hyphenated last nameBefore my husband slipped an engagement ring on my finger and popped the question, I knew I wasn't going to take his last name. My reasoning was two-fold: One, there are no boys in my family, and two, I just didn't like the idea of getting rid of the name I've always had -- it sort of seemed like I was erasing my old self.

Here's my thing, though: I didn't take my husband's last name but I didn't keep mine, either. I hyphenated.

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Although my choice not to fully take my husband's name isn't the most common route to go, by no means was my decision trail-blazing. The practice actually started in 1805 when women's rights activist Lucy Stone changed her married name back to her birth name -- and keeping one's last name has (obviously) grown in popularity since then, peaking in the '90s.

But hyphenating your last name is a different entity altogether. It was a wildly popular trend in the U.S. in the '80s and early '90s, but the practice has since waned, due to the fact that, as NPR put it, it became "less of a feminist statement and more of a bureaucratic nightmare." Also, there's the fact that, to put it frankly, most people don't care about your hyphenated name. Laurie Scheuble, a senior lecturer in sociology at Penn State University told USA Today, "People don't do hyphenation because others ignore it. People will just choose one of your last names."

Well, if only I had known that before I spent a red tape-rife day at the city courthouse in order to go from Nicole Fabian to Nicole Fabian-Weber! The truth is: Having a hyphenated last name kind of sucks.

Here's why:

1. Making appointments is a nightmare.

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"I'm sorry, who?" "Can you spell that?" Typically, when I make an appointment anywhere -- the dentist, the hair salon, a restaurant reservation -- this is what I'm met with.

Yes, it's a mouthful (and annoying to say), but, every time I utter my first and last name, it's as if I'm the first person ever to walk into said place of business with a double last name. To be honest, I usually just wind up saying, "Nicole Fabian," which kind of defeats the purpose of having it in the first place. Unless, of course, insurance is involved, in which case ...

2. Insurance and other paperwork are the seventh circle of hell.

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I recently got a bill that was just north of $2,000, because the doctor's office assumed "Fabian" was my middle name, and marked me down as Nicole Weber. Nicole Weber doesn't have the insurance that Nicole Fabian-Weber does, so it took a mini heart attack and 734 phone calls to resolve the issue. Not fun. And not the first time I found myself in such a situation.

3. The kids usually have different last names.

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A mom with a hyphenated last name often doesn't want to give her kids one too because a), it's a personal choice, and b), what if they want to hyphenate their own names when or if they get married? A triple hyphenate? It's just too much.

So, many of us are stuck having different names than our children, and it's kind of a bummer for obvious reasons. How many times do we have to explain that yes, we are Susie's real mom even though she has this last name and we have this other one? And how will we explain it to our kids when they're older? It's not only frustrating but sad sometimes too.

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4. Most forms aren't long enough for hyphenated names.

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Nicole Fabian-Weber isn't a super long name, but I know puh-lenty of "hyphenates," as we're called, who wind up having their first name as an initial on their driver's license, or their last names cut off because they're too darn long to fit. Then the person has multiple identities and ... it only gets more complicated from there.

5. Plenty of people ignore the fact that you even have a hyphenated last name.

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Invitations, place settings, work emails -- I'm always Nicole Weber, as opposed to Nicole Fabian-Weber. I get that writing out both my and my husband's names separately is a pain in the butt and looks kind of weird, but ... my last name isn't Weber.

To be honest, there are plenty of days I consider just dropping the "Fabian" and becoming Nicole Weber once and for all. But when I think about the insane amount paperwork I'd need to go through -- again! -- in order to do that, I just can't muster the energy. Plus, I still like the fact that my name now reflects my old identity along with the one I've adopted since marriage and motherhood.

So "Nicole with the hyphenated last name" I'll stay.

Did you change your last name? Why or why not?

 

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