Why I didn't change my pain-in-the-ass maiden name 10 months ago

Why I didn't change my pain-in-the-ass maiden name

Does a woman's decision to keep her maiden name make her seem less committed as a wife?

Rather unfortunately, I was born with an unpronounceable surname. It's Bough. It's not even a makey-uppey name, it's a proper word in the dictionary and everything:

Bough (noun) a main branch of a tree, "when the bough breaks the cradle will fall."

Irish people have A LOT of trouble with it and it's been mispronounced my whole life as 'Boff', 'Bock', 'Bowe' and someone once went even further, calling out 'Alison Boosh?' in a dentist's waiting room. Although, as a massive Noel Fielding fan I didn't really mind my brief stint as The Mighty Boosh.

When I got married to a man with a perfectly normal and pronounceable (dare I say boring) name I was pretty relieved. Never again would I have to say "Bough, no Bough...B-O-U-G-H...it rhymes with cow" over the phone. Never again would I have to answer questions about my ancestry or the heritage of my name "yes it is unusual, no I don't know where it comes from, yes I'm sure it's not pronounced Boff."

But when it came down to it, I found that I just didn't want to change my pain-in-the-ass name. Hyphenating meant even more spelling and, to be completely honest, I thought the hyphenated version sounded long and pretentious. To cut a long story short, I ended up taking a combination approach. My new passport went under his name, my new driving licence went under mine, the bills go under his (which I figure will come in handy if I ever need to go on the run from the law), and the kids got their daddy's surname.

A president by any other name would smell as sweet?

Over the years, much has been written about the decision that Hillary Clinton made in 1980 to take her husband Bill's last name. She did so after suggestions that the use of her maiden name (Rodham) cost her darling hubby political support. Gender expert Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer, of Portland State University, says that back then, women keeping their maiden name was seen to many as strange and even offensive, and Hillary was labeled a 'bad wife.'


Writing in Gender Issues, Fitzgibbons Shafer (not hyphenated) queries whether a woman's decision to keep her maiden name, rather than take that of her husband's, makes people judge her in terms of her commitment as a wife. So, by holding on to my beloved Boff am I being held to different standards? It depends, says Shafer:

"Over thirty years have passed since that backlash, but surname choice remains a highly gendered aspect of modern marriage."

The researcher highlights recent surveys that found over ninety percent of American women take their husband's surname after marriage, and that half of the population thinks that it should be a legal requirement to do so. Shafer's own study revealed that women and highly-educated men in the US generally aren't bothered by what a woman decides to do on the surname front, but men with lower levels of education apparently have more negative views; believing that a woman who keeps her maiden name after marriage is less committed to her role as a wife. These charming chaps also believed that these women's husbands had more grounds for divorce:

"Low educated men's bias, coupled with the lack of economic incentive women have for retaining their own surnames, suggests that we may continue to see a very low percentage of low educated women (those most likely to marry and interact with low educated men) making any choice other than to take their husbands' names in marriage."

Perhaps we wouldn't have experienced the horrifying presidential train crash that was The Donald if Hills had just stuck with her own surname, eh?

Did you keep your maiden name after you got married? Are you a fan of the Hyphen-Jones route? Let us know what you think in the Facebook and Insta comments.

Changing your name after marriage: Why some women do, and some women don't