Should I change my surname?

mynlieffm at vms.csd.mu.edu mynlieffm at vms.csd.mu.edu
Fri Feb 10 15:06:40 EST 1995


>On 2/7, Deborah Merriam wrote:
>>I am getting married this coming summer, and I'm trying to decide whether
>>to keep by birth name as-is or take my beloved's surname.
>(snip)
>>As I see it, my options are:
>>1 - keep my current surname for all purposes
>>2 - change my surname to coincide with my beloved's (and keep my maiden
>>name as a new middle name, if I choose)
>>3 - keep my name for business purposes, and use his for personal purposes
>>4 - hyphenate (an excellent idea except that our surnames sound hideous
>>together ;-)
>>5 - have *him* take *my* surname (but he has some publications, too)
>>6 - make up our own surname (cute idea, but completely impractical)
>

Years ago when I was about 20 my boyfriend told his mother that I was going to
keep my name after we got married.  I looked at him and thought "I didn't know
we were getting married".  His mother was upset by the idea that I would keep
my name so he spent about 30 minutes explaining to her why I might do this. 
After that he had me convinced (to keep my name, not to get married).  Well
three years later we did actually get married and I kept my name.  My first
publications didn't come out until a year after that so it wouldn't have
mattered if I had taken his name but I felt that my name was too tied into my
identity.  I had spent 23 years spelling it and pronouncing it for everyone. 
It is unique and as far as I know there are no other Mynlieffs publishing in
science.  Besides it means something cool in Dutch, "My love" (16th century
spelling).  On the other hand my husband is O'Neill which is very common. 
People always ask me why we named the kids after him.  It was very important to
him that his children carry his name whereas I didn't care.  Keeping my name
was something I did for my identity not theirs.  Now that we have 2 girls and
don't plan to have any more, my husbands hopes our daughters follow their mom's
footsteps and keep the name O'Neill.  My first daughter does have a middle name
which is a family name from my mom's side and the second has my last name for a
middle name.  The only annoying part is that many places refuse to recognize
this trend.  My daughters' pediatricians' office always ask for Mrs. O'Neill
(is it so hard for them to make a note on the chart that I use a different
name?).  Mileage Plus doesn't like you to buy tickets with vouchers for family
members with different last names because of the risk of fraud.  I finally
convinced them to let me do it recently by bringing in my marriage license. 
One method of name selection I personally don't like is #3.  I have a number of
scientist friends who do this (hers professionally, his personally) and I never
know how to address them on Christmas cards and things.  Since I know them as
scientists I know them professionally but they're friends so I also know them
personally.  So what do you do?  I kind of feel that they should make up their
mind about one name and stick with it.  Interestingly one of the people who
after 10 years of marriage still tends to address correspondence to Mrs.
O'Neill is my own father.  Go figure.

Michelle Mynlieff




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