Thursday, April 22, 2004

By What Name Ye Shall Be Called 

by NA
When I married Sumer Thurston, she shifted her last name to her empty middle name slot, and took my last name as her last name. Or so I (and the Social Security Administration) thought. A couple of years after we were married, she put "Sumer Thurston Evans" on her business cards; soon she started answering the phone at work, "Sumer Thurston Evans speaking." Finally, about a year ago, she made one little typographical shift: "Sumer Thurston-Evans." I can only imagine what the future of Sumer's nomenclature may be, but it doesn't look good for the Evanses.

A recent article in Slate encapsulated as a trend what I'd already experienced personally: the ever-changing maiden name. Mormons, being about 20 years behind the times, now keep maiden names and hyphenate last names like the rest of America. Even more interesting, mormon women have discovered the idea of different names for different social contexts: for example, Sumer Evans at Church (for simplicity's sake), Sumer Thurston-Evans at work, and Sumer Thurston at singles bars.

Some in our ward have taken things a step further: the husband takes the wife's name as his new last name. An avant-garde trend, but interesting. Why not take this approach? Let me advance to you a reason, albeit flimsy: think of what this does to genealogists! How can you trace family trees? What family are you then a part of? How important is it to "carry on the family name," and what does that really mean?

To all you enlightened people who see this as a non-issue, where the couple should feel free to take whatever name they choose, let me ask what to do if one spouse has a historically or politically important name -- would that sway you? I think if my last name were Brahe, Schrödinger, or Eyring, maybe Thurston wouldn't figure so strongly. I'm coming off a bit flippant here, and I apologize for the tone. I guess I have never felt (until recently) the pressure that women must feel on this issue. A part of me is just trying to figure out the best road for establishing a family identity, and I'm welcome to all suggestions.
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