When I got married a little over four years ago, I did something that I never thought I would do.
I took my husband’s last name.
The Dude never asked me to take his name, nor did he assume I would. After we got engaged, I had a full year to think about whether or not I would change my name. It was a good thing I had that kind of time since it took me about a full year to come to my decision. I went back and forth quite a bit but, in the end, I decided that taking his last name was the best thing to do for logistical purposes. It didn’t matter to me whether or not I shared the same surname as the Dude, but I did want the same surname as our future children.
These days, it’s not necessarily expected for women to take a husband’s last name. I know plenty of wives that never took their husband’s last name and I know plenty more that hyphenated the two surnames together. Some couples are getting creative with sharing a family name. I know couples who adopted both surnames and then hyphenated while others simply combined the last names to create a new name. I’ve even known a few husbands who took the last name of their wife.
As appealing as some of these options were, none of them really seemed like the ideal fit. The Dude liked his name and, considering where he was in his law career, it would have been difficult for him to make a name change. Although I had an established career of my own for many years, I was about to embark in a whole new direction shortly after the wedding. A few months before I got married, I had quit my job in preparation of starting another graduate program and a new career. From that perspective, changing my name was not going to be a problem. I figured if I was going to change my name, there was no better time. It would be a fresh start with everything: new name, new career, and new husband. What’s the big deal about giving up my surname. It’s just a name. Right?
I didn’t realize how attached I was to my name until I actually changed it. I decided to keep my maiden name as my new middle name, a strategy that I figured was just as good. It wasn’t. It was one of the biggest adjustments of my life. How do you just go from being one name to another, especially after nearly 30 years? I felt like I had become a new person and, in many ways, I was a new person. I had a new name, a new husband, and I was about to start a new career. At the same time that I gained a new husband and family, I also never felt so lost in my life. I was no longer the single and career-focused Aimee. I was the married and jobless Mrs. Aimee.
What made matters worse was that shortly after I received my new social security card and drivers license, I was the victim of real identity theft. A woman who had a fake drivers license with my former name on it went to my bank and started cashing fraudulent checks and withdrawing money. The fake Aimee did this a number of times before she was caught. I would get phone calls from the bank saying ” we spotted the fake Aimee at this bank in Florida” or “we now have the fake Aimee on video from a bank in Oregon.” It was surreal, to say the least. I gave up my former identity, only for it to be used by a thief. When she was finally caught, I felt a huge relief and not just because a criminal was going to be brought to justice. I felt relief because in order for me to fully let go of the former Aimee, I needed her to quit robbing banks so I could put her to rest. If I wasn’t going to use the name anymore, no one else could either. Especially for criminal activity.
I’ve grown accustomed to my new last name. For me, it’s much more meaningful to share a name with my husband and child than to hold on to a name given to me at birth. I am still attached to my former surname and I’m glad I choose to keep it as part of my full legal name. However, my surname did not truly identify who I am and the new name doesn’t change that either. In the end, it really is a just a name. A label of sorts. Of course, sharing a name with my husband and child is also a label. It labels us as a family, a family I chose to be a part of and help create. That reason alone makes a name change worth all the money in the bank.