Commenter RG asks:
Not relevant to this post, but curious to your thoughts: Debate is about a 26-28 year old woman who wants to keep her last name in marriage because of her professional identity. My response was to laugh, what identity do you have at that age? I said, sure there are a couple of hot shots – you came to mind – but I bet they could change their name to a peace symbol and still retain their professional identity. She’s not going into witness protection, FFS. curious what you think about name changes at marriage, reputation, and loss thereof? You seem like someone who would have considered it.
I wanna be like Cathy and answer random people’s questions on Sunday mornings! In homage to Aunt Pythia I will answer as “Uncle Quo.”
Changing your name seems to me like it would be a massive gluteal agony. Short answer, independent of any issues of professional identity: Why would I ask my wife to do something I would never do myself in a million years?
Well, here’s one reason why: there was a time and a place where not having the same name as your spouse was sufficiently weird that it carried with it its own long-term irritations. But those days, in the social tranche where I hang out, are not just going, they are long, long gone. As I said in the comments to the other thread, when I think about couples I know at UW, mostly in the “parents of young kids” demographic like me, it’s very hard for me to think of any who share a surname; the only example I can think of is a couple who both took a double surname (separated by a space, not a hyphen) with the wife’s original surname last. When I think of couples I know in Madison outside the university, I do know some where the wife adopted the husband’s surname, but in each case they go by three names, no hyphen: “firstname birthsurname newsurname.”
Professional identity: in math, at any rate, of course this matters! If you’re 28, you likely already have a Ph.D. and a couple of papers out, maybe you’re finishing a postdoc and you’re about to apply for tenure-track jobs, you’re going to be on a list of 400 applicants and you want someone on the hiring committee to recognize your name and look at your file, and you’re suddenly going to change your name to something nobody’s ever heard?
As for me and Tanya, we got married 10 years ago and never considered changing names. We had some vague idea of using my last name “socially” but we quickly realized there was no social situation where that felt appropriate. Occasionally we get invited to a bar mitzvah by my older relatives on which Tanya is called by my last name. And I changed my middle name on the Harvard alumni list to her last name. Our kids have two middle names, the second of which is Tanya’s surname, and their surname is mine. Nobody seems to be confused about the fact that we’re a family.