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Should I change my surname?

Beth Shuster eoshuster at UCDAVIS.EDU
Wed Feb 8 16:13:09 EST 1995

On 2/7, Deborah Merriam wrote:
>I am getting married this coming summer, and I'm trying to decide whether
>to keep by birth name as-is or take my beloved's surname.
>As I see it, my options are:
>1 - keep my current surname for all purposes
>2 - change my surname to coincide with my beloved's (and keep my maiden
>name as a new middle name, if I choose)
>3 - keep my name for business purposes, and use his for personal purposes
>4 - hyphenate (an excellent idea except that our surnames sound hideous
>together ;-)
>5 - have *him* take *my* surname (but he has some publications, too)
>6 - make up our own surname (cute idea, but completely impractical)

   I also considered the same set of options and had the same difficulty
with option 4!  I chose option 2, mainly because had I spent the first day
of every school year that I can remember explaining why I used my middle
name instead of my first name (also my mom's) and I did not want to spend
the rest of my life explaining that, yes, my husband and I were married,
but did not share a name (even in today's *enlightened* society).  I also
did not want any progeny to have to explain their name(s) in school every
year!  I apologized to my mom for dropping my (her) first name & explained
that it was not that I didn't like the name, but that it was more important
to maintain my maiden name in the official rendering (and besides - my
parents started calling me by my middle name as soon as I was born!).  

   I did draw the line at the use of the term "Mrs" - I prefer "Ms" or "Dr"
if people feel they must use a label.  I'm not sure why I feel so strongly
about this, (probably because I'm an independent cuss) but it's come in
handy with telephone solicitations - "Mrs. Shuster doesn't live here"!

   Changing your name takes some getting used to: the first year, writing
my name felt really strange.  Now, nearly 13 (gasp!) years later, it feels
perfectly normal.  I was in grad school at the time, but had not yet
published (other than an abstract), and so did not have to deal with that
issue (although I did have to explain the change to colleagues in the field
at the next major meeting...).  My impression from talking to women who
have changed their names early in a career is that any difficulties
decrease with time as you build up a publication record under your "new"
name.  Until then, include the publication on your cv with a notation that
author X is you (assuming that you do not mind advertising your marital

  Ultimately, any of the options you listed are workable.  Choose one that
you're happiest with.  Congratulations!

Beth Shuster                        
Univ. of California                     
Davis, CA  95616-8598                  
e-mail: eoshuster at ucdavis.edu

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