With our civil ceremony fast approaching, Panda and I are preparing to jump through the legal hoops. One of these items is the marriage license application, with which I will need to indicate how (or if) I will change my name. The only thing we’ve agreed is not necessary is for him to change his name. But when it comes to mine, I was all for adding his name as a second last name, ie, Qin Bear (assuming his full name is Panda Bear, you see). I remember reading about a blogger who had done this and claimed to be able to use Qin or Bear or Qin Bear. That’s exactly what I’d like – a tie to his family name without actually really changing my identity. On the day-to-day, I’d still be Mary Qin. When it came to anything related to him, I could be Mrs. Bear. If it was something related to the kids (who I plan on naming with his family name), I’d be Mary Bear to match their surname.
However, I’ve been digging in to it and it seems things might be more complex than that. Technically adding the extra last name is changing mine, which means I’d still have to go through the annoying process of updating all my records (no thank you). Then there’s the question of whether two last names (NOT hypenated) is truly acceptable and whether the two can sort of be used interchangeably. If I indicate my new name is Mary Qin Bear, would a check written to me as Mary Qin be just as valid? I haven’t a clue… [any lawyers in CA please feel free to chime in!]
We were talking about this last night and he sees no need for me to change my name. I’ve built an identity around it and it’s a strong name. I actually have far less of a connection with my first name than my last. Perhaps I should drop it and make my name Qin Bear! You may call me Qin from now on. I did want to add his to have that connection to his family roots and also share part of my last name with the kids. To some extent, I didn’t want complications because my surname didn’t match theirs, but Panda makes a valid point that our mothers raised us with their own last names and never had an issue. So should I just keep my name entirely? Seems a little lacking, after all this time that I was planning on adding a name.
And then of course I have intense debates with myself in terms of what the social influences are that are playing into my decision. Am I being too deferent to tradition by including his name? Am I being too headstrong by not? What is actually making me choose the way I am and does it make sense with my values? I’m thoroughly confused. Is it legal to list Mary Qin Bear on the marriage certificate but not update all my legal documents so I continue to use Mary Qin but have Bear floating in there on the marriage license? I think I might go with that.
Thinking of all this last name drama reminds me of an amusing fact: all three of my cats have different last names. Molly was given my mom’s last name, Missy was given my last name, and Smokey was given Panda’s last name. I sure hope it’s less confusing with the real kids.