he gave in. So, the only name left on both lists was F, and although we agreed to wait until we met him in the delivery room, we were both pretty satisfied with our choice.

Then there was the last name.

We might have come up with a portmanteau name as many same-sex couples do, but without giving away too much of our real surnames, here are some of the likely combinations:

  • Cooter
  • Porney
  • Coopo
  • Pocoo

Just awful, right? Does not bode well for avoiding the schoolyard beatings if your last name is Cooter.

I didn’t want to hyphenate–it just seems so futile. The first generation is simple enough: John NameA-NameB. But then if he meets and marries a person who is also hyphenated, what name is passed along then or do you have a second generation of Mary NameA-NameB-NameC-NameD, and so on?

So we did what any good football fans would do: we punted. We gave our son my surname as his middle name and D’s as his last name. He is known as (and this is a made-up example) Patrick McShamrock Wasper.

I’ve already run into some minor issues with having a different last name than my son. Insurance, for example, at my pediatrician’s office. Even in our progressive bubble of NYC, it seems to confuse some people that my name is different from my son’s and husband’s, and the baby’s first claim was submitted to the insurance company with my last name only and then promptly rejected. Minor annoyances.

Until something like this happens: My friend (who’s divorced) and her then 17-yr.-old daughter were boarding a cruise ship for a vacation they waited a year for, and because my friend uses her maiden name and her daughter uses her father’s name, guess what? They almost weren’t allowed on the ship. I guess it’s to prevent parental abduction, but they almost missed their vacation.

Then there is the simple fact that D and F have the same last name and I’m the odd person out. D suggested that we amend F’s birth certificate and hyphenate, but then we all 3 of us would have different last names! I asked D to consider adding my last name to his name so that we are all McShamrock-Waspers (which is a big concession for both of us), and he did promise to consider it.

And then F solved the problem for us. He has named himself. Just this last week, he points to his own pictures and says, “UB.” He points to me and says “momma,” and he points to D and says “dadda,” and then he points to himself and says, “UB.”

So, there you have it: UB! One thing’s for sure, I will be the only mommy at the Dinosaur Playground in Riverside Park yelling, “Come here, UB, it’s time to go to Downyflake donuts!” Then again, it might catch on!

© Copyright 2013

Next time: Who’s your nanny?

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