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Don't Believe the Hyphen

Amy Mikler

I’ve been thinking a lot about my name lately, probably because I’m waiting for my boyfriend, Mark, to ask me to marry him. (It’s OK to disclose this, he’s well aware.) When I first married my baby’s daddy, Ed, it took me years to change my name, which drove the traditionalist nuts. When our son, Javier, was born, I still hadn’t done it, and Ed almost blew his top when the hospital put my maiden name on the baby’s hospital bracelet. When I finally, finally got around to doing it, we separated shortly thereafter. (That’ll teach him.)

Still, I kept my new name after we divorced. For a while I used it after my maiden name and walked the Earth as Anamary Pelayo Connery. It didn’t take long for my hand to feel sore every time I signed something (hey it was loooong), so I shortened it to Ana Connery, which is what I’ve gone by for years.

Now that I’m thinking of marrying someone else, I have to face the fact that he, too, wants my name changed to reflect our commitment. It’s not that I don’t love Mark’s last name. It has the same ring as my current one (Downey), and could look quite good on a NY Times bestseller someday. But should I really give up Connery? Isn’t the name representative of something hugely important? 

Plus: When your kids ask about divorce, say this 

Not only does Connery forever connect me to my son, it also captures an important time in my life, much of which was filled with plenty of highs. As a Connery, I stepped into married life and learned what it takes to keep a relationship strong, even if Ed and I weren’t able to make ours work in the end. As a Connery, my career took off, and folks can now easily find me on Google. I gave birth to my son, experienced life-changing vacations to places like Paris and Bora Bora, and bought two homes—all with those letters trailing my name. 

I think it’s time we widen the boxes on applications and forms to accommodate longer names. They’re a reflection of who we are as a whole, and in my opinion, we have to own our past and all of its experiences, whether we‘re proud of each one or not. To disregard our former names is to erase huge parts of our life—essentially, our former selves. It’s like moving out of your childhood home. You know there are great things to come in the new place with the bigger yard, but it’s hard to close the door forever.  Who wants to turn their back on that? Not me.

What do you think about changing last names when we marry, divorce or otherwise feel like it? Comment and tell me about it, or write me at ana@parenting.com.

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