Monday 11 July 2011

What's In A Name?

So, do you change your name when you get married, or not?

Most of my friends have.

Some have not.

Some have double-barrelled, and some - AKA my fabulous friend Suzy - have left the it up in the air, cultivating a mysterious air of will-she-won't-she, only slowly beginning the process of switching 18 months after the wedding. One former colleague changed his surname to his new wife's (how awesome?)

As for me, I proudly announced to everyone that I was definitely going to change my name. After all, who wouldn't want to be a Smyth? Being a Smyth has cachet. My husband's family are like the coolest gang in school, being asked to become a Smyth is like ....well, it's like being asked to join the Ramones. They call each other by their surname, they have a "secret dance" (yes, and no I can't, it's a secret), they look out for each other with fearsome loyalty, and they dominate every room they walk into. They are BAD-ASS.

I know smoking is NOT cool. But LOOK AT THEM. And this is only three of them. There are MILLIONS more.

But then, three days before the wedding, I was driving home from the gym, and suddenly -

SHIT. It all hit me.

My name has been my name for thirty years.

I am Penny B_____r.

(P-Braz to my friends)

What's more, I am the last B___r in our family line. I am out on my own. My Mum has re-married, step-siblings all have different surnames, my Uncle has sadly passed on having had no children of his own... it's just me and my Dad flying the flag. AND I LIKE THAT. Suddenly I realised, by the traffic lights at McDonalds, that I don't mind if all my kids are Smyths and I'm not. I genuinely like being the odd one out. I like being the maverick. I like being Braz-Face.

Maverick aged four with her VERY special castle

So I went home and made Sam promise to keep calling me Braz, even if I did change my name to his. And that sort of felt okay. Sort of.

And then we got married, three days later, and it still felt sort of fine. Sort of.

So we went home and I changed my name on Facebook.

My slightly hung over Maid of Honour came round to our house the next day and logged on to the good old FB and BURST INTO TEARS because (slightly dramatic but still) I wasn't me anymore. She said later that there was this sense of grief... this passing over of her little Braz into the gigantic Smyth Clan, that she just didn't like. And I must admit, it was a similar discomfort as the one I had felt at the traffic lights at McD's just days before.

Well. Luckily we are honeymooning in the USA so I can't do a right lot about changing my name anywhere other than on Facebook at the moment - passport control being rigid as it is over there. Which is nice, and it keeps the in-laws quiet for the time being. And I am hopeful it will give me time to warm up to the idea of changing my name again. Maybe by mid-September, when we get back, I'll be ready to do it, and all this will seem like a silly wobble.


But whatever I decide, in my heart I will always be P-Braz.

P-Braz rocking her hen night wearing a tiger print hat, in a karaoke bar, having simultaneously performed both Warren G AND Nate Dogg's parts in Regulate to AWESOME effect. Seriously, I had to help them put the roof back on the building afterwards.

And NO, as good as it will look on my bank card, I will never be Penelope B____r-Smyth (yes I am a Penelope, yes it is pronounced Smythe, and yes I KNOW!). Simply because I can't ski for shit, I've never worn jodphurs and I drink my tea out of a mug.



  1. interesting observation (to me anyway)...all my friends down south who've got married have kept their name or plan to, while most women I know who've married up north have changed it.

    you're a midlander of course, so all bets are off ;)


  2. Aha! That's why I'm on the fence!

  3. I always imagined I would change my name. Till my dad asked me one day why my facebook status says I'm Still going out with Corey. I then told him that's the boyfriends surname...Still. My Dad looked at me and said when you get married (my heart still rejoices at that, my dad did NOT like his little girl having a boyfriend), I'll have to sort that out.

    It got me thinking. I love the history of my surname, but equally, I would be joining his family. Plus, I love the humour of ours double-barreled. I could be Crysta Campbell-Still. Or, Crysta Still-Campbell.

    But, ultimately, I think its the bride's decision to make. Can't stand people who say you should do one or the other. After all, its going to be your name for the rest of your life!

  4. Campbell-Still is such a great double-barrel!!


  5. I know! He's not so keen, probably due to a lifetime of people making bad jokes about his surname...I like the idea of gaining a family name while keeping my family name. The humour element of it is only a small part...honestly *looks around innocently*.

  6. There was a lot of discussion about this the other night, when my friend told her soon to be brother-in-law that she was keeping her surname. He was horrified, and said that if his parents knew they probably wouldn't go to the wedding. But for her, she said she's a ***, and would always be a ***, and her husband to be understands that. She then asked all the blokes in the room whether they would ever consider changing their name to their wives, and the answer was always a resounding no. (Several of those men are already married to women who kept their own surname so there were no double standards there...except from the future brother-in-law ;) )

    Ooh, one of the women there was Spanish, and in Spain there's no tradition of taking the husband's surname. Her husband there wasn't any question of her taking his name, and he liked that he was joining a Spanish family and taking on at least one of their customs.

    I think I only know one couple who've gone double barrelled...or at least she is on Facebook, while a number of other journos (of the up north bunch!) have kept their name professionally, but switched privately.

  7. (by the way, I don't really know why this is a subject that fascinates me so much, when I will never be making the decision myself!)

  8. I was always going to keep my maiden name professionally (both fitness and writing) but I think I surprised myself with my willingness to change my name privately. I don't know where the burst of traditionalism came from, but I'm regretting trumpeting it from the rooftops now I'm starting to have second thoughts!

    I suppose it is a bit ridiculous that people like the future brother-in-law still react in such an extreme way to people keeping their name, when as you rightly say, it's very rare that a man changes his surname to his wife's.

    Annoyingly, on honeymoon (what about thinking of this 5 months earlier??) Sam said that if I HAD opted to keep my maiden name then we could have given any girl children my surname, or a boy child his. Which is exactly what a college friend of mine's parents did. Their mother sadly passed away last year after a long illness, and their daughter now has their mum's maiden name. Which is really, really lovely.

  9. That reminds me of the Sikh tradition of Singh for men and Kaur for women, though there is of course a personal surname in there somewhere as well.

    I think this all shows that there are so many different ways of doing it - it's not just 'take his surname or don't' - that it really is a case of discovering what's right for the two of you. You could make up an entirely new custom. Or an entirely new name. Maybe Smyzier, or Brayth!