What’s in a Name?

My last name is too long to pronounce, let alone too long to spell out. Then take for instance the fact that it is hyphenated and people will begin scratching their heads and can’t help but ask me, “why do you have two last names?”

I did not always have two last names… well, kind of. When I was little, in the U.S. I only had one last name. On my Spanish passport I had two. For some reason I thought it was cooler to have two. Must have been the fact that all my other Spanish cousins had two last names. At the age of 14 I began to question my mom about changing my name legally here in the states to have both. She asked me why I wanted to do that and I replied with, “I identify with both“.

I should probably begin by explaining why my name was different in both countries.

When my parents got married, my mom had no intentions of changing her last name. My dad was confused as to why she wouldn’t and told her it was American tradition to do so. Alas, she decided to change it. When my mom had my sister she learned that her doctor had never changed her name, even after marriage. The doctor had wanted to keep her name when she got married, especially for her career. My mom then was compelled to change her own name back.

It was a long process.

People were confused why my mom was changing her last name, and most thought my parents were getting a divorce. My mom then had to explain, “In Spain, women don’t change their last name when they get married. I have been known as a certain name my whole life, and it defines me. Why should I change to my husband’s last name?

You go mom.

In Spain, people have two last names. The first last name comes from the first last name of the father’s, and the second last name comes from first last name of the mother’s. The last names are not hyphenated. When filling out legal documents and such, there is a spot for first last name and second last name.

I remember learning to write my name in school and I was only being taught how to write my first last name. My mom made sure at the time that I learned how to write my second last name. After that, throughout my elementary and middle school years I always put both of my last names on my projects and papers. It confused most of my teachers and some even asked me to stop doing so. My stubbornness would take over and I would ignore them. My name was my name, and it was what I identified with. By my freshman year of high school my parents and I were filling out paperwork to add my second last name. I told the boy I had a crush on at the time, and he replied with “that’s stupid” (let’s just say, I got over that boy real fast). I was so happy the day that here in the U.S. I was legally known by my two last names.IMG_0169

I have no intentions of changing my last name when I get married.

I grew up with the two last names I have now, and I identify with both. 

From a young age, girls are reminded that one day they will lose their last name. I remember having conversations like that at my friends’ houses. When we played the good old childhood game, “house”, most of my friends would change their last name.

“My name is going to be Emily Brown instead of my name, Emily Dow.”

For me, it’s stating that as girls, we’re supposed to lose one of the most important things we have had our whole lives. It’s telling girls that the man’s last name is more important than their own. I see it as a state of confusion. What if my first husband and I don’t work out and I took his last name when we got married? I must now change my name back to my former and re-adjust to everyone calling me by that name? What about when I get married again? As a woman, does that mean I have to be in a state of turmoil for most of my life?


The other day, I was on twitter and I saw a picture that said “the only thing a boy should change about a girl is her last name.”

I highly disagree. A name is part of an identity. In telling women that their name is just a passive thing until they get married (even then, nowadays marriage can be a passive thing, not all marriages work), the underlining message to this is that it’s okay to be submissive to their husband. I understand, we live in a culture in which more than 90% of women change their last names and by not changing it, you’re being different. When I have mentioned that I don’t want to change it when I get married, most people look at me in shock. “Why wouldn’t you change your name? How will people know you are married?”

My first response to that is “why don’t men change their last names when they get married? How will people know HE got married?” Besides, I don’t know most women’s maiden names, so when I meet a married woman for the first time and she gives me her full name without mentioning marriage, I would never guess. As far as I know, Emily Brown could have been Emily Brown her whole life.

Secondly, the biggest theme of weddings is love, right? So if my future husband loves me, he won’t want to change ANYTHING about me. That’s my response.

I like my name and it has defined me my whole life. I’ll be sticking with it.



4 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Estoy muy orgullosa de que pienses así.
    Por supuesto, tus dos apellidos te identifican y eres parte de ello: 50% Lawson y 50% Vilches.

    Te seré sincera. Jamás he podido entender porqué las mujeres cambian sus apellidos. Eso no sólo pasa en USA sino en muchísimos países europeos también. Pero lo que más me sorprendía era que se hiciese en USA, un país conocido mundialmente por su “libertad”. A mí no me parece libertad que una niña sea criada con el pensamiento de que el día de mañana dejará de ser Anna Pelham para ser Anna, mujer de Smith (Anna Smith). Al igual que no me parece correcto que un profesor te dijese que dejaras de escribir tu segundo apellido, que tu compañero te dijese que era estúpido o cosas semejantes.
    ¿Y sabes por qué no me gusta y me desconcierta? Porque es un símbolo de machismo. Es seguie ejerciendo la autoridad masculina sobre la femenina. Y señores, vivimos en el siglo XXI. Si los hombres no lo cambian, las mujeres tampoco. Si alguien te quiere, apoyará tu decisión. No hay yugos a los que temer.

    Bravo Verónica, un texto magnífico.
    Love u!

    1. Yo tampoco he podido entenderlo. Lo entiendo históricamente, cuando a las mujeres se las veían como propiedad (y en pensar que a las mujeres se siguen viendo así me pone de mal gusto). Y especialmente, en USA, donde tenemos que recordar a todo el mundo que somos el país de libertad… (hay muchos momentos en que no lo veo).
      Y eso, si los hombres no lo cambian, las mujeres tampoco. Y lo que no me gusta es que el feminismo se ve mal. Hay mucha gente que no les gusta el “feminismo” cuando en realidad, no hay mucha gente que entiende lo que que es. Es ver a las mujeres como se ven a los hombres, IGUALDAD.
      Te quiero prima! Besos!

      1. El problema es, como has dicho, que no tienen ni idea de qué significa feminismo. Creen que es lo contrario de machismo, una ideología que deja inferior a la mujer; por tanto creen que feminismo deja inferior al hombre.
        La ignorancia es lo que tiene.


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