Even in our so called “modern world,” it is quite uncommon for a married woman to maintain her own identity, particularly as it relates to having her own last name. The practice of referring to a woman’s choice to have her own last name as “keeping her maiden name” is itself antiquated and condescending to the woman who does not need to identify herself as belonging to her husband. As a professional person who has published research articles and books, including prior to the time I met my husband, I saw no reason to assume a new identity merely because we got married. Today, over 25 years later, I am still being required to explain why, if we are actually married, we do not share the same last name. When people ask me if my last name is my “maiden name,” as if I am, in some way, maiden, I inform them my name is the name I was born with and I choose not to take on an assumed identity for anyone’s convenience, including my husband’s. It is interesting to note that my husband has never cared what my last name (or first name, for that matter) is, however, other people seem to believe I have something to prove, a personal problem, or a personality flaw merely because my last name is different from his. I believe one’s name is a matter of personal preference and for me, part of my unique identity.
In American culture men rarely give much consideration to this issue – we are named at birth and never change much. In other cultures, different customs are followed. There was a time when it seemed “normal” to me to consider having someone take “my” name if I married, but after giving it very minimal consideration, I realized this is something that should not matter to me. I was proud of Melissa’s accomplishments and her many psychology and law articles that she had published prior to our marriage; it was easy to understand how it was professionally appropriate for her not to change names. However, it took family members much longer to understand. In business, it has been interesting. We don’t hide the fact that we’re married, as evidenced by this blog, but with different last names, clients and others sometimes don’t realize that we are. I’ll always remember a mock juror who had been very unruly saying to me after a mock trial “I’d hate to be married to her – she’s so tough!” I just nodded and smiled. One client asked jokingly, “do you call her Dr. Pigott?” I answered, “yes, from 9 to 5.” It is important for individuals to have their own identities and I think the norm is expanding in this area – people, in this case women, should consider the many ramifications of name changing before doing so in today’s world.
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