Love, Lindsay

I Asked Women And Men: 'Would You Take Your Spouse's Last Name?'

"Personally, I do not think it matters what your last name is, but it's nice to have an option, I think."

First comes love, second comes marriage, and then comes a question: "Who gets to keep their last name?" For centuries, women have been expected to take their husband's last names, and though our definition of marriage has expanded over time, this tradition still stands. 

In fact, a recent study found that 87 percent of men surveyed said their wife took their last name, while only 3 percent of men took their wife's last name. While traditional gender norms and double standards still seem to prevail, 4 percent of women hyphenated their name, and in 6 percent of couples, neither partner changed their last name. 

This study piqued my interest, so I took to the streets of New York City to solve that old Shakespearean riddle: 'Wouldst a rose by any other name smell as sweet?' Modern translation: 'Would you take your spouse's last name?' 

Modern women and men weighed in. 

The first person I interviewed just happened to have a unique and, consequently, unchangeable name: Dafina Lovelace. She never thought about changing her last name because, as she told me, 'With a last name like Lovelace, it kinda doesn't get much better than that." While she remembers doing the classic junior high move of writing her first name with her crush's last name to test romantic capability, as she got older she knew no other name could fit her personality better than the one she was given at birth. "But I always thought my husband might want to take my last name," she said. "... If he as a person — as an individual — feels like he wants to take my last name and then our family can have the same name — great! Let's do it! If not, OK. It's just a name." 

For Shehryar Khan, however, a name is a bit more than just a name. "... It is actually [reflective of] my country, Pakistan, where I come from. So everybody who is a Khan, we have an entire ancestry, so we're like an entire group of people," he said. "There's no segregation, but it's just that, you know, for example, the Robinsons or the Browns. In the same way, the Khans. It's like a legacy so I would love to give [my children] their last name as Khan because that's the family thing." Though he has no problem with his wife keeping her last name, he probably wouldn't want to take hers either so he could continue his family's legacy in his children. 

Carrying on the family legacy turned out to be one of the main reasons why both men and women I interviewed chose to keep their last names, but it wasn't the only one. Interviewee Kathy McSweeney has been married to her husband Stephan Cassella for 36 years and have four children together. "When I didn't change my name, I thought I was at the very beginning of a movement. I thought I was the first one, and no one else was gonna change their name after this because of women's liberation," she explained. "... And this is who I was and cuz my name was Irish —McSweeney — and his is Italian, so I didn't feel like I could become Italian after all those years of being Irish." 

"I didn't want to change mine either," Cassella half-joked. "It's the family name. We're a big Italian family from New Jersey. It's not done." When it came time to start a family of their own, the progressive couple created "an Italian-Irish blend" that made sense for them. While their children all grew up with the last name Cassella, McSweeney was their middle name, and Kathy won the right to pick all her children's first names: Brian, Kevin, Molly, and Megan — all Irish-infused. 

Another couple, Rosita and Peter Ohl, have been married and shared the same last name for 51 years. "At the time when we were getting married, that [keeping her last name] was not an option. So you changed your maiden name to your husband's name," Rosita explained. For a similar reason, Peter wouldn't take his wife's name. "Call it tradition, whatever," he said. 

Though this tradition might have felt limiting to Dafina and Kathy, it didn't to Rosita. When I asked if she wished she'd had the choice to keep her name, she said, "Not really ... it never really bothered me. It still doesn't bother me ... Personally, I do not think it matters what your last name is, but it's nice to have an option, I think." 

As it turned out, the majority of the people I interviewed — regardless of whether or not they wanted to keep their last name — believed that sharing a last name with your spouse wasn't all that important. What's really important is sharing the kind of love that allows two individuals to come together while still retaining their independence — no matter what you call them. 

Love, Lindsay Investigates, a subset of the Love, Lindsay column, is a series where A Plus's relationship guru/columnist ventures out into the world to ask people how they feel about a range of topics related to dating, relationships, and sex. Because, let's face it, everyone has an opinion when it comes to love. 

Want to see more Love, Lindsay Investigates? Check out last week's rendition where I took to the streets of New York City to ask men and women about their dating red flags and green flags.

And if you've got a burning love question you want me to answer or a relationship topic you'd like me to take to the streets, submit to lovelindsay@aplus.com

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