What’s in a Name?


“A good name, like good will, is attained by many actions and may be lost by one”

Author Unknown

As we enter the world as babies, each of us is given a name. That name is our first form of identification and identity. Although we have not yet become “who we are” at that stage of life, we have a name and in many cases, that is all we have at that point.

Generally speaking, we are all given the surname of our fathers. Even a child who is born out of wedlock is usually given his or her father’s name in spite of the fact that both parents have an equal share in the conception of the child and the fact that the mother endured childbirth to bring him into the world. Our first name is often referred to as our “Christian” name, although I think it’s safe to say that that is an outdated reference given the global and diverse world that we live in.

If you are male, chances are that the name you are given at birth is the name that you will carry throughout your entire life. If you are female, it’s not so simple. Although we are given the surname of our father at birth, most women choose to take the name of her husband at the time of her marriage. Although many women opt to keep her maiden name, many feel that it is important for the family unit to adopt her husband’s name, and many men feel that it is a matter of honor for his wife to do so. “The trend toward women keeping their maiden names after marriage peaked in the 1990s, when about 23% of women did so, then eased gradually to about 18% in the 2000s, says a 35-year-study published in 2009 in the journal Social Behavior and Personality.” states Sue Shellenbarger in The Name Change Dilemma. She goes on to state that when judged by their peers, women who kept their maiden names were viewed as “smarter and more ambitious” while the women who took their husband’s names were viewed as “more caring, dependent, and emotional”. Many women spend a great deal of time and emotion on the decision, trying to please everyone and do what’s best for her family and her career. It’s not easy.

Unless we as women form our own identity, the bottom line is that we either identify ourselves by our father’s name or our husband’s. When I got married, I took the traditional route and changed my last name to that of my husband. Going through all of the channels to make the official change was a bit of a headache, but I didn’t mind because I was happy and excited to be embarking on that new path in my life. Post-divorce, things are looking much different. Several years into my divorce, I feel more and more uncomfortable continuing to bear the name of my now ex-husband. It just feels wrong to me and is certainly not how I identify myself at this stage of the game. I’m realizing that changing my name now is even more complicated than the first time around. Living life in the cyber world, it’s not as simple as changing my social security card, my driver’s license, and my bank account. It’s a seemingly endless list of online accounts, emails addresses, and social network accounts that need to be dealt with, and don’t even get me started on my professional life. Having children who bear their father’s name, there is yet another wrinkle in the complicated decision as I consider how it may affect them moving forward.

One thing is for sure…..once it’s done, it will take a lot to make me change it again. There’s no telling what the future hold for any of us and certainly no telling what it holds for me. Will I have to make this choice again at some point in my life? It’s hard to say but I know this much…no matter what name I go by, the most important thing to me is knowing myself and that is all that matters.


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