Ruminations On The Changing Of Names

essica will not be changing her last name when we get married. My mom didn’t either, back in the late 1979 when my parents got hitched, which I understand caused a little bit of a stir. It seems that somewhere between 60% and 80% of current brides take the husband’s last name, so it’s still the norm; but my betrothed does not mean it as any sort of insult to tradition or to my family. She just wants to keep the name Walker. And anyway, if she were to change her last name, why should she necessarily take Turner? Jorgensen is still my mom’s name, it’s one of my middle names, and would easily win the “Most Syllables” contest between the two.

Then there’s the fact that half of Jessica’s family is not Walker, but rather Magee – her mom’s maiden name, and the last name of several of Jessica’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and imaginary friends. This comes in handy in certain situations, like say if Jessica drops something, I can call her “Droppy Magee,” or if she burns dinner (which she actually has not ever done) I can say, “well, look at ol’ Burny Magee over here!” Not that I would ever be that callous about a burned dinner – I screw up meals all the time. Why just a few weeks ago I decided to make honey whole wheat bread for Jessica’s evening class, a recipe I’d made several times before with great success. Unfortunately I had a batch of homemade ghee on hand, and decided to replace the three tablespoons of butter with it – big mistake. The middles of the loaves just wouldn’t cook, not even after nearly 2 hours in the oven. Turns out it was I who was “Ol’ Failbread Magee.”

Anyway, what was the point? Ah yes – Jessica and I have a lot of family names. Turner, Jorgensen, Walker, and Magee. Each name has a history that stretches back many generations to several different countries, and each could make a great case for being a last name in the new family I am embarking upon.

Name-changing is a choice that I, historically, would not have to make, although the mere fact that I don’t is indicative of how traditional the act of marriage still is to this day. And in fact, it is a choice I could choose to make – I could change my last name to Walker. Or, we could each add the other’s last name as a new middle name. Or, we could just swap last names! Wouldn’t that be cool? Jessica Turner & Bret Walker. Ah, the confusion that would follow.

Then, of course, is the issue of children. Here are most of the main options we have, as I see it:

1) The dreaded “Hyphename,” a term I am attempting to coin, a very popular and often tongue-twisting trend in Baby-Naming. Billy Walker-Turner just sounds wrong, and Sally Turner-Walker isn’t better. So that’s out.*

* [Side Note: In June of 2007, Australian relief pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith became the first Major League player with a hyphenated last name, becoming a hero to hyphenames everywhere. He is also the son of an Australian celebrity trainer known as “The Sand Warrior.” This is why baseball is the best.]

2) The Combiname, which is another neologism that needs to get some traction, in our case yielding something like Talker or Turker or Waner or Turnwalk, or, as Cristin would have it, Warner, which just so happens to be her last name. We’re not really fans of the combiname, though it would be amusing for Cristin’s kids and our kids to pass off as siblings.

3) Choosing one or the other, or one then the other. First kid could be Little Johnny Turner, second kid could be Li’l Annie Walker. But then, do the kids feel a sense of familial distance between them? What is it like not to share a name with your sibling? Will Little Johnny Turner gaze at his sister across the dinner table, thinking who IS Li’l Annie Walker, really? And who am I? Am I really old enough for an identity crisis? Why did my parents forsake me? And why are we having quinoa again? I hate quinoa. I’m a child.

apparently it took this dude two years just to get his wife's last name. He looks proud but also tired.

4) Using the mom’s last name as the kid’s first name, or Walker Turner, which pretty much guarantees the kid’s going to be either a cowboy or a ranger or a judge or some sort of British magistrate. And we certainly don’t want that.

5) Coming up with something really ridiculous, like the Hollywood stars do. Cinderella Stefani, or Berkeley di Sebastopol, or Sandoval Lincecum-Cain, or October Thursday, or maybe Amber Pilsner Stoutman.

So what’s it gonna be? We’re not sure. And for crying out loud, we just started planning our wedding, so let’s hold off on the baby-talk for now. This was supposed to be about women changing their names and I ended up with Berkeley di Sebastopol.


6 responses to “Ruminations On The Changing Of Names

  1. Come on…how awesome would it be for us all to have the same last name?!

  2. I thought of you two on the J this morning because the couple next to me was filling out their marriage license on the train.

    Yes, the train.

    Their exchange went something like this:

    Girl: What’s your middle name?

    ((Really? She doesn’t know his middle name???))

    Guy: Paul
    Girl: Really? Cool.

    (Girl gets to the bottom of the page)

    Guy: Maybe we shouldn’t have filled this out on this bumpy train. You gotta make that sh*t clear and easy to read or else they’ll spell your new name wrong and you’ll be stuck with it.

    Girl: Hmmmm…Should I change my middle name to my maiden name and add your name to my last name? (Thinking…for about a 1/2 second) Sure, that works.

  3. Can I just say that my vote is Sandoval Lincecum-Cain. I think Greg would second it.

    I am pretty ob-sessed with the baseball references. Keep ’em coming.

  4. This post reminds me a lot of Hot Tub Time Machine. No really, it does.

  5. My fave is picking a new name, but a normal one, not like the Sandoval…. thingy. Campbell. Or Danger. Ok, maybe that’s not so normal but how cool would that be? Bret & Jessica DANGER.

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