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Feminspire | April 19, 2014

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I Love Being a Luckey: Why I Will Never Change My Name

I Love Being a Luckey: Why I Will Never Change My Name

Sometime during middle school, I started writing ‘Luckey’ in the top right-hand corner of the pages of my school work where we were supposed to put our name and the date. While there were multiple Sara(h)’s in the small Catholic school I attended, there was only one Luckey in middle school, and that was me. I knew I could write just my last name up there and still there would be no confusion, no ambiguity, just me. I carried on that way through high school and still in college and never ran into any duplicate Luckey’s.

My name is Sara, but a lot of people still and always have called me ‘Sara Luckey’. It’s one of those names that fits together and rolls off the tongue in a nice, pleasant, and affable way. Some of my friends and classmates would just refer to me as ‘Luckey’, foregoing the ‘Sara’ half of my name all together. This still happens and I have always liked it. I think I always will like it. It feels joyful and friendly, intimate and warm. When somebody calls me Luckey, I know they’re comfortable with me and that comfort is typically mutual.

When I was 25, I got married. Prior to the marriage we had discussed me taking his name and I had said that I would prefer not to. My mom, dad, sister and brother are all a Luckey to somebody, first names sometimes set to the side when we interact with others. I identify strongly with my family of origin and the name that comes with being a part of that family. As much as my family is home to me, so is my name. The future (now ex) husband and I had a conversation wherein I related that I felt connected to my name and that I didn’t like or understand the tradition. It never made sense to me that women were expected to adopt the name of their husband, but it was viewed as emasculating, submissive, or weak for a husband to take the name of his wife. It was and still is a thing that isn’t commonly done, and I didn’t want to play into that hypocrisy. I wasn’t comfortable with it. I take issue any time something that is commonly associated with women or femininity is seen as weak or demeaning. I’m not going to play into the trope that femininity or womanhood is weakness or less-than. If it’s so horrible for him to take my name, why is it okay, assumed, and expected that I should be happy to take his? While I can say that I’m a fan of mutual hyphenation or new couples choosing an entirely different name, I can’t say that adopting the name of my partner is something that I would ever be comfortable doing.

At the time, my then partner said he was comfortable with it and we got married and I kept my name and it was fine. There were no earthquakes, no confusion with the post office or any other required service, and life went on. Slowly, in a way that seemed insidious in nature, people began to both subtly and overtly let me know that they did not accept my decision. Co-workers would tell me that they thought I was going to make it harder on my future children, that having parents with two names would be difficult for them. I was told that I failed to form a union with my husband, that I didn’t take on this part of him and that was selfish since he had chosen to spend the rest of his life with me. I was met with eye rolls and plenty of  ’Oh, are you one of those feminists?’, always uttered with a sneer and air of condescension. Strangers who learned of my name would congratulate me on marrying into such a cool name, then be taken aback when realizing it was the name I’d had since birth. These same strangers would then often ask me why I wasn’t fully committed to my marriage.

Though I managed to usually be polite and not return the eye rolls and the condescension, I can tell you that none of the unsolicited comments and arguments I was met with ever made sense to me, and they still don’t.

First and foremost, I have no plans to ever have children, and I resent the assumption that I surely must want some. Not every woman wants kids, brah. Furthermore,  do you really think my hypothetical kids could navigate their way through the world, learn how to read, write, do math, and make their way through an entire lifetime of trials, obstacles and experiences but not be able to comprehend two people with two names? Credit my pretend fantasy kids some intelligence. I’m sure they could handle it. And as for not forming a union with your partner, if they only thing that stands between you and your partner forming a union is your last name, then you’re probably in trouble anyway. Unity is found in compassion, empathy, kindness, trust, and a willingness to work together. It isn’t found in a name or any singular word you can tack onto your identity. And while it’s true that he had chosen to spend the rest of his life with me, it seemed beyond the pale for some to consider that I had also chosen that path, that he was also being given the gift of unity and that there was no reason I should be the only one to take on this drastic and outward identity changing symbol of commitment. And yes, I’m a feminist. I believe that women and men should be treated equally, and that includes being able to choose whether or not to change their name and having that decision be free of unnecessary, outdated social pressure.

It’s sexist, dudes. Expecting one person in a relationship to do something based on traditional gender norms and with no logical motive or rationale behind it is straight up sexist. If somebody wants to change their name, then by all means, they should go ahead. And if somebody doesn’t want to, then they absolutely shouldn’t. What was most surprising to me was that people who weren’t involved in my life in any real or meaningful way felt entitled to even have an opinion on what I should or should not do with my name. It’s really just nobody’s business. I would like for everybody to think about the historical, cultural and social context of their choices when making them, especially the decisions that have a big affect on their daily life -such as taking on a new last name. But that isn’t always going to happen, and that’s okay, as long as we can stop forcing our views and choices onto other people as The Only Right Way. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa, but as long as nobody is being harmed, there’s really no reason to push it. You can be a feminist and identify as a man or a woman and take your partner’s name or not take your partner’s name, and either choice is valid. You can not be a feminist and take your partners name or keep your own and that is also valid.

Ultimately, I ended up getting a divorce, and while pretty much every aspect of my life was better for it, the entire process was made easier in that I didn’t have to go through the process of changing my name back to Luckey. My name, like my family, is home to me. Within this name there is comfort, security, happiness, joy, and an identity I have crafted and developed and grown into. While it’s true that none of that would disappear if I took on the name of another person, it’s also true that I wouldn’t be comfortable changing my name, and that should be enough reason, especially since no reason should be needed.

What do you think? Are you married? Did you change your name? Why or why not? Are you able to get married and planning on it some day and have you thought about this? What did you decide? Meet me in the comments below!

Written by Sara Luckey
You can tweet with her here, talk beauty with her here , or engage in a conversation about current events as viewed through a sociopolitical, feminist lens here.

  • Miri

    I kept my last name, and have gotten some of the same reactions that you did (but fair enough, some people also applauded me for keeping it). Being raised by an awesome single mom, I felt strongly about keeping my mothers name. My wonderful husband respects that, and says that he married an autonomous, strongminded woman and never expected anything else (so I too am very lucky^^). To me, my last name is part of my heritage, and as much as I respect other decisions, I didn’t feel comfortable giving it up.

    • Sara Luckey

      I think it’s awesome that you did what you were most comfortable with and that you were able to do that. I think taking the husbands name can be such an assumed next step that it sometimes doesn’t get given any real consideration. And ultimately, what I want is for people to think about the things they do, what they mean, where they come from, what impact these things have and what will ultimately make them happiest.

  • Anthony Zarat

    I am married, and tried to change my name. However, I could not, because it is illegal in all but six states:

    I had a good reason to want to change my name. I went to court several times before giving up. In contrast, my wife did not have any reason to change her name, and we both agreed that it made no sense for her to do so.

    • Sara Luckey

      That’s horrible that it’s illegal for a man to change his last name in all but six states. That is some serious gender discrimination right there, and it definitely needs to be discussed, so I’m glad you brought it up. I’m glad you and your wife were able to come to a compromise, but I’m also sorry you were unable to change your last name.

  • Kelly S

    o_o did i black out and write this myself? not that i’ve been married, but i get it. you and me, we’re on the same level. ;p

    • Sara Luckey

      Hello, brain twin!

  • Sarahphina

    You can pry my last name from my cold, dead….driver’s license.

    • Sara Luckey

      You can take my drivers license, but you can never take OUR FREEDOM!

    • Kate Newman

      I wrote that in my comment and then panicked/scanned the article because I had the feeling I subconsciously plagiarized that phrase… I totally did. Sorry for the copy! (Imitation = flattery, yeah? Plus your comment was funnier :) )

  • Sully

    I just got married a couple of months ago, and I’ve also kept my last name. I don’t think my family would have ever expected me to change my last name, and my husband also thought that would have been out of character for me. I can’t imagine myself with a different name, aside from tying me to my family my last name ties me to my country of origin (my husband and I are from the same country, but his last name is in English). I haven’t had any bad reactions it and hope I won’t, but since it’s only been two and a half months we’ll see.

    • Sara Luckey

      I hope it keeps working out for you! The troubles for me came a few months in and were really perturbing as I didn’t expect anybody to give a rats ass about how I called myself.

  • Margrét Jónsdóttir

    This is a very interesting article and gives me a different point of view than what I’m used to. If I had a family name, I would definitely not want to give it up when I got married.

    Here in Iceland, people don’t have family names, but patronyms or matronyms (my last name is Jónsdóttir, which translates to Jón’s daughter, if I had a brother he would be Jónsson) The parents choose at birth if their child has a matronymic or a patronymic last name. An overwhelming majority of people have patronyms, but it’s slowly changing and nowadays it is not thought weird anymore to have a matronym.

    So basically, nobody has the same last name as anyone else in their families, except maybe their siblings. Married couples don’t share a name and I don’t think that has ever caused any troubles whatsoever.

    We don’t really think of our last names as parts of our names and usually only use our first names except if it’s important to distinguish between people (and then we would first use our middle names).

    If I were to marry someone from another country who had a family name, I would want to take his name, for the reason that I think foreign last names are so cool. I could also finally put something after my title that was actually a name, not just “Miss (or Mrs.) Daughter of John”

    • Lucy

      That’s so interesting! I had no idea things were so different in Iceland.

    • Emily Vrotsos

      That is so awesome. I love it.

  • Vivid Sammy

    My mom kept her own name, there is an interesting history behind that name but she’s not only proud of her name, she’s comfortable with it and I always really respected my mom because of that. We got our dads name and that name feels comfortable to me and I am not intending to change that. I love my soon to be husband and I adore his family, I’m even moving to a different continent to be with him, but I’m not going to change my name because part of my identity is in my last name and I’m proud of it.

    • Volomon

      So what will your children be called?

      • Vivid Sammy

        Luckily dogs don’t need last names so we wont have to discus that at all.

  •!/indigofiction indigofiction

    I’m not attached to my last name in that it’s my adoptive mother’s biological mother’s last name, which is totally arbitrary. My mom changed it from her adoptive parents’ name at some point in her twenties or so. The one thing I like about it is that it’s essentially the possessive of my boyfriend/ probable future husband’s first name (as though he were Michael and my last name were Michaels). On the other hand, I’m not madly in love with his last name, either. When I was eighteen I considered marrying a dude w/ the last name Wolf, which I totally would have taken, and kept after the divorce. I have no idea what I’m going to do when I get married. Maybe flip a coin.

    I enjoyed this article, though. It was clear and well-reasoned.

  • Kate Newman

    Love it.

    “Katie” was the Sarah of the early nineties, and people I love the most always call me “Newman.” It’s clearly the best part of my name. Indiana haters can pry it out of my cold, dead hands if I ever get married.

    • Sara Luckey


      The hoosier haterz abound when it comes to the name change. On the real, I was pretty surprised at how many people I didn’t even know would give me some grief about it. Not only are our bodies public property, apparently our names are up for a go, too.

      whatevs, jabronis!

  • MarisaSays

    See I knew it was possible to write about this issue without being judgmental. You share your own experience, address the inequality around this issue and get the point across by talking reason and logic, all without tearing anyone down. You iz da best.

    • Sara Luckey

      Thanks, Marisa! It’s tricky finding that balance sometimes. Sooo tricky.

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  • Peggo

    I never felt an overwhelming connection to my birth last name (or my first name either, for that matter), and it was a liability in business – just try to find a Nelson in the Minneapolis phone book. I happily changed to a more memorable and ethnic name, all is well. I am not my name.

  • Michelle L. Hosgood

    I never wanted to change my name. When I get married I bowed to the pressure from both sides and regretted it before I was even finished filling out the paperwork. I never felt like I was truly a part of my (now ex)husband’s family and I resented carrying their name. When it became clear that my marriage was over, signing my married name made me feel ill. I would advise every woman to keep her name. It’s yours and it’s precious It is your identity and no one should ever pressure you to give it up if you don’t want to.

  • White Lotus

    LOL -

  • White Lotus

    LOL. In the Middle East, you KEEP your surname, because you belong to your father, even after marriage. Your children take THEIR father’s name.

  • Daisy

    I’m not close with a lot of my extended family, EXCEPT on my dad’s dad’s side (the side I get my last name from). On that side, I have a huge number of relatives from all across Canada and Scotland, who are all very close to one another, and all fabulous people. Some of them have married and changed their names, but our closest common ancestor had the last name that I am lucky to have. Because I’m not as close with either my immediate family or any other extended relatives, my relationship with my paternal grandfather’s family is really important to me, and I would never want to give up that name.

  • Kara

    I had planned on keeping my last name and the husbeast and I had some headbutting over it. For some reason he couldn’t vocalize, it was important to him that I took his last name. Which of course made me all the more determined to NOT take it. (Sometimes it’s fun to be stubborn just because. Ya know?)

    And before we could walk down the isle we got pregnant. And we agreed to give our daughter his last name and I quickly learned that there is a stigma to being an unwed mother. Even an unwed mother in a committed relationship with the baby daddy. And I caved. Not because of my husband, not because I wanted to make my family ‘official’, but because I was tired of the guilt/shame dumped on me from TOTAL STRANGERS. I was kind of relieved when I signed away my maiden name.

    I do miss it though. I have no brothers or male cousins with my maiden name so if both my sisters change their last names it goes away. Which is kind of sad, and one of the reasons I wanted to keep my name. When it’s all said and done it’s not all that bad having a ‘new’ name. Maybe partly because my MIL remarried and the only ‘Mrs.’ that share my last name are my SIL’s. All the same, I’m going to encourage my daughter to keep her name if she ever marries.

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  • Maria Adelaide Borromeo

    I’m married, and I chose to keep my surname because: 1) I like it better than my husband’s; 2) it’s simpler from a “paperwork” standpoint; 3) it makes no sense to change it.

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  • Rachel

    I totally understand the judgement. I intend on keeping my name, and oh jesus was my mother upset. His family is cool with it, but MY mom ooooh dear. She told me that it means that I don’t love him, that our kids teachers will be soooo confused, and my favorite “do you really have so little respect for tradition?!” Because my love for him is completely dependent on my willingness to abandon my IDENTITY? Because my children’s college educated teachers will be too dumb to work out that my children are mine if they don’t share my last name? Because its also tradition to pay the groom to take me off your hands, do you have so little respect for tradition mom? I get a little worked up about it now, just from the memory (my mom is usually really cool btw, so don’t think she’s this awful regressive woman). I just find it so ridiculous that people get so upset about something as small as me not changing my name. Like the world is going to end or something.

  • LA

    I’ve attempted to explain this point to my boyfriend, but he doesn’t quite understand it. I was born with this name. It’s been my name my whole life. I don’t need to change my last name so society knows “who I belong to.” Screw that.

    Both of my father’s sisters kept their last name when they got married (sometime in the 70s or 80s), I look up to them a lot for it.

  • Taylor

    What I don’t understand is why my children should take HIS name, and not mine. I love my fiance, but considering the fact that it’s my body they will be stretching and changing and LIVING IN, I’m pretty sure it makes more sense for them to have my last name, not his. If my fiance wants his children to have his last name, then he should change his last name to match theirs… it’s pretty simple. I’ve also given him the very generous option of both of us changing our last names to something completely new. But I will not name myself and my children after his last name, when we aren’t even close with his parents and are super close with mine.

    tldr; ladies, be strong and INSIST on what you know is right in your heart. You will be surprised how many men will choose to accept your beliefs over losing you from their lives. If they love you, they will respect your decision about your (and your children’s!) names.

  • Volomon

    Could you not have double-barreled your name?

  • Manuel Martinez

    My wife and I decided to keep our names. It was on 1990, and since then we have faced no problems at all.