Over the years several friends have asked me why I took my husband’s name rather than keeping my maiden name. I have a simple answer: because I liked my husband’s surname better than mine. My maiden name is German and rather rough-sounding. It is an unusual name (I’ve never met another person with the name that’s not in my family) and is hard to spell. John’s last name is French, it’s short, and it’s easily spelled. So changing my name had little to do with any kind of feminist politics–it was just a desire to adopt a more aesthetically-pleasing name.
Nowadays, I change my name depending on what I’m doing. For writing in the academic world, I use my first name, maiden name and John’s surname. However, for all other purposes I use my first name, middle name (not maiden) and John’s surname. The latter form is my legal name.
John and I have two sets of friends who changed their surname entirely when they married. One couple adopted a name that’s a hybrid of both of their former surnames. Another chose a word that they liked and used that as their surname. Had John and I known either of these folks before we married, I’m sure that we would have discussed adopting a new surname. As it stands, though, we are all pleased with the current surname. However I won’t be hurt if my children choose to change or alter their names in the future. The ability and power to name oneself is huge. I can’t begrudge them that choice!
In high school my friends all called me “Yawna” rather than Jana. It was fun to have a nickname and an identity that’s linked to that particular time of my life.
Not too long after John and I married we (rather spontaneously) started calling each other by different names. To John I am Dilly, not Jana. I love that this is a name that only he calls me, and whenever I hear him say it, I go a bit weak in the knees.
Lately I have considered changing my first name. I don’t think I’ll really make a change, but it was nice to ponder for a bit. The desire to change was motivated by the impulse to mark a new self. I am not the Jana of ten or twenty years ago. I am new, I am evolving.