by JAMIE PARSELL-NULL
My honeymoon only confirmed what I already knew. I love to explore old historical cities like Savannah until my feet drag on the brick streets. The husband gets all the credit for the trip. He picked up on my desire to visit Savannah, Ga., from one of our many talks during those first few months of dating. After the fourth day, the husband’s feet started to hurt. All of those impressive monuments in the city’s squares started to blur together. Rich southern food didn’t appeal as much. It was time to head back to the mountains, to home, with a new last name.
Of course, I had no idea changing one’s name took so much time and energy. I did a quick Google on the process and was surprised at all the various steps. Once the marriage certificate comes in the mail, the first stop is to the Social Security Administration office. I have been warned about the wait time just to get to the window. Then, its off to the DMV, another place where temper flare and patience becomes lost in the line. With a new driver’s license and social security card, I can legally change my name at work, the bank and various other places. I am sure I left out a step; its a learning process. Why hasn’t someone come up with a one-step stop for newlywed women? I might have to take two vacation days just to legally change my name. A coworker suggested that if men were the ones who changed their name after marriage, the process would be a lot easier. My search also said that eight states in the U.S. allow men to change their name after marriage. Who knew?
I also stumbled upon the controversy of women changing their last name. I wasn’t surprised to know some women prefer their maiden names. Maybe it sounds better to hyphenate the name? Or perhaps a female needs to keep her name for professional reasons? Within my circle of friends and family, and even acquaintances, most all have adopted their husband’s last names. It is mostly traditional for women in our country, especially in rural areas. Every country is different. In Chile, marriage has no effect on either spouses’ names. Culture and tradition varies based on government laws. In America, many women feel changing their name means losing their identity. I came across numerous articles, research and arguments for and against the tradition.
So where do I stand? For now, I am hyphenating my last name, using my maiden name and married name. But only as a transition for readers, and those who are familiar with my byline in the newspaper. I do not plan to legally adopt the hyphenation. In time, I will drop my maiden name. I am traditionalist at heart and like the symbolic unity of having the same last name as my new husband. It reminds me we are a team, united by our vows. Its a personal decision, I believe. And there are many women who feel just as strong about keeping their maiden names. I am sure they could deliver solid reasons for their decisions. The same goes for women who adopt their husband’s name. The name Parsell will legally disappear from my signature. But I will always know my roots and friends and family, who have known me for years, will still think of me as a Parsell. It is hard to forget a name I have carried for 33 years. I know I still think of my friends in terms of the birth name. Have I lost my identity? No. I, along with my new husband, have created a new identity, a combination of his and her. It is a new chapter in life.
Jamie Parsell-Null is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BDTParsell.