in mourning of my maiden name

A question I’ve been asked a lot recently is: “When you get married, will you change your name?” I assume every engaged woman is asked this question at least a few trillion times. My answer is yes, but recently I have been having some feelings that come on the tail end of that yes.

Growing up, I never liked my last name. Aside from my siblings and parents, I had never met another person with my last name. I desperately wanted my mother’s maiden name (like my sister had), because there are dozens and dozens of them in Canonsburg, all relatives.  My last name is also a -son name, which the majority of people don’t realize is Scandinavian, but my mother’s maiden name is an -o name and very recognizable as Italian. (I’m a little bit obsessed with ethnicity.) People also consistenly pronounce my name wrong and can’t spell it when I say it.

It wasn’t until High School that I actually began to appreciate my last name. My 10th grade English teacher (who was also my 11th grade Great Books teacher and my 12th grade AP Lit teacher) Mr. Morris, deserves most of the credit. Most students that had him have mixed opinions on him, but I loved him dearly. Mr. Morris was Swedish, so would refer to me as his “Swedish sister,” he also referred to my friend Megan (who shared his last name) as “Sister.” He had a few other “sisters” as well. Something as silly as that really made me appreciate my -son. Just that he saw it for what it was and how it was connected to my family and heritage and not just a random word. As an adult, I’ve also run into a few people here and there (typically -sons) who question me about where my people are from. It’s always a fun conversation to have. Yes, I am Swedish and Icelandic. Boom. I began to appreciate that there are no other Katrina -sons as far as the internet can find. I also began to appreciate that is not an absurdly long name with tons of constanants and silent letters, it is very basic, yet unique. After my mom remarried and my sister married, my two brothers and I are the only -sons I know. But at least now there is Bradley to carry that on into the next generation.

Keith’s last name is Mc-. It’s simple, two syllables, easy to spell, impossible to pronounce incorrectly. But it’s not mine. Yet.

Growing up in homes first with two different last names, (my mother’s maiden name/my dad’s name) then with three different last names (mother’s maiden/dad’s/stepdad’s), I long for a time when everyone in my house has the same last name. I want to have the same last name as my children. I am not established in any career with my maiden name, I will actually marry before I graduate from college.

Yet there is still the tiniest bit of hestiation. I don’t want to hyphenate. That would make my full name 29 letters and that is way too long.  I don’t want to replace my middle name with my maiden name, I am quite fond of my middle name (Justine).

I like the idea of sharing a name with Keith. We share our entire lives, so a name just rounds it out. I like that I won’t have to spell it or repeat it as much as I do my own. I like that my little family unit will be the Mc-‘s. I also like the little c in Mc.

I still have a while yet until I change my name, and I will change it. I’d just like to make sure I hold onto it and appreciate it for a little bit longer.

How about you? Have you kept your name? Changed it? Hyphenated it? Any hesitations? Regrets?

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  1. Katrina , I wasnt crazy about my last name either . I was teased with Bosco ( a choclate drink from the 60s) , oxygen , etc…… I was happy to learn that there are over 20 Oscarsons in the minniapolis phone book , even an Oscarsons gas station ! We are most likley related to some of them . I let go of my my maiden name for the sake of my babies … ( many swedes in Mn .. ) Strong is german , many of them here too .

    • Aunt Linda, My dad was always so proud of our name, I feel a little ashamed now how much I disliked it. I forgot how I was sometimes called Oscar the Grouch! Haha, kids are terrible. I think I would have appreciated our name had I lived in Minnesota! Now I want to go to the Oscarson gas station!

  2. When I was about to get married (12+ years ago now), I hesitated over changing my name. A LOT. I was recognized by that name in Pittsburgh as a published writer and poet. I was 30 years old. I am a feminist. My husband is a little bit of an old-school Italian-American man, though, and I knew it would be an issue for him. He wouldn’t “make” me do anything, and I knew he would respect my choice, but I knew it would bug him, too. We got married in the Catholic church, and before our wedding we had to take marriage classes. They went so well, I knew I was marrying the right man for me. The last night of classes, we went for a walk. I said to him, “listen, you know how I feel about my name. and I know you’ll respect my decision. So I want to let you know now, I’m going to take your last name.” He cried. It was the greatest gift I gave him (until our kids came along). I changed my middle name to my single name (I don’t like “maiden” name), and I use that for writing and publishing. And social media for that matter. My husband is a doctor, and very private, so I don’t need patients soliciting me via SM.

    This was long. Sorry! 🙂

    • Don’t be sorry, long is good! I love your story, it actually gave me chills :). My future husband is not very traditional and has said he would be fine with whichever name I went with. I think if he were against me keeping my name, I’d have to out of spite! Hah! (What a way to start a marriage.) I am toying with the idea of not changing my name through Pitt so I would have my current name on my degree, but I’m not sure, that might just make things more complicated! Thanks for your response!


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