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On taking my husband’s last name (and kindly giving it back)


As a young girl it was never a question for me, whether or not I would take my future husband’s last name when we married. It was just what you did. And besides, my last name was weird anyway. People were always misspelling it or thinking it was my first name. Or my personal favorite, the countless number of people in educational and professional settings that called me Jessica. Not only did you just completely ignore my first name, but you added letters on to my last name.  I mean, at that point I just assume you’re TRYING to get my name wrong.

When the time actually came for me to give my hand in marriage to the cynical and handsome movie nerd of my dreams, my feelings seemed a bit more mixed on the subject. I spent many months before our wedding debating whether or not I would change my last name. I asked married friends what they thought of name changes, why they chose to change or not change, and how they felt after the decision. I debated and debated.

Eventually, I made the choice based on logic and a twee bit of sentimentality. I have a very unique name. I am one of only two Sabrina Jess’ in the world – from what I’ve been able to sleuth out via the internet. The other me lives in Ireland and wears more makeup than I do.  She’s also younger than me.  And for what it’s worth, we’re both brunettes with nice eyebrows. Coincidence? Okay probably, but I digress…

As someone who writes on the interwebz and has been on camera on the interwebz, I thought it best if I keep my artistic professional life and my day job professional life separate. I wasn’t doing anything shady as Sabrina Jess but plenty of companies aren’t fans of their employees existing on the interwebz so it made sense. With my husband’s last name I could disappear. You couldn’t Google and find me or anything I worked on (you could however, find a British porn star, which might have been a hindrance in the long run anyway). It seemed like the right choice to make. I could be goofy, creative me online and keep that me separate from 9-5 day job me.

Or so I thought.

My first job after changing my name? They found out my maiden name, my Facebook, and my blog all before I ever signed any papers telling them my SSN or my maiden name. Thanks a lot, internet. My current job? I work as a Technical Writer and used my blog as proof of my writing interest and abilities. Pretending Sabrina Jess wasn’t an option.

I thought I could disappear but the internet found me.

It became clear my plan was foiled and the only last shred of my desire to keep the last name came in the form of zero logic. I just thought it was nice that I shared a name with my husband.

That’s it.

It was nice.

For his own part, my darling husband could not care less what my last name is. Okay, maybe that’s not true. If I changed it to Sabrina HatesMovies or Sabrina VaginaPunch he would probably at least speak up about it. At no point has he ever cared whether or not we had last names that were the same or different. I cleared this with him multiple times before both name changes. Zero fucks were given.

Prior to our wedding, I spent a lot of time researching my personal ancestry and started to feel a connection to this lineage of mine like never before. After the wedding, I found that for all the problems my maiden name had caused me, I actually missed it quite a bit. I mourned my last name. I became insistent that every artistic endeavor I participated in used my maiden name. I was proud of being a special snowflake. I missed my special snowflake-ness. When my Poppa died, it felt particularly strange for me, wanting to identify as a Jess and feeling as though I couldn’t.  Not that society saw me differently. But I did. It made it that much more clear that I was not okay with letting go.

If you ask my husband why he won’t take my last name, he’ll tell you it’s because for better or worse, his name is his name. It’s who he is. It’s who he’s always been.

For me, it’s very much like that. I didn’t realize how much a part of me my last name was until I gave it away. My unique identifier in the world with which I have always had a love-hate relationship but ultimately, has always been so good to me. It made me feel like me.

So I thought on it. And thought on it some more. Because I’m incapable of not obsessing over every decision I make.

And then I changed my name back because the exciting thing about being a human people is that I can change my mind as much as I want (so there). I have a fancy court document decreeing my new (old) name and everything.

I love and adore my husband, and my in-laws have been nothing but kind to me over the years, but their identifier is not my own.

Thank you, David, for letting me borrow your last name for a while. I needed that time with it. I needed to experience life with the same last name as you so I could appreciate my own last name, but it has served its purpose, and you can have it back now.


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