The other day I was driving Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole to my house. Somehow we got talking about last names. “I like my last name,” declared Kaiya with much authority. “I would never change it.”
“Yes you will,” said Mylee from the back seat. “When you get married you’ll have the same last name as your husband.”
“Not necessarily,” I quickly said. I explained that women can now choose whether or not to change their name to match that of her spouse.
That was not always the way it worked. When I married Court’s dad in 1977, a woman’s name automatically changed to that of her husband’s as soon as you put your John Hancock on the marriage certificate. Women were just beginning to keep their own names in those days. I gave strong consideration to doing just that. In the end, I chose to take David’s last name, in large part because in order to keep my maiden name, I would have had to get it legally changed back to Gloor. Seemed like a lot of work. Voila! I had a new name.
When I married Bill, things were different. I could easily keep my same legal last name, and that’s what I did. After all, I worked in a professional position by that point, and business associates knew me by that name. But you might recall that my legal last name was that of my first husband. Bill took my decision like a man, but he didn’t love it. Frankly, I didn’t love it either. After all, McLain is such a pretty last name.
So, a couple of years later, as a birthday gift, I changed my last name to McLain, but took the last name of my first husband as my middle name, non-hyphenated. That way I could have McLain as my last name, but my business cards would indicate the name with which people knew me as my middle name, which would look familiar. Stretch, but hey.
I explained all of this to the kids, and by time I was finished, their eyes were glazed over. There was no elementary school level indignation at the fact that there was a time when women automatically were given their husband’s last name. No horror at the fact that Kaiya wouldn’t have been able to keep the last name of which she is so proud without a great deal of paperwork. Here’s what my story left them with:
Mylee: “So Nana, what was your middle name before you changed it?”
“It was Rae,” I said. “R-A-E. Weird, huh?”
“It’s not so weird Nana,” Mylee responded. “My name is spelled different from other people with the same name. In fact, there are only 683 people in the world who spell their name like me.”
There’s no way she could know that, I thought. “How do you know that?” I said.
“There’s a website that tells you how many people in the world have the same name as you,” she explained. I’m sure she was thinking, as if you can’t find every single thing on the internet. Duh, Nana.
By the way, I never did a single, solitary thing to change my name legally. I simply started using the name. I’ve never looked back, and no one’s ever said a word. I wonder how many things I have illegally signed.
Maybe I could find out from the internet. I’ll get Mylee right on it.