Friday, February 20, 2009

One Name: It's Not Monolithic שם אחד בלבד: לא בהכרח

While I reject Arianna Huffington’s advice to bloggers not to bother perfecting their writing, I’ve decided to accept another of her suggestions, which is to “Focus on one or two issues and…specialize in them…and…latch on to a certain issue and…don't let go of it.” The last fits me to a tee, as those who know me know well.

Having thus decided, in addition to my main posts, I’ll be featuring mini-posts on the left-hand side of the page on the subject of women not taking their husbands’ names. Most of these will be in the form of responses to various arguments pro and con that I find across the ‘net. For the nonce, I’d like to take up what appears to be one of the main sticking points of deciding on surnames for one’s children, i.e., the oft-repeated mantra of “all family members having the same name”.

First, allow me to dismantle the assumption that a uniform surname is somehow the obvious ideal. I'll illustrate with my own situation: My surname is Erez (yes, I changed my birth surname, before I married or even met my husband); my husband’s surname is Slott ― simple, no hyphens, we each stayed who we’d always been. Pleasant, spontaneous result: Quickly, with no urging on our part, we became the Erez-Slotts, which we quite like.

It therefore seemed natural to give our children the surname Erez-Slott, and it’s worked out fine: Teachers and airport passport-checkers easily see the connections and how everyone arrived at their respective surnames. Mail is addressed to “the Erez-Slotts” or “Miriam Erez and Bill Slott” or “Hedy Erez-Slott”. Each of us shares some part of everyone elses’ names, and I have never had the sense on any of our parts that we aren’t an intact family unit, or that we are somehow irregular. The fact that Bill and I have separate surnames has had no impact whatsoever on our marriage.

I can already hear the protests: “That’s fine if you’re the Erez-Slotts, or the Walker-Smiths. Suppose we’re the Terwilliger-McGillicuttys?” OK, OK [picture me calming an angry mob]: Write your child's name from the git-go as “Hortense T-M”*. Everyone quickly gets used to it (the caregiver, the school, the soccer coach) and soon everyone will be referring to you as “the tee-ems”, and shalom al yisrael, as we say here in the Em-Eee.

Yes, yes, I know: When the T-Ms’ kids’ marry, they’ll more than likely drop one of their names (optimistic here that they’ll carry on with some option other than Bride taking Groom’s surname). Yes, inevitably names will get dropped along the way, but at least the women’s names will have a better chance of lasting more than one generation; either way, we now have recorded genealogies and databases, so no one’s actual identity disappears, like it did so often under the old system.

So there you are: a close-to-perfect solution, certainly closer-to-perfect than any other. So no more excuses, ladies: Get out there and Stand By Your Names!

*This is acceptable on all but the most official documents―and how often, really, do we have to deal with those? Once it’s on their passports and SSNs, that’s pretty much the end of it.


  1. The Abramowitz-Silvermans still don't-know-what-to-think.

  2. LOL. Just this a.m. I was thinking that if my parents had named us Luke-Reiz, which one I would've gone with when combining with Slott. I'd have chosen Luke because it's easy to spell and pronounce, is cool, and means "light" in Latin. So I'd have named the kids Luke-Slott and gone with Reese and Mark (Bill's mom's birth name) for the kids' first names. So we would've have Reese L-S and Mark L-S: Everyone gets honored, win-win 4 all.

  3. מפרסמת עבור ארנה ויינברג:
    אני השארתי את שם המשפחה שלי - כלומר של אבי - וינברג.
    הייתי מקבלת את הצעתך לבעלי שמות משפחה ארוכים - כי שם המשפחה של גדעון זילברשטיין, אבל לפני שהיינו זוג נהגתי לכנות אותו "גידי זין הקטן" - כי היה גידי דוויד וגדעון בן זוגי נמוך מאוד.
    אני חוששת מבעיות דימוי עצמי של הילדים אם יתקראו הדס ו-ז למשל, מה גם שמישהו עלול לתאר אותם וענקים הם לא. אז נכון, הגודל לא קובע, אבל לכי תחדירי את העובדה הזו לראשי הבנים. :)

  4. Nina Rimon-Davis
    "neither my 2 daughters nor my daughter-in-law took their husbands' names...

    When I married the first time around, it was unheard of not to take your husband's name... I disliked his surname, and switched to my 2nd husband's name (plus my maiden name) as soon as I could...

  5. Susan Pallant says:
    "After I married, I remained Susan West for awhile, then thought about hyphenating it. Here's the rub: Susan West-Pallant to my ear sounds like a New Jersey suburb. Susan Pallant-West sounds like a pretentious Jersey suburb. I finally settled on Susan West Pallant (no hyphen)with West as a middle name. An imperfect solution."