That crazy name-change issue

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In the past nine days, I’ve slowly started becoming a Johnson. It’s exciting, scary — and everything in between.

In the months leading up to the wedding, I toyed with the idea of . . .

Keeping my maiden name;
Hyphenating my last name;
Legally changing my last name, but keeping my maiden name professionally;
Just straight-up changing my last name and rolling with it.

It took me a while — and a bit of soul-searching — but I’ve ultimately decided to take Spencer’s last name. The choice is very personal, of course, and feels “right” to me. My husband has been very supportive of whatever I want to do, and I’ve been uncertain about it — but at the end of the day, my marriage marks a great change. A step into the future. And I feel like Johnson is that refresh I’ve been wanting.

I’m still me, of course. But I’m married me. And it will feel good — albeit scary — to take a new name.

Of course, these are all just words floating around the universe right now . . . I haven’t taken any legal steps to change just yet. Honestly, the idea of changing my entire identity makes me want to cower under a table fort made of old sheets at my grandparents’ house (which everyone knows is awesome). My younger sister has started the process, as has a newlywed coworker, so I’m relying on them for help and advice.

But I did make one big alteration: I changed my name on Facebook. That might as well be legal, right?

So it’s all fine and good to become Megan Johnson on a screen, friends, but that left me with another decision to make: what to do at work. Regardless of what I chose legally, I always thought I’d keep Snider somewhere in my moniker — either as a middle name or hyphenated part of Johnson. Since I write for a newspaper, I considered it a pen name. I thought it would be a nice homage to my roots.

Then I panicked.

Whatever I put with my column on Wednesday would set the tone for everything to come. If I’m Snider-Johnson now, even just professionally, that’s how I’ll be addressed by friends and readers alike. Staring at a computer screen on Monday morning, I realized I had to make a decision. A real decision.

Am I changing my name — or not?

It suddenly seemed strange to go halfsies . . . to be Snider-Johnson some places, Johnson or Snider in others. Which is it? Who am I?

Can I be both?

Caught up in the excitement of the wedding, I avoided the name-change issue. Friends have already started calling me Mrs. Johnson, and I love the way it sounds . . . but it’s still so foreign. But like all things surrounding my nuptials, both large and small, I’m sure it’s just a shift to which I’ll have to grow accustomed. I’m sure I’m not the first woman to look around in confusion when the doctor beckons “Mrs. So-and-so” out of the waiting room. (Who? Me?)

When the time came to put my byline on tomorrow’s column, I made a decision I didn’t expect.

I just went with Johnson. Plain ol’ Johnson.

So far, being Megan Johnson — at least in spirit — is pretty similar to being Megan Snider: both women are readers and writers, photographers and dreamers, daughters and sisters and friends. But the former gets to be part of my refresh, my reboot: my big, bold steps into whatever comes next with my husband.

Scary and good.

—–

If you’ve changed your name, how did it make you feel?
Did you ever feel uncertain about your decision?
Are you happy with the choice you ultimately made?


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60 thoughts on “That crazy name-change issue

  1. Well, I’m not married yet, but I can safely say that I think I won’t change my maiden name- perhaps I just like a sense of my own identity too much right now, but who knows what will change 20, 30 years down the road? But yeah- I think it’s pretty much up to you whether or not you want to change your name, and it does help to have an understanding spouse! 🙂

  2. I don’t remember giving it more than 5 minutes of thought. Maybe I’m traditional that way, and certainly my job wasn’t as public as yours. I think it is a good choice though. Everyone will figure it out. I just remember what a pain it was to change the name on everything, especially frequent flier miles on the airlines! That was the worst one.

    • I’m dreading the name-change process, actually . . . I’ve already started switching to Johnson on shopping accounts, etc., but nothing legally binding! I’m sure it will be daunting, but I’ll just make my checklists and hopefully get through it quick!

  3. Eeeeek. I’m still in the computer at work as my maiden name, although I got my new name on my SS card on Friday. I changed my name to Sarah OldName NewName – and dropped my middle name completely. To be fair, my middle name was Marie and so generic I don’t think anyone will miss it.

    • I’ve thought about dropping the middle name in favor of my maiden name, but I feel equally tied to being Megan MiddleName (sorry, just don’t want to put my whole identity on the Internet! Haha. Like it matters now, I guess). I’m planning to hit the SS office sometime in the next week or two!

  4. I changed my name my deed poll instead of us getting married (personal decision for both of us to do it this way). It still feels weird even though pretty much everything has been changed now. But because of the way I did it, I don’t have a maiden name. My old name is just a byline on my birth certificate now. But I knew that going in, and I am ok with it.

  5. The hardest change was at work with clients. Half still think of me (and ask for me at the front desk) with my maiden name, the other half know me by my married name (which, by the way, no one can pronounce). I always knew I wanted to change my name legally, but keep my maiden name for writing/the blog so I can have some separation and privacy (I’m a therapist, so this is actually helpful for me to have one online name and one real-life name). Megan Johnson is a fine moniker–very pretty. Congratulations again!

    • Thank you! I think that’s a very sensible solution. In a strange way, I feel even more anonymous as Megan Johnson than I did as Megan Snider — I was one of only a few dozen Megan Sniders (spelled my exact way!) in the U.S., while Johnson is a bit more common. (That’s an understatement.) I’m sure I will adapt in time!

  6. That does sound like an incredibly difficult decision, especially since you’ve built a name for yourself as a writer. Something I know I would struggle with, as well.

    It sounds like your heart made the decision for you, and I think that’s a very telling sign. ❤

    • Thanks, Jess! I’ve learned to start listening to my gut — it rarely leads me astray. When I overthink a decision, I tend to go with the choice my head wants . . . but not necessarily my heart. And I think the ol’ heart is ready to be a Johnson. I’m running with it!

  7. Back when I got married, it was pretty much a given that you’d take your husband’s name. My maiden name is my middle name now. If I was supposed to do something to change my name legally, I didn’t know it. I changed my name with the Social Security office and, because we moved, I had to get a new driver’s license and I used my married name, but that was it.

    I have to say that I’m thrilled that women have a choice these days.

    • My mom and I have discussed this, too: that when my parents married in the ’80s, there was a complete assumption that you’d take your husband’s name and . . . that was that. Mom recalled an interesting conversation with my dad, though: before they married, he actually asked her if she was planning to change it. She said yes, of course, but thought that very progressive of him. I’m proud on his behalf!

  8. I have been reading your blog for a while and never commented, but as I have been married for just over a year, I completely related to your post today and had to comment! I completely changed my name, professionally and personally, and it has been a year and three months and I still find myself not responding to Mrs. Jones, it is still weird, but a good weird and makes me giggle even a year later! I still have places where I need to change my name – cell phone bill and my blog business cards, so I made a goal to change one thing a month, made it easier to handle the long list.

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting, Kristin — I’m happy to have you! I can definitely see myself giggling at the sound of Mrs. Johnson for a while now. Honestly, it makes me blush a little . . . though I’m not sure why! I’m transitioning here at work and getting ready to tackle the next round of name changes. I like your idea of changing one thing a month — much less daunting!

  9. Oh man. The name change issue. This is something that’s been plaguing me for a while, even before I got married last May. It felt totally weird to me to just drop my last name, because that’s been my identity for as long as I’ve been alive. My husband has a great last name, but it’s really hard to pronounce, and very Polish. It just didn’t feel like me. But it was important to him that I take something of his last name, and so I compromised and decided to hyphenate. I did it on Facebook! So, yeah, it totally might as well be legal!

    Well now it’s been a while and I still have no idea how to start actually changing my name. I also recently made the decision to apply for grad school in another country, and they’re very specific that your last name on your application has to match your passport exactly. And with application deadlines coming up, I don’t have time to get a new passport. So it looks like I’ll be keeping my maiden name for a while. I guess that’s okay. I have my whole life to wear that hyphenated name.

    • I can definitely empathize — that’s a tough situation! Having one name for nearly three decades, in my case, means changing has been strange and emotional. Sounds like keeping your maiden name for now makes the most sense, and you’re right: you have a lifetime to change! 🙂

  10. I’ve always been set on changing my name, for a LOT of reasons, but somehow I’m sitting here almost a year and a half out from my wedding without having actually done it. I changed facebook quickly, and my friends and family all know that socially I’m going by Mrs P – but actually doing the legal bit? That part I haven’t been able to bring myself to do yet.

    • I was kind of wondering if I would do the same thing, Sheryl — change online and at work, but legally stay Snider for a bit longer. But I guess I hate having that hang over my head. I like the idea of socially being a Mrs. but keeping your maiden name, actually!

  11. The number one reason I changed my name was that it was important to me to have a family last name. I know it’s pretty common for mom to have one name and dad and kids another, but I felt like having the same name was our “group name” and joined us even further.

  12. I changed my name. It’s the “new normal” now and I don’t think about it anymore, but it was such a pain to do that if I’d known then what I know now, I’m not sure I would have bothered to change it legally! (It wasn’t the SS/DL card/passport stuff, it was all that extra crap you don’t think about like changing your name at the doctor’s office, insurance, banks, pharmacies, etc.)

    • Whew boy, Allie — that’s the stuff I’m dreading, too! But I figure if I do a little at a time, I should have myself all transitioned by the spring. Um, hopefully.

      • The only suggestion I have is that when I tried to change my name, I paid for the service MissNowMrs.com, which took care of a lot of the paperwork. You just fill in a master form, and they auto-fill all the rest of your documents so you can send them to the proper places.

  13. I changed my name. I didn’t give it much thought. It was just something I always assumed I’d do if/when I married. It helped that my new name is easier to pronounce and is much closer to the front of the alphabet. (I wish I’d had my married name in grad school–I was always the last one for meetings with advisors, etc because everything was scheduled alphabetically.) My degrees are all in my maiden name, but it’s never been an issue when I’ve applied for jobs.

    • I can definitely relate to wanting to be closer to the front of the alphabet, haha! S isn’t all that bad, but it made waiting for things quite difficult growing up. I’m impatient — having a J name would have served me better!

  14. It wasn’t hard at all. I wanted to be a Mrs. and part of that meant taking my husband’s last name. I’ve completely embraced my last name. Sometimes I forget that I spent the first twenty years of my life with a different last name.

  15. I have been reading your blog for a while now. It’s been wonderful to see all the big changes in your life recently. The name change thing always seems to be more if an issue for everyone around you more than it is for yourself. I kept my last name and my husband didn’t care either way. We knew we weren’t going to have kids so it really wasn’t much of an issue for us. To each his or her own…it’s up to you in the end and what ever you decide people will call you what they want to anyway. I don’t get offended either way, my last name, his last name, what’s the difference really? We’re family same last name or not. It’s been 11 years now and things couldn’t be better, so all is well that ends well.

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Nicky! I’m glad it hasn’t been disruptive for you. You’re right: to each his/her own. I don’t think it would be a huge deal to explain that I am, in fact, married — even if I kept my maiden name. It’s a tough call!

  16. I feel ya. I still sometimes miss my last name. It was my stamp of being Hispanic. But it felt right to take my husband’s name. So I totally agree. Wait till you have kids. It will mean just that much more.

  17. I changed my name. But my mom and I have the same first name, so changing my last name to my husband’s gave me more of a “my” name, instead of sharing one with my mom. Of course, I would like to change my name entirely, first and last, but no one else seems to think that’s a good idea.

  18. I don’t remember giving it much thought. Either way would have been fine with me and my husband didn’t care if I changed it or not. Since I had to make a decision I added his last name and my maiden name became my middle name. A good solution since I didn’t like my middle name and don’t mind that it’s gone.

    • Changing the middle name to your maiden name seems pretty popular these days, Leslie — I hadn’t really considered that, but it’s an interesting compromise!

  19. I got married six years ago, and maybe because my mom didn’t change her name, I never even considered changing mine. I did add hubby’s on to mine on FB, and I’ll respond to “Mrs. Hubby’sLastName” but otherwise I kept things as-is. When we have kids, they’ll get my last name as a middle name and his last name as their last name (which is what my parents did with me).

    It’s a very personal choice and there is no wrong way, so congrats! I’m glad you found something you’re comfortable with!

    • No right or wrong, indeed — thanks for sharing your experience! 🙂 I love your plan for the kiddos. I have a friend who actually gave her son her maiden name as a first name — pretty cool.

  20. Reblogged this on realwomenconnect and commented:
    I am actually not married and not even engaged but I am already worried about changing my name one day. I am proud to be a James and I cannot imagine being anything else. However the thought of marriage and taking that new step makes me feel it is only right to change my last name eventually. Of course my boyfriend now of four and a half years I have humor him with the idea of him changing his last name just to keep my own.( joking) Which he reacted as any man would and laughed. And yes I think changing your name on facebook is pretty much a legal considering today’s standards haha. When the time comes I will blog about my actual experience in this, until then good luck to the ones who are facing it now, and may you make a decision you are happy with 🙂

  21. I never considered not changing it. My maiden name was clunky and hard to spell. I had been waiting to get married to change it. Surprised my husband. He didn’t think I wanted to change it. But I like it.
    It’s totally personal and I think everyone should do what feels right to them.

    • My mom had similar feelings growing up, Linda; her maiden name was unusual enough that it consistently tripped people up, and my dad’s last name was much easier to say/pronounce! I don’t think too many people will struggle with Johnson, haha.

    • It’s definitely been on my brain lately, Andi! Many of the women in my life have wrestled with what to legally change their name to and how they want to be known socially, so it’s something that comes up in conversation quite often.

  22. it took me 1.5 years and my husband asking me when we would share a name numerous times to convince me to even hyphenate my name. everywhere i went by my maiden name and i have written case studies and other papers so i was concerned, but people have been very helpful and yea it is very scary. long and short of it for me was that i did it to make my husband happy.

  23. I kept my maiden name – mostly because it was just so complicated to change it. My husband has never been bothered about it; my father was very pleased that I didn’t change my name! However, it’s sometimes awkward when people I know at work assume that my surname is my married name and ask questions like ‘How is Mr. Sahan?’ Since Dad passed away a few years ago, I feel compelled to explain to people that I use my maiden name and Mr. Sahan is my father …

    • Oooh, yes, I can see how that would be awkward, Alene. And it is very complicated and daunting to think about changing . . . I feel like I need a shot of caffeine at the mere thought!

  24. I struggled with this for awhile before I got married. I decided to take my husband’s name and now, 4 years later, I’m very glad I did. I’m still the same person, but when we got married we decided to be a team, a unit, a family. Sharing a name is part of that for me and I’m glad to be a Hall.

    • I feel that way, too, Melissa — Spence and I are a team, and sharing a name definitely makes me feel like we’re a unit. Though I’m just getting started on the legal process, I feel good about it.

  25. I always intended on taking my husband’s name but liked to goad him a bit with the idea that I would keep my own or even make him take mine. I have a lot of professional licenses in addition to the old SS card, driver’s license etc rigamarole – that made it an extra big pain in the ass to be honest.

    I miss my maiden name at times, but we plan on using it as a first or a middle name when we have children which is a nice touch. I’m still the same ole person, just with a different last name. I think changing everything over was a good decision, it’s clear that that is my husband and I am his wife and as old fashioned as that sounds…I’m good with it 🙂

    Planning my wedding made me realize I am more old fashioned and traditional than I ever thought I truly was!

  26. I’ve been married to my husband for ten-and-a-half years. I struggled a little with the name change but ultimately took his name. I have never once regretted doing so. Also, once our children started school and I was being called ‘Mrs. Hall’ a LOT I was really, really glad I had taken my husband’s name and that it was our family name. Every woman should do what feels right to her in regard to her name. I’m just glad my last name is the same as my children. Although, they’re girls and someday they’ll deal with this aspect of their identity, too.

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