Guy Talk: I Took My Wife’s Last Name

I’ve always prized the uniqueness of my first name. Pronunciation is lost but the singularity is worth the explanations and corrections during introductions. After my wife Olivia and I were married last August, I was excited about the opportunity to conceive a new last name together. We knew that the hyphenation of our last names to Hoselton-Hopkins was too clumsy and conjoining them into a new name, Hopelton or Hoselkin, was even worse.

I brainstormed for weeks, searching genealogy records and name generating websites. My initial ideas including Heart, Horizon and Winsong were immediately discarded. My wife is a doctor and needed the name to have an air of respectability.  I also needed to stop consulting the Seventh Sanctum Extreme Fantasy Name Generator. Gralylin was a traditional variation on my mother’s maiden name and I also attempted to reference our new adopted “Duke City” of Albuquerque with the name Ellington, but no dice.

I made the mistake of asking my friends and family their thoughts on the options. “Are you fucking kidding me!?” was the most dissenting voice. Other opinions included “real dumbb [sic]” and “are you serious?” One relative attempted to stage a riot against the name change but never managed to gain any support. His comments continued to an email exchange where he pleaded for “sanity in the decision.” Older relatives, frustrated with their genealogy hobbies, also reminded me of the ease of tracing my ancestry if I kept my current name.

It seemed that the decision wasn’t up to us, and that I was being disrespectful to my father and the official name changing rules. Everyone was supportive of us keeping our own names, choosing a new name or having Olivia take my name. But the option to take her name was not allowed. Surprisingly, this disapproval was shared by both older pro-male patriarchs and younger female friends. Choosing your last name through marriage isn’t a choice that can be made equally with your partner if you’re a guy, apparently.

In the end, all of our name options felt empty. We couldn’t find a name that had any significance in our new shared life. We returned again to our own last names and compared their meaning in our lives. Hoselton, my last name, referenced my father’s side of the family, who notably maintained a car dealership in upstate New York. This name was never pronounced correctly and my involvement with the family and their car business was limited. Hopkins, my wife’s last name, referenced a lineage of doctors from her father to her grandfather. The choice for me was simple: Honor a family tradition with meaning in our lives.

I consulted my father, who only expressed mild reservations. And then I informed my friends via the Internet. The most helpful comment I received was from a female friend who wrote, “That you are willing to stand in the face of expected masculinity and be like FUCK YOUUUUUU I LOVE MY WIFE. That makes you more of a man/a better human than anyone who will give you shit about it.” I have been really happy with the decision. Taking my wife’s last name was a gift to her and she has been surprised at how excited it made her.  It hurts most people’s heads when I explain the name change. I’ve always enjoyed challenging tradition so telling people simply that I changed my name because I got married is perfect.

I was naive in believing the next steps in this name change would be simple. I easily changed my name with Social Security including changing my middle name to Sunrise. A monogrammed ASH on a crisp white button down was the goal. I felt that my parents chose my first name, my wife determined the last and I chose the middle one. Everyone wins. Except when I strolled into the Department of Motor Vehicles and was denied changing my middle initial without a court order. Sixth months after I decided to change my name, I shook hands with a judge and I was granted a full new name. Marriage tip for you adventurous name changers; change your middle name on your marriage certificate. It will save you $300.