wedding season

3 Married Men on Taking Their Wife’s Last Name

Photo: Tom Kelley Archive/Getty Images

Despite radical changes to marriage in recent years, “last name choice” remains one of the most highly gendered aspects of the institution. One study showed that in the U.S. about 94 percent of women still take their husband’s name when they get married, and half the population believes that lawmakers should require women to take their husband’s last name, like in Japan. While hyphens and couture-blended couple names are more popular than in the past, the idea of a man taking his wife’s last name is still rare and ridiculed. The Cut spoke to three men who ignored the social stigma and opted to take their wife’s last name anyway.

Because my wife is the head of the household.

I will say it’s been a little tricky in terms of my identity. There is an ego loss. I think it upset my dad a bit, not that we talked about his feelings. I try not to be too showy about it because I know that it’s almost like a weird pickup line. But when I do tell someone it always turns into a conversation. I think of my wife whenever I say my name, I am part of her. If we all took our wives’ names for a good 100 years then we could reset this whole patriarchal lineage thing, and start fresh. - Aryon Hopkins

Because my last name was too common.

When we got married ten years ago, my wife and I kept our last names (I was James Johnson). When we had a daughter, we gave her my wife’s name, because it’s much more unique. But then my name started to give me trouble. I’d had a great job offer retracted after a background check showed a man with my exact same name and birth date had a criminal history. Debt collectors were contacting me about other people’s bills. The turning point was when I had to take my daughter to the ER, and they wanted multiple forms of ID — it was clear they were worried about who I was.

My mom changed our names to my stepdad’s when I was a teenager. They aren’t even married anymore, so I really didn’t see the point in keeping that man’s name. Whereas I get on so well with my wife’s family, I have a strong bond with her father, and everyone in town knows who they are.

Guys want to put their mark on everything. Most of my male friends are very liberal but they still sent me messages on Facebook teasing me: “Oh now we know who really wears the pants,” that kind of thing. I work in Illinois and California. When I am in California it’s like, “Big deal, that is not edgy.” When I am in Illinois, people are like: “Oh my God, I can’t believe you did that … Why would you?” Even my female friends are like, “Good for you but … why …?” - James Kosur

If it’s so important to me that we share a name, I should be the one to give it up.

My family are evangelical Mennonites, so feminism wasn’t part of the dialogue at home. When I met my wife in college, I started to rethink many of the assumptions about family I’d grown up with. At one point, while we were discussing marriage she said she’d have a hard time giving up her name. She probably would have been happy if we’d each kept our own, but I wanted to have a name that symbolized our union and I wanted our kids to share the same name as both their parents.

I thought if it’s important to me to share a name then I should be the one to give it up. My wife thought I’d regret it, but once she was assured it was something I wanted, she said she felt very loved. The more fraught conversations were with my immediate family. My parents called a family conversation but I didn’t take part. I felt very strongly that it was my decision. I told them again closer to the wedding and they were concerned, saying it would be an unbalanced relationship. Despite the fact that they were quite collaborative decision makers, the idea of the man as head of the house is a strong principal for them.

When I tell feminists they often say, “But why didn’t you keep your own name? It’s an outdated patriarchal concept to both assume the same identity.” I am sure that it makes some people question how “masculine” I am — my guess is that those conversations happen behind my back. I call my old last name my maiden name; that’s the only terminology that we have, so I guess for now I’ll go with it. - Josiah Neufeld

3 Married Men on Taking Their Wife’s Last Name