Ask Amy: ‘Best of’ column blames it on the name
Dear Readers: Every year I step away from my column for two weeks to work on other creative projects. (Anyone interested in my personal essays and photographs can subscribe to my free newsletter: amydickinson.substack.com).
I hope you enjoy these “Best Of” columns from 10 years ago. Today’s topic is: “What’s in a name?”
Dear Amy: I decided not to change my name when I recently married.
It's ridiculous that I am expected to jump through bureaucratic hoops to change my name and identity.
It hasn't been an issue between my husband and me. I realize this position is not mainstream.
My decision was based on my career and not wanting to damage the brand I had created in my niche industry.
Much to my surprise, all of the men in my office (I work with only men) are doing everything possible to sabotage my decision. They introduce me in meetings with my "new" name and even went to the point of getting IT to change my email address and sending it out to all our contacts.
As I was changing my email address back to my maiden name, I got a lecture from the IT guy who informed me he would never marry someone like me.
Despite this, my office mates continue to address all of my correspondence and introduce me to clients and new employees using my husband's name. I've informed them multiple times that I'm not changing my name, but they are "concerned" it is insulting to my husband.
Dear Shocked: The behavior as you describe it is hazing, bullying, unethical, unprofessional and, because it is gender-based harassment, also illegal.
Consult with a lawyer. You should write a memo to your colleagues, saying, "Despite my repeated requests to be known by my legal name in this office, various colleagues have changed my email address without permission and introduced me by the wrong name in written and oral communication with clients. This needs to stop." Document everything.
According to a 35-year study published in 2009 by the journal "Social Behavior and Personality," about 18 percent of American women marrying since 2000 have chosen to keep their names. This is hardly outside the norm. [February 2012]
Dear Amy: I was truly shocked to read the letter from “Shocked,” who reported workplace harassment because she didn’t take her husband’s last name when they married. Really? I hardly know any women who have taken their husband’s surnames.
– Professional Reader
Dear Reader: When I looked into this, I was surprised to see that, according to a 2009 study in the journal Social Behavior and Personality, about 23 percent of women kept their maiden names in the 1990s, compared with about 18 percent in the 2000s. The trend of women keeping their names seems to have peaked. [March 2012]
Dear Amy: I got married 18 months ago, and I'm still changing my name. It has been an endless stream of phone calls, letter-writing, forms to fill out, and providing certified copies of my marriage certificate. I may have it done by our fifth anniversary.
Newlyweds, before you decide to change your name, list every card in your wallet. Then list every email address you have; every online shopping account; every organization you belong to; review bank accounts, and list vendors for your bills; then collect every legal document that you have for your home, car, insurance, etc. That is how many companies you need to contact to change your name.
Kudos to the woman keeping her name. I wish I had.
Dear Exhausted: In my life, the husbands may change, but the name stays the same. [March 2012]
Dear Amy: The trend of women keeping their maiden names as their last names may have peaked. In my circle of late-marrying professional women, the trend is Susie Middle-Name / Maiden-Name becomes: Susie Maiden-Name / His Last-Name upon marriage.
Dear ARB: Statistics don’t lie: For women, keeping one’s name upon marriage has become rarer in the past decade. (I do wish we would stop using the phrase “maiden name” to describe a woman’s given surname.)
Dear Amy: Something like this happened to me. One of my husband’s friends announced, “Well, I’m going to refer to you as ‘Susie Jones’ because that’s what your name should be.”
I responded, “Then I’m going to refer to you as ‘Big Fat Jerk’ because that’s what I think your name should be.” I only had to call him that once.
– My Name is My Own
Dear Own: Fortunately, he sounds like a quick learner. [April 2012]
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