“You’re changing your name?”
This was the big question today at our newspaper’s features meeting when I announced that any future stories I wrote would be under my new last name.
“I wouldn’t do that, ” one of the gals said, noting all the work I had done under my current last name. She mentioned how she was sporting her maiden name as her byline. And one by one around the room, it was apparent that this was the popular choice among all the women. I would be the only one taking on her husband’s name legally and professionally.
I explained to them that this wasn’t my maiden name, that I had actually kept my former married name for the sake of my children (not something I recommend, by the way). As a result, it’s the name I took from a bad marriage that I have made “famous” in my writings. I’m more than ready to change it to my new last name, ready for the clean slate it brings with it. I love the way my new last name sounds, like it has an elegant ring to it. And I love that it is the last name of the man I love. I feel it’s special to share the same name as him.
“You could take back your maiden name,” one of the gals said. “Or you could go by your middle name.” They wouldn’t let up that I should refuse my new married name completely. I weakly mentioned that my books were using my middle name. But even that I question, because I’d prefer just to do everything under one last name.
“All that work we did, and this generation takes it for granted,” the editor said, shaking her head.
And suddenly, I was crushed. Here was this woman I look up to immensely, shaking her head at me like I was some naive little girl about to throw away my whole identity, while she held the rights to a generation that shaped the freedom of women today. Around the room were women who felt the same way, judging by their triumphant demeanors that they had kept their maiden names and could call themselves totally independent despite the wedding ring on each of their fingers. I was left feeling horrible, that these people I admire, who wrote stories I wanted to write as casually as taking a breath, were denouncing my decision to let go of the name I had built up over the years and start over fresh with a new name.
And it made me wonder if taking on a new name in the professional world really was something I should reconsider. Granted, I’m legally taking on my new last name. That’s a given. But should I keep my former name professionally to avoid confusion? Is it safer to keep my former name to allow my personal life to remain personal under my new legal name? Would all my former writings appear to have been written by someone else completely once I changed my name?
What did YOU do?
Did any of you out there make a name for yourself professionally before you were married, and then changed your last name? Was it difficult? Or do you have an argument for keeping your former name, or even just going by a different name altogether (writers, I’m looking at you)?