Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Innocent?


Family Tree

This is the reverse family tree I made as a gift for Brian on the day we were married. It’s reverse because instead of the ancestors being at the top, here they’re represented at the bottom, as roots. The tree is supposed to represent us — it has our names and wedding date “carved” on it — and the leaves will one day become our descendants. (We still have to put Evan’s name on one of the leaves.)

My good friend from high school (in fact, the only person from high school I have kept in touch with) is getting married this summer and wrote me today asking whether I ever considered not taking Brian’s last name. It kind of made me smile because boy oh boy did I consider every single possibility. I considered various options for my last name. For my middle name. I even considered hyphenation for about half a second even though I’ve long thought that names with apostrophes have no business hyphenating – too much punctuation.

In reality, it was an extremely easy decision for me, but the fact that it was such an easy decision led to much, much questioning: who am I, what do I believe it, what has happened to me???

I wrote my name out in various permutations, made mental lists of reasons both for and against changing my name. But ultimately, it came down to this: I saw my future last name on a monogrammed wreath hanger in a Pottery Barn catalog and even though I don’t hang wreaths at Christmas and even though I will probably never own a monogrammed anything from Pottery Barn, I suddenly knew I had to change my name so that we could be referred to en masse like that. The Joneses. The Petersons. The Klingles.

I decided this way before I was ready to tell anyone else, which has always been my way with big decisions. In case there was any doubt in my mind, I think I finally sealed my name’s future fate when I saw this letter G at Target:


Brian’s last name ends with the letter G and I have always loved how that letter looks, both uppercase and lowercase, and I just had to have this beautiful silver letter.

I bought it in February and hid it in my trunk, wrapped in the Target bag and tucked away beneath my just-in-case-I-get-caught-in-the-snow blanket, until June. That’s how long I kept the secret.

When it was finally time – when Brian and I went home two weeks before the wedding to get our marriage license and the woman asked me what name I would be taking – I was caught unprepared. I wasn’t ready to reveal my big secret. And yet I had to. It was sadly anticlimactic.


2 Responses to “Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Innocent?”

  1. 1 Toni

    I was once the doula for a lovely mom who chose to keep her own name. The child took the name of the father while children from previous marriages had his or her name, depending. You would think all this might lead to segregation amongst the family members but in fact they were very close. Mostly because of their inclusive attitude and partly because of the family symbol they created (incorporating both names) which was embroidered on most every piece of clothing I saw them wear.

  2. I kept my maiden name. There were several reasons, but both names are difficult, and I’d rather keep the difficult name I have rather than switch to another difficult one. Aaron didn’t care either way.

    The girls both have his last name, but they have my last name as a second middle name. That way, when they’re older they can choose if they want to use both names or not.

    Among family and friends, we’re known by a combo of our two last names. Not that I’d ever use that nickname outside of that circle – it’s a combo of Jewish and Irish names, and sounds really silly.

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