I have been Kimberly Cecchini for 36 years. Since my birth, in fact. And, perhaps, until my death.
According to a recent New York Times article, ‘Maiden Names on the Rise‘, I am part of the upswing. The slow upswing. Authors, Claire Cain Miller and Derek Willis, said that women largely began keeping their maiden names in the 1970’s as part of the feminist movement but, by the end of the century, the maiden name trend had declined. According to the article, about 20% of women who married in the last few years have kept their maiden name – that’s a few more than in the 1970’s. In general, though, the reasons are different. Many women who make the choice today are like me; they look at the decision from more of a practical rather than a feminist perspective.
Miller and Willis said there are a few demographic categories common among women who keep their name. I fit three of them; I am older, not religious and have an advanced degree.
Equal parts feminist and pragmatist
When I got married four years ago, my mom was excited for me to take on a new last name. In fact, she tried to insist that I no longer shared the family name she had taken on when she wed my father.
No, Mom, I’m still a Cecchini.
She tried to shake me from the family name tree by saying if I didn’t change my name, I’d be her-Mrs. Cecchini.
Then, Ms. Cecchini it is.
My mother is not a staunch traditionalist. When I said we were getting married at the courthouse, she had already given up on a church wedding for me and was just thrilled I was not actually going for common law. (Incidentally, we would have achieved it if our state had common law, but it doesn’t – Mom, of course, checked). Not taking my married name, I suppose, was just a bit too much. No, I didn’t just keep my maiden name to oppose my mom. (But, it does make it a wee bit more fun, eh, Mom?)
I kept my name because I’d been Kimberly Cecchini for 32 years by the time we tied the knot. It seemed strange to be anything but Kimberly Cecchini.
The other reason? I’m equal parts, feminist, and pragmatist.
The inner debate
1. My husband would not take my name. Ahem.
2. 3 syllables + 3 syllables = A NOT-pragmatic-hyphenated-mouthful.
3. Creating a hybrid of an Italian and a Slovak name would make an unholy mess of consonants.
4. The Department of Motor Vehicles. And all the other paperwork.
5. My signature, with my maiden name, is an illegible masterpiece refined over many years. I suppose it would take time, but I have not found such rhythm in doodling my married name.
6. Replacing my middle name with my married name. More paperwork.
7. Changing your name can negatively impact careers. More women today are getting married at a later date, and, therefore they are more likely to have well-established careers by the time they do wed. I have read a few articles where women have spoken about keeping their name to maintain their ‘brand’ in certain professions like journalism where you may lose part of your audience if they don’t follow a byline change.
8. And, most importantly, we are just as happily married.
The outer consequences
1. On business calls, I have to often add that my name is different than my husband’s – and spell both. All 17 letters.
2. People are not sure how to address an envelope to us.
3. My Grandmother insists on addressing mail to me with my married name. She “can’t” use my maiden name. She’s Grandma; she gets a pass.
4. I could use my married name in personal contexts and my maiden name in professional contexts. The other day, though, a friend said this arrangement made her feel schizophrenic, and so she took on her married name full-time.
5. It’s a thing. That takes explaining. Somehow it’s still kind of a novelty – or an oddity. As progressive as many of my own friends and colleagues are, I can only think of two women that I know have kept their name.
6. My husband’s comments on the subject aren’t his wittiest.
However, the truth is my husband supports my decision to keep my name, even though I do feel a little guilty for not adopting his name when many other women are eager to make the switch. Then, again, he loves the not-so-traditional woman that he married.
So will I ever change my name? I’m not sure. Does it matter a great deal? Again, I’m not sure. But, if I do stick with Cecchini, I may need a disclaimer on my tombstone so that it’s acceptable for my husband and I to share a grave when death do we part.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Columnist at MissCareerLess
Kimberly Cecchini (@tonightatdawn) lives in the greater New York City area and is a graduate of Rutgers University. She is a freelance writer and photographer for a North Jersey newspaper and the founder of the blog Tonight at Dawn.
Edited by Virag
Photo credit: Flickr / Parekh Cards