- By the time I got married, I had already been Sara Cotner for 30 years. I've made so many contacts throughout those years; I didn't want to make it difficult for people from my past (primarily former students) to find me. Plus, my name is a huge part of my identity.
- I'm not a huge fan of hyphenation. I find it cumbersome. I totally support people who choose that route for themselves because I think it's a good compromise and I like the philosophy behind it. I just don't personally like it for practical reasons.
- I don't like the patriarchal tradition of women giving up their last names when they get married.
- I like my last name. If I didn't like it, I would most likely have ignored my previous three reasons and just changed my name to Matt's (which is Bradford).
In the past 2.5 years since we've been married and maintaining our separate names, I can only recall two problems we've had: one time I had a hard time picking up a UPS package because our last names didn't match (but they ended up giving it to me anyway) and, just the other day, I had to repeat to the receptionist at the doctor's office: "We're married, we just have different last names" (it was an insurance card issue).
And the truth is, there have been a couple times when it's been helpful to have different last names. For example, I was trying to sneak Matt into a free event for educators at the museum, and it helped that he looked like my colleague rather than my husband (Editor's Note: I didn't compromise my integrity too much. Matt is technically in education; he's just not in the classroom anymore.)
But now that we're on the verge of welcoming the newest member into our family (in two weeks!), we're facing the dilemma all over again. As I see it, these are our options:
- I could change my last name to Bradford and all of us could have the same last name. Again, I don't like this option for all the reasons listed above.
- Matt could change his last name to Cotner and all of us could have the same last name. Again, Matt wouldn't want to do this.
- We could hyphenate the baby's name and he could be Cotner-Bradford. I like the way it sounds, but, again, I think hyphenation is cumbersome. I don't even know how to alphabetize hyphenated names! And think about how long it would take him to bubble in his last name on standardized tests. Plus, when/if he gets married, he would face this same dilemma all over again, so we would only really be solving the problem temporarily.
- We could give the baby one of our last names as a middle name and use the other name as a last name. I kind of like this option because it honors both of our last names, but one of our last names would be relegated to the middle name spot, which isn't used very often. I'm thinking we would put my maiden name in the middle because I think Cotner Bradford sounds better than Bradford Cotner. Also, I think I have an inextricable link to the baby already by virtue of the fact that he and I have shared a body for nine months. It might be nice to create a different kind of bond for Matt by giving the baby his last name.
- We could make up a new last name (perhaps by blending our names together) and then all share it. Although I like the theory behind this idea, it seems like a shame to lose our real last names entirely.
Oh, the decisions! I really don't know what to do (and our decision-making window is coming to a close!).
Please chime in if you have some sage advice!