Personally, I think it's perfectly silly in this day and age to take your hubby's surname. I feel that way for all women, though I'm particularly baffled by professional women who want to fly the banner of their marital status.
Yes, I know, I'm supposed to say, "Oh, it's such a personal decision..."--and all that P.C. stuff about how we shouldn't be judgmental. I also know the "family unity" argument--that it's nice for family members to share the same name. And the "practical" argument--that it's easier to fit "The Drapers" or "The Cleavers" on the mailbox.
But I've been around the block long enough to know that many marriages don't last--even those between kindred lawyers at kindred firms. At least a third of my friends, which includes many lawyers, have been divorced--and, sadly, more will follow before the decade is out.
So I'm always curious where women stand on the issue of names. Luckily, The Wall Street Journal's Sue Shellenbarger summarizes some current findings:
The trend toward women keeping their maiden names after marriage peaked in the 1990s, when about 23 percent of women did so, then eased gradually to about 18 percent in the 2000s, says a 35-year study published in 2009 in the journal Social Behavior and Personality. And increasingly, studies show women’s decisions on the issue are guided by factors other than political or religious ideas about women’s rights or marital roles, as often believed.
Well-educated women in high-earning occupations are significantly more likely to keep their maiden names, the study shows.
I couldn't find any research about what women lawyers are doing, so I did my own very unscientific study. A cursory look at the New York Times marriage section seems to indicate a 50/50 split--and that, of course, largely reflects über-liberal NYC. But my sources at New York firms tell me that young women associates are getting increasingly traditional.
Law firm consultant Eve Birnbaum, a former partner at Winston & Strawn, says she's noticed a generational shift. She says that she sees an increase in the number of young associates who are choosing to use their married names. "I was surprised and disappointed," she says, adding that she didn't change hers nor did "any of my NYU Law classmates. We were feminists of the eighties!"
But another Am Law 100 partner who graduated from law school at about the same time says she opted to take her husband's name, because she didn't want to fight the inevitable: "Having watched friends try unsuccessfully to hold on to their own names professionally while slowly ceding to their husband’s name socially--at the dry cleaner and at their kids’ schools--led some of us to adopt the new name at the time of our weddings."
And what do young women lawyers say? "The trend I'm seeing in my late twenties/early thirty-something friends is to change your name personally but not professionally," says an associate in her early thirties.
To me, that personal/professional split thing is even more ludicrous. Are you supposed to be Suzie Doozie, the fearsome litigator during work, then put on an apron and magically transform into Suzie Homemaker at nights and weekends? What's the point of that schzoid existence? Will your kids be better adjusted because you share daddy's name? Shouldn't they respect you for your independence?
Really, I think women have enough competing identities and responsibilities. Wouldn't it be easier not to change your name in the first place?
Photo: Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com
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