Wednesday, April 14, 2004

What's Your Name?

According to this article in Slate (via Eric Zorn), fewer women are keeping their maiden names. According to a recent study by Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldin, based on Massachusetts birth records, the number of college-educated women in their 30s keeping their name has dropped from 23 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2000.

I was a little shocked by that number at first. Here in NYC, I would say that about 80% of my friends kept their names. If I look at the list of parents in my son's nursery school class, 13 parents have different last names, 2 are single parents, and 7 have the same last name. No judgments. I don't really care if you change your name or not. All I'm saying is that most people I know didn't.

Just shows you that New York City ain't the rest of the country. Or maybe it's a socio-economic thing. Who knows.

A few months ago, a fellow blogger said, "come on, aren't you going to tell us your name?" I removed my last name from the blog due to worries about vengeful tenure review committees, psycho ex-boyfriends, and crazed students. Since I wisely named my blog after my address, I thought I already gave away too much information. So, I'm just Laura from the block in the blogosphere. But my full name has grown increasingly irrelevant anyway.

I never changed my last name when I got married. It wasn't a major decision since I had always planned on keeping my name. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that my husband's last name is singularly lacking in vowels. But many family members have not accepted this fact. My grandmother was worried that our neighbors were going to think that we were living in sin. Yeah, like our crack dealing neighbors would care. Other relatives still insist on addressing all packages to Mr. and Mrs. Steven Naf, despite 7 years of return addresses from us that clearly state two separate last names.

About the only thing that I got out of 8 years in graduate school is this lousy title, Dr. But the only people who call me Dr. are the vultures from the fund raising department from my old school. I just got a wedding invitation addressed to Ms. Laura McK. I didn't insist on the Dr., because some people think that's putting on airs.

Other than wedding invites, nobody I knows uses any title any more. Not Mrs. or Ms. or Miss. Is this another New York thing?

Kids don't even use titles around grownups anymore. Every little munchkin in the neighborhood calls me Laura, and my kid calls the other grown ups Rachel or Bob or Sally. This scandalizes my Dad. He still expects my friends from high school, who are now 38, to call him Mr. McK.

I don't even have a first name when I call my kid's pediatrician. After the first time when I introduced myself as Laura McK., the mother of Jonah Naf, I was told to not do that anymore. I should just say that this is the mother of Jonah Naf. My name was entirely irrelevant.

I had the wrong first name at my last job, because I let the computer repair guy call me Bonnie for years because I didn't want to embarrass him.

Despite all this confusion, slights, and perhaps irrelevancy, I kept my last name. And I'm very happy about it. My aunt always said, "oh you'll change your name when the kids are born", but I didn't. It doesn't make us any less of a family or me any less committed to my marriage (I also have my wedding ring on the wrong finger). I like having my own identity. Changing my last name would be like dying my hair or getting a nose job for me. So, even if I'm only part of 17% minority, I have no regrets.

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