Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Jeremy and Rory Verderry

Jeremy and Rory both took the surname Verderry upon marriage, though it was Rory’s natal name. Jeremy did not have a strong attachment to his natal name, while Rory did; the couple felt strongly about sharing a family name with their future children. When they had two children, Ted and Elaine, the whole family also took Jeremy’s middle name, McLain (his mother’s family name), as their middle name.

Rory recalled the process of deciding to take her natal name as the family name: “Jeremy and I had decided we were going to get married and we got around to the issue of what we were going to do with names. My recollection of it is that, for me, I really wasn’t going to be able to give up my last name. The idea of getting married at that point had a lot of baggage; I had enough identity issues in the whole concept of getting married. I was really excited to make the commitment to marry Jeremy, but marriage also had a lot of baggage, and baggage from a feminist point of view. So, getting rid of my last name — I wasn’t going to go there. That was going to feel too much like giving up my identity.

“So, Jeremy was fine with that and we talked about it. I recall the first conversation saying, you know, ‘I don’t think I can give up my last name… So I think we’re just going to have to figure out a way to have two different names.’ Jeremy was the one who said ‘Well…’ I think Jeremy was the one who was fairly connected to the idea of wanting to have a family name. So he said, ‘You keep your name, which is important to you.’ To be honest, that option had not even occurred to me. For various reasons he didn’t have as much connection to his last name but I had a very strong connection to my name and to members of my family who also have that name. And Jeremy has very much had a connection with my family, and so it was fairly logical.

“The only thing for both of us, I think, was not wanting it to feel like a rejection of his family, which was not the case either. So what we decided then to do was that I would change my name, my middle name, to essentially be his family name — not his last name but the name he really resonated in his family names, which is also his middle name. So we decided that I would change my middle name to McLain, which was his middle name and his mom’s family name. And, he changed his last name to Verderry. I think after that we decided with the kids we were going to give both of them McLain as a middle name so they still have a connection to that part of the family.” Thus, all four of their family members enjoy sharing not one name, but two: they are all McLain Verderrys.”

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