Photo: Courtesy of Sheri Segal Glick
“Sure, let me check your reservation. What’s your last name?”“Can I just use my phone number?”
“Preferably not. Last name is easier.”
“How about my SIN number? Or credit card number? Or current age and weight?”
“No, sorry. Last name, please.”
“OK, it’s Segal Glick.”
“No. Segal. Glick.”
“Segal. Glick. Glick is my husband’s last name.”
“Got it. Segulaguckluck Glick.”
“Never mind. Thank you. I’ll just purchase new tickets.”
When my husband and I got married, I thought I’d keep my own name. But it was important to him that we share a last name to avoid confusing our future children (apparently his side of the family confuses easily?). I didn’t want to lose the name that had been mine for three decades, though. The solution? Two last names, no hyphen (hyphens seemed like such a ’90s thing). In my mind, it was a fair and modern compromise. It turned out to be a massive error in judgment and an exercise in (accidental?) masochism that I’m forced to relive multiple times daily.
I can never find tickets, credits, reservations or medical records (they’re under Segal, Glick, Segal Glick or some bastardized version thereof). If it takes a clerk less than five minutes to find anything filed under my name, I feel like I owe it to both of us to look into the nomination procedure for an employee-of-the-month award.
When I first made the change, the double last name felt weird and heavy in my mouth. When I saw my name in print, it didn’t look like my own (but rather the name of a high-maintenance diva who needed people to spend an extra two or three seconds saying her name whenever it might come up). Despite my new health card, I would go to the doctor and use my maiden name because that’s what they knew (and the receptionists had enough on their plates). But then I got used to it. I’m not sure when, but today I use both names without even thinking about it. It feels like me again—an annoying, longer version of me, but me.
Before I had kids, the only family units I had any experience with were the ones I grew up with in the ’80s—all the families I knew shared last names, dinners and a love of shoulder pads. So when my husband told me how important it was to him that we all share a name, that made sense to me. I wanted the world to know that my kids were mine, too (obviously, this was before I experienced a grocery-store meltdown and the desire to pretend that my kids were definitely not mine). I don’t know if we were both secretly worried that we would be less of a family if our names didn’t match, but those worries seem so crazy nine years later and three kids in.
The truth is, there’s no perfect answer to this quandary. Most of my friends have kept their own names (which, in moments of insecurity, makes me feel like I’ve failed at feminism). Others have taken their husbands’ names (which, in moments of insecurity, makes me feel like I will never be a person who can just take the simple route). I also know women who have taken double last names or hyphenated last names and one acquaintance who invented a new hyphenated last name based on a combination of her name and her husband’s, which they both adopted. I also know a mom who kept her own last name, as did her husband, but created a new single last name for her children based on a combination of their two names. This seems like such a lovely, evolved solution (until I think about crossing the border).
I wouldn’t have doubled the length of my last name, except for the fact that we were planning on having kids. Like my husband, I wanted an official, obvious connection to my children for all the world to see. But as my kids get older and I meet more parents, I’ve come to see that not sharing a last name with your child really isn’t a huge deal. I have one good friend whose adopted children are two different races and don’t share her last name and to think that they are any less connected because of these factors seems absurd.
One thing I’m thankful for is the fact that I didn’t subject my innocent children to the constant aggravation of the double last name (except maybe in moments of extreme annoyance with said children). This actually gives me an idea: Maybe instead of threatening a loss of privileges for bad behaviour, I should start threatening a name change (and actually following through). I will either have the best-behaved kids in the neighbourhood or make them suffer with two last names and I can go back to the simplicity of being Sheri Segal.
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