Save or change your surname on marriage?

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Just been reading an article in today’s Irish Independent, asking the question should married women change their name when they get married. Years ago, growing up and dreaming of the man I would marry, I couldn’t wait to be Mrs..fill in the blank..and had not doubt that I would take my husband’s name. But when it came time to do so at the ripe old age of 39, I felt differently. This had been my identity for nearly 40 years and I wasn’t ready to let it go. I decided to hold onto my maiden name (what a quaint expression) for work purposes and use my married name for all other occasions, but it hasn’t really worked out like that. I remain steadfastly attached to my original surname. In the very begining I did the old double-barrel name thing and it had a certain ring to it, but really it does look pretentious so I dropped that pretty quick. Anyway, back to today’s Irish Independent article, which rolls out the expert psychologist, as is the norm in these matters – a  Professor Ben Fletcher, Head of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and a specialist in family relations,who says “taking your husband’s name could indicate a very together person,” he says. “In a sense, your name is your public identity: you can call yourself Ronald Rabbit but you still are who you are.” The issue of name changing should really be neutral territory, he says, no more than a token of commitment. On the other hand, “there are a lot of very traditional men who believe that when you get married that’s what you do – this kind of sexism still does operate.”

Celebrities are making a career choice when they decide on whether or not to ‘take the name’. Would the Beckham ‘brand’ be as powerful if they were Victoria Adams and David Beckham? And when Ashley Cole was getting into trouble for alleged infidelities, did Cheryl’s ‘Mrs Cole’ tattoo on the back of her neck make the perceived betrayal all the worse? The Mrs Beckhams and Coles of this world are independently rich and powerful within their own celebrity – but probably richer and more powerful as part of a celebrity unit. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, meanwhile, has it both ways, while Jennifer Aniston kept hold of her maiden name during her ill-fated marriage.

“One of the reasons I didn’t change my name was laziness,” admits Lucy Wright, a publisher. “Also, my partner was married before, so there was another Mrs Jaspers knocking around and I didn’t fancy being the second one. It was a combination of laziness and independence.” Headhunter Debs Johnson, née Watkins, however, was happy to change her name. “I much preferred it to my maiden name, which I’d never really liked. Also, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to completely reinvent myself.” This wasn’t an option for Helen Micklewright, a civil servant who knew from the off that she wasn’t letting go of her unusual surname. “I have investigated my family tree and I hate the way the women’s name dies out when she marries and in some cases she becomes untraceable,” she says. “I think it’s an old-fashioned thing to do”.

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