For the ladies: name change distress

meldy_nva(z6b VA)February 17, 2012

A recent column in the newspaper has stuck in my mind and won't fade. I think it was a letter to one of the advice columnists: Woman married and did NOT change her surname. She was harrassed at her office with male co-workers insisting on adressing her -and introducing her to clients- by "Mrs. [husband's surname]. Among other things, columnist advised to remind co-workers that such behavior was illegal.

What I keep thinking about is what a PIA it was/is to change your name: driver's license, SSN, library card, tax info, bank info, credit card info, stock certificates, and on and on. Each change done in person and documentation required (show that wedding certificate). My sympathy is obviously with the letter-writer ~ and before any man criticizes, I really think he should have to go through the time-consuming loops involved in officially changing one's name. If males were expected to adhere to the name-change expectation, I suspect retaining one's birth name soon would be looked upon quite favorably.

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Just a little off subject.... I used my library card, with my maiden name on it, until it expired. Then I went to renew it, and the fun started.

They would not give me a new one with my first name and the new married last name. NosirreeBob, It had to be MRS. Hisfirstname, Last name. She explained that now that I was married. HE was responsible for any problems with the library. Not me. So HIS name had to be on the card.

By the time, that card had expired, someone had come to their senses and changed things.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 2:58PM
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I also remember back (50 years ago) when I became Mrs. hubby's names when we got married and changed my last name. Although I had been on my own for years, I was not able to keep my own accounts in my name because I had officially changed my name via marriage.

Little by little things changed. I had choices, Ms. First Name and hubby's last name, Mrs. Hubby's names, Mrs. My first and hubbys last name etc...
This may sound confusing and it has been.
When I went back to work after the children went to school, I opened an IRA in my first name and my married name with my own SS#. That's the first time during my marriage that I've been able to have an account under my control.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 7:46PM
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I find this a very interesting subject, one that I have not thought about in depth until now and I don't know the history behind the "name" issue.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:18PM
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Meldy, I read the same letter; it was Ask Amy". I liked her advice about her colleagues' behavior being illegal.

When I was in a Homemaker's Club in the 60s, everyone of us was listed and signed their name as "Mrs. Husband's first/last name"--and were proud to do so! Now, I still call myself "Mrs.", but it's with my own first name and DH's last name. Everthing we do is "joint", but usually DH's name is first. Oh well, we both know who's really been the boss in this 60 year love affair. :>)

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:36PM
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jazmynsmom(Z5 Madison-ish)

That article struck me as well, Meldy.

The first time I got married I changed my name. I kept my maiden name as a second middle name. I remember my ex being pissy about it, as though I'd only taken his name as an "afterthought" (his words). I recall being baffled at his inability to understand how I might want to see "my" name on my (subsequent) undergrad and grad school diplomas.

I remember my pride at getting my "real" name back when the divorce went through.

When I married whom I alternately refer to as my "real" husband, or Husband 2.0, it was HE who said to me that, although he was happy to share his name with me, he always thought the tradition onerous and old fashioned, and would not be offended by anything else I might prefer. Since we had both agreed that procreating was not a priority, and since a hyphenated version of our names sounds ridiculous (seriously!), I decided I'd keep my "real" name, and gladly submit it on the birthday of any "surprise baby."

It also doesn't hurt that we have the same last initial so all the monogrammed stuff he inherited makes sense.

In retrospect, taking his name would not have been an issue. I'd be just as happy now had I done it.

I can't tell you HOW many checks and Christmas cards I've received from MY family members who, in spite of being (very) gently reminded, don't seem to grasp that the name I've had for all but four of my 41 years is my "real" name. (The good news is that the checks cash just fine.) (And also that people are sending me/us cards/money unsolicited.)

I answer to Mrs. "Him", and never correct it in a social (or his work) situation. (Though I prefer Ms. "Me" if formality is a must.) When I get a phone call asking if I'm Mrs. Him, I automatically know they don't know me, and amuse myself with my responses.

He also gets referred to as Mr. "Me." Depending on how I feel about the "offender," I may or may not correct them to "Dr. Him." Usually, I just laugh.

Many of my female friends are hyphenated, and I'm grateful I went a simpler route.

Two of my male friends "co-hyphenated" their names with their wives. They got to co-experience the whole name change phenomenon, and both have children with hyphenated names... which could be ridiculous after the first generation.

Changing (or not) one's name is very personal. There is no right answer. I completely understand why the letter-writer might be outraged at her co-workers' behavior/aggression.

Personally, I hate to have to resurrect our marriage license for anything legal. I live, love and honor my marriage every day. It's the most important thing in my life. But although Steve and I opted for an entirely religion-free, secular wedding, and specifically did not seek out the commentary/approval of any religious institution, the State of Georgia saw fit to issue us a certificate of "Holy Matrimony." (Gggggrrrrr!) But that's a whole separate topic, and probably not one appropriately addressed...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 10:01PM
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I think one of the most insulting name things was how our newpaper handled the obituaries. It was alway MRS. John Doe or MRS Sam Brown. Even in death, she wasn't to be listed by her first name. You had to read the whole thing to see if you knew her.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 10:06PM
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I have a friend who took her dh's last name for a year or two after they got married, then switched back to her own name after that. I don't know why, but I can't imagine going through all of the name change work *twice*. Now their kids have her last name - or maybe the daughters have the mother's last name and the sons have the father's last name - ? The whole thing is horribly confusing, although at least they don't hyphenate.

I agree that I don't like being "Mrs. Sam Smith". I am "Mrs. Sarah Smith" - yes, I have taken my dh's last name, but I have kept my own first name - I like having a bit of my own identity. Although that might have been a generational thing - to be Mrs Husband's first/last names? Seems that my mother did that.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 11:19PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

I'm of the school of "I don't care what you call me just as long as you call me to dinner". That said I b*tched and moaned about the name change hassle when I went thru it. I had a job that involved lots to letters to various government agencies so for a while I signed everything with tibs, maiden name, marreid name so folks would know I was the same person. Then I just used by maiden name initial. When we refinanced the house recently I had six AKA's. Every combination you can think of with middle name, maiden name, married hame and initials.

DS got married in Vegas. His wife signed the marriange liscence with her maiden name and shw was told that is still her legal name. She was going to take his last name, (which surprised me, she is a feisty independent person). I can't be sure, but I thought the marriage liscense had the maiden name on it? Different in each state maybe?

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 7:26AM
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When looking at old news paper clippings it is confusing to see the names of the husbands, especially in he garden club articles. Always did seem a bit off.

Guess I qualify to post as I shortened my name in '73 to please my soon to be wife. She didn't like my family so much and that turned out to be art of the reason for ending it later. My nick name in the service was Sixpack to emphasize the beer part of my name that was dropped. Turns out my ancestors in Germany were tailors not brewers.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 7:21PM
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Slightly off topic, but in the same general category: in Germany, the wife took on not only the last name of her husband, but if he had any "credentials" she was allowed his title, so he was Professor Schmidt, she became Mrs. Professor Schmidt - or military title, but it was most prevalent in Academia. Downside: immediately a female being titled on her own merits was devalued. Of course. most women were wives and mothers, that makes it even worse, I think. It was a social tradition, not a legal one, and the Nazis actually discouraged it, good thing, but for the wrong reasons: wives were to be delegated to kitchen church and motherhood...

My dad had some rank, but mother refused to use it to build herself up, good for her.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 11:25PM
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The marriage license has the legal name on it when applying. In the case of a forerly married woman, unless she had taken back her maiden name....then her last married name would appear on the license when she remarries. This is one of the things one who doe genealogical research needs to pick up on, or they can spend a lot of time barking up the wrong trees, looking for parents who are in fact ex-in-laws.

I also ran across all those AKAs when getting deeded for a house I bought some time ago. I had a whole slew of them because I was a professinal woman in my past, and also used maiden name, married name with middle initial, married name with first letter of Maiden name when I divorced, new married name, reversion to maiden name, then new married name. There wasn't enough room, literally in the spaces provided to put down all my AKAs. I had more AKAs than some professional crooks. rofl. I also had a lot of documents pertaining to licenses to keep changing, all to be witnessed by notaries.

Lilo, funny you should mention the sharing of titles. I have seen that done in the U.S. as well, but not so much lately. Perhaps it was a custom here what has disappeared, and I saw it in old documents when doing historical research.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 12:45PM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Decades ago, I did some research on the subject. All I remember now is that in many societies females were chattel, having no rights or individuality, and it was considered to be quite an honor to be valued so much by the groom/owner as to be 'permitted' to have an identity through his graciousness. The male-oriented and -originated religions supported that outlook and those religions were the ones most common in recent times which meant those viewpoints were accepted by lawmakers and then (or along with) the general populace.

Remember that if you look backward far enough, mankind was tribal, and the strongest usually ruled. Thus the historical view of male supremecy which often included the use of slavery with (or occasionally without) the near-slavery of serfs/helots to add to the perception of strength. Few females were as physically strong as most males in male-admired contests such as weight-lifting, spear-throwing, sword-fighting or wrestling; so [from the male viewpoint] females were obviously of less worth. Humans ~regardless of gender~ do like to feel supreme, or at least better than somebody else.

One can, of course, spend years studying the subject, but this is basically why as recently as 2011, the Equal Rights Amendment has not managed to be adopted. It's also why [historically and religiously] females are expected to feel honored to become an entity and demonstrate that by taking the name of the male who has so honored her.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 2:14PM
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We went to buy ME a new car a few years ago. My husband couldn't seem to get this weird idea through to the salesman. It had to suit ME, I was the one buying it, paying for it and driving it. ME, not my husband.

After several times of redirecting his attention to ME, my husband finally told the idiot that I was buying the car and he needed to start trying to sell it to ME.

If it wasn't just exactly what I wanted, I would have walked out and gone somewhere else. what a creep!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 2:44PM
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lilo, I think you have explained the gist of the name game, at least in Europe. I'm amazed at what you know.
agnespuffin, I went through pretty much the same thing when I went to buy my "own" car some years ago.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 7:45PM
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I never did mind being called Mrs. North. I didn't change my name back because of my son. I wasn't interested in alienating him. I'm still the same person regardless of what you call me. Call me Rob, Robin, Ms. North, dumbhead, I don't care. What you call me, can never change what makes me who I am. I will always be Dot's grand-daughter, Ann's daughter, LF's mom, Vicki's friend, Dr. R's "assistant" (not even close to my title, but it is what I do), all the family members _________, etc... After all those titles, I hardly ever get to be just "me".

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 9:53AM
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I dislike being called Mrs., Ma'am, Miss, or anything other than my first name. I'd actually prefer if someone just said "hey you" LOL I took my maiden name back even though it meant DS and I would have different last names. I wish I could change his too. I told my guy that I am going to become one of those women that use only their first name like Cher or Madonna.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:47AM
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That's along the lines of just being "me" Krista. I only call you Krista anyhow. You'll always be "you" when you're with "me".


    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:35AM
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I worked with a guy who took his wife's name after they had daughters - his name could be pronounced in such a way that it sounded crude, and he didn't want his daughters to be teased. It took us all precisely a week to get used to the change (same as does when women change) and no-one batted an eyelid.

In the UK its pretty common for women to maintain two names, keeping their maiden name at work, since that's what they're known as professionally.

I like the Spanish system, where each child gets both parent's surname. And naturally each parent has their parents, so they can choose which name to bestow on the child. And, if there's pressure from a grandparent not to drop 'my name', then the child can end up with lots of names - and then pick for itself when it's older which one/s it wants for 'daily use'.

It was announced in France yesterday in fact, that it would no longer be legal to put "mademoiselle" as an option on forms. Everyone henceforth is to be Madame. Since Madame doesn't automatically imply marital status - its was also used as a sign of respect - this seems like an ideal solution.

Mrs is short for Mistress, and was originally used in the same way: an older, unmarried woman could be Mistress Smith or Mistress Sally. Why not now? My grandfather (a Scot) always addressed females he knew as "Mistress X" and it was charming.

Mistress Sara

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 1:36PM
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A man is a Mr. for life. It identifies him as a male.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 7:31PM
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Sort of makes you wonder why he has to be identified as a male. ??????

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 7:48PM
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jazmynsmom(Z5 Madison-ish)

Though I prefer the neutral Ms. to Miss or Mrs., I have a strong preference to Ma'am over Miss when addressed by strangers (though "no title" is equally polite (and sometimes more so) up north). This preference came about after I studied the history of the words Madame and Mademoiselle (precursors to Ma'am and Miss) in French. During the Ancien Regime, all women (married or not) of lower class were addressed as Mademoiselle. You could marry a baker, but he didn't have the clout necessary to make you a Madame. All women of the aristocracy, married or not, were Madame. This custom is one of the many that changed after the French Revolution.

These days, it's customary to vary the title according to perceived age or presumed marital status, both of which are dangerous assumptions to make. Though French actresses tend to favor Mademoiselle all their careers. Sara's news of the change is interesting (and welcome.)

Me? I'll just take "ma'am" and be happy with it. But one must be careful throwing out "ma'ams" in Wisconsin. "Hey you!" or "Excuse me!" are usually safer bets. Not every salutation is received with the same perceived respect with which it is given. But then much of the point of this thread is that women today prefer to be respected for who they are, and not who they marry. It seems there was not always a distinction between these two concepts...

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 9:50PM
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The opposite happens in the south Michelle. Everyone, regardless of age is sir or ma'am. Even the kids. "Sir, you get back in this house right now!" "Yes ma'am", regardless of who has said it. My boss made me quit saying it to him. He jokingly told me I was supposed to say "What?!" (said very sternly) when he said, "Robin?" as he is about to ask me to do something. Not all the time. Guess he just heard "sir" one too many times!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 9:23AM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Grin at Rob! I was raised "Southern-style" and expected to say "Sir" or "Ma'am" to everyone older and anyone in a position of authority; Mr/Ms/Mrs. if one was talking about someone in the third person. Very, very, very close friends of the family might be addressed with the courtesy title of Uncle or Aunt, but only if s/he requested it and your parents approved. That sort of training really sticks to the subconscious. To this day, I use sir/ma'am as a form or indicator of respect, or I should say, my subconscience puts the term in my mouth.

My sister-of-my-heart was Texan, and she insisted to her children that I be called "Miss Meldy". She was raised that 'aunt/uncle' was for [actual] relatives, and close family friends were 'Miss first-name' or 'mister first-name'. I reckon that distinction did eliminate a certain amount of confusion.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 12:45PM
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I guess a lot depends on exactly where you come from.
I had one uncle (by marriage) that called all older people "Sister_____" or "Brother_____"

There was Sister May, Sister Margaret, Brother Harry, Brother George, it didn't seem to matter if there was a kinship or not. It was more a title of respect than anything else.

The uncle's family was the only one that had this custom that I know of. It wasn't a local thing. It must have been the custom from wherever the older folks came from.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 1:03PM
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This may be a little off topic, but it has to do with how one address people.
In the Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, the word "du" is the same as "you" in English. But in Sweden, it goes one step further. There is another term "ni".
If one knows someone, like family, friends etc... one can use the the word "du".
But if one meet strangers, one uses the term "ni".

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 7:47PM
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It's the same in German, one uses Du with relatives and close friends, if they are older, than they have to invite the "Du" and it's an honor, all other are addressed as "Sie" (pronounced see.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 10:52PM
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Lilo got ahead of me with the use of Du and Sie. It's erroding slowly now, mainly on the internet because like here, few use their last name for privacy reasons.
What I never was is Mrs. husband's first name, last name. Letters, legal documents, etc., I always wrote my first name, his last name. This was supposed to be a partnership, not an ownership. Of course that was 50 years ago and the Army would have had a cow if I insisted otherwise.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 9:51AM
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