I'm not Mrs Him!
December 20, 2012 5:13 AM   Subscribe

I am not Mrs Myhusband'sfirstinitial Myhusband'slastname. I keep getting Christmas cards that suggest I am. Is there any way of nicely asking people not to do this that isn't rude or churlish?

When I got married, after a great deal of soul-searching, I eventually decided to keep my own surname but add my husband's on at the end without hyphenating it (so I am officially Mrs Firstname Mysurname Hissurname). However, even people who know that I did this, know that I thought very very hard about doing it, and know that, of all things, I really, really did not want to just take his surname and ditch mine altogether, persist in addressing things to Mr and Mrs X Hisname. (It is slightly complicated by the fact that our first names do start with the same initial, but I'm pretty sure they mean his first initial and not mine.)

I'm sure this comes across as being uppitty and pedantic, but it's a big deal to me. There were a few reasons why I didn't want to change my name to his - largely they were equality/feminist reasons (why should it be me who loses the name?), but a lot of it was also to do with the fact that I am very, very close to my family and not at all close to his, so having the same name as his family and not mine seemed completely wrong. Anyone reasonably close to me knows that this was a big issue for me, so it really bothers me that they just call me by his name regardless.

I'm starting to think that if people insist on leaving half of my surname out then the only option I have is to just go back to my maiden name, as if I had to pick only one of the surnames I'd go with mine rather than his. However, my husband would, I suspect, feel this was a kind of rejection, as as sensible as he is, he's never really entirely understood how I feel about the issue.

I really don't want to annoy or criticise people who are, after all, good enough to send us cards in the first place, but I'm a little miffed that I went through months of agonising and a deed poll just to be called Mrs Him regardless. (I get that it's easier and quicker just to write one surname on an envelope, but really, what's wrong with just "Hisfirstname and Myfirstname", if it's really that hard?) Is there anything I can do? Many thanks in advance!
posted by raspberry-ripple to Human Relations (129 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's so little you can do, alas. One thing you can do is get stationery with your name on it and send people a note in the hope that maybe actually seeing it written out will remind people that your name is Jane Smith Doe and not Mrs. John Doe.

Also maybe "forget" to take your professional signature off your email, so that's another place family and friends will see the correct usage of your name.

I ordinarily am in favor of taking a direct approach, but so many people are unreasonable about what women's post-marriage surnames "should" be that I have given up on that for myself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:19 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I legally hyphenated my last name after marriage and some people, almost 20 years later, still insist on using only Mr and Mrs Hislastname.

I think all you can do, without seeming childish/churlish, is to keep signing things the way you want to be addressed. Make your return mail address stickers/whatever say what you want. Maybe that means two lines (one for his name, one for yours), maybe it means first names only.

I try really hard to address people by the way they prefer, even going so far (as you suggest) to using only first names on envelopes. It's not the "right" way to do it (and a friend's former postman actually came to her door and said, "This is not how it's supposed to be done.") but if it makes people happy, I'll do it. Not everyone feels the same way, though.

Just keep on addressing yourself the way you prefer. Don't go back to your maiden name if you don't want to. Some people will never, ever "get" it.
posted by cooker girl at 5:21 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let it go; what you've essentially done is to make your maiden name your middle name. I would say you need to add a hyphen if you want people to address you that way.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:22 AM on December 20, 2012 [57 favorites]


No, there's nothing you can do to correct people that won't come off as criticism, because this is a loaded topic in our society today. Sorry. Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that they are not doing this as a passive-aggressive critique of your choices.

Also, frankly, people with two last names shouldn't expect people in the Anglosphere to understand intuitively that they, unlike the vast majority of people, have two distinct last names.
posted by Etrigan at 5:25 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Even hyphenation won't work. My last name is hyphenated, and people routinely call me by the second half of it.

I don't think there's much you can do about this other than soldier on.
posted by baby beluga at 5:26 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can ask, but I wouldn't expect it to change much (except maybe getting fewer cards). For many people, Christmas cards are a sort of assembly line process that they have to churn out every year. Even if you ask about getting your name right, there are so many other cards being addressed and signed that yours will likely be absorbed into the same format.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:28 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is nothing to do about this, apart from using your name correctly. The stationery tip is a good one to boot.

But what can you say? "Thank you for the Christmas card. For future reference, my name is...." I mean you can totally rock that but don't expect another Christmas card. (Which could be a fine outcome too.)

I have to say sometimes I get mixed messages about this and then end up in a world of bafflement. I have a friend with an American name, a Korean name and a married name, and she uses all of them in different situations and with different people and I am petrified every time I address her basically. (Though I would NEVER address her as the lesser half of Mr. X.)

Now, you have made a great naming choice, and I get it, but both in fact and to the untrained and unknowing eye, you have added your husband's name to the end of your entire name. That looks like taking your husband's name to most people. Which leads them to this old-fashioned form of address, which, ew.

But good news! The tradition of addressing people as "Mr. and Mrs. Kenny Rogers" is dying out. Because: it is gross. I can't imagine any millennial doing that without laughing. So just live a long time!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:30 AM on December 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


Think about the word uppity and where it comes from.

You're not "uppity" for wanting people to have basic respectful etiquette. Calling people what they want to be called is Human Interaction 101.

Unless you're a woman who dares to have a preference they don't like, and then you are suddenly the rude one for caring about your own name (!)

I actually used to go by both or my married name and then got so sick of the "Mr. and Mrs. Husband Name" that I ran back to my maiden name.

If he sees it as a rejection...think about that, too. HIS name is so important to him that if you get rid of it it's a rejection of him. Getting rid of YOUR name is just "normal".

This kind of sexism sucks to encounter because you don't realize it will happen until after it already does, and it makes things that should be joyous (getting married, having friends who send you things) into a shitty game where the only way to win is to shut up and take it and not be "uppity" "rude" "petty" "bitchy" "critical" "nagging" "one of those feminists"


Good luck with everything.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:31 AM on December 20, 2012 [74 favorites]


I'm starting to think that if people insist on leaving half of my surname out then the only option I have is to just go back to my maiden name, as if I had to pick only one of the surnames I'd go with mine rather than his.

Unless you're also going to get divorced, you're still going to get cads from Mr and Mrs X Hisname. I always thought it was weird when we got cards addressed to Mrs and Mrs dad's firstname/initials Surname but that's just how things are addressed to married couples so I expect even if you went back to just your maiden name you'll still get cards for Mr & Mrs Hisname.

what's wrong with just "Hisfirstname and Myfirstname"
People can be weirdly formal when writing addresses and expecting them to change the habit of a lifetime and address your cards differently just to satisfy your little quirk (yes it was a Big Deal to you but not to them). It would be nice if they would remember but for most people its not going to happen (especially if they are writing a lot or using mail merge software)

I also agree with roomthreeseventeen that without the hyphen, in many people's eyes, you've made your maiden name your middle name (not that uncommon) and you are Mrs X Hisname.

Be grateful for the card and let it go, you're not going to change people, except maybe very, very close friends.

I went to school for 10 years with a girl with 2 firstnames (no hyphen) and it never really stuck, as far as people were concerned, everything up to the first space is your firstname, everything after the last space is your last name, everything else are middle names.
posted by missmagenta at 5:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Given what you've written here, it just looks to me like your maiden name has become your middle name, and your last name is now your husband's last name. I understand that this is not what you set out to do, but that's how it looks from your description, so people may be honestly confused even though you think they shouldn't be.

But, more to the point, there is nothing you can do, and doing anything will make you look churlish. Were this an in-person encounter then by all means you should politely correct the person. People use all sorts of shorthand in the mail, though, that they would not in person. (I assume that unless it is your nickname, no one addresses you only by your first initial in person.) Taking offense at this seems pointless.

(Yes, I get that overall this was a big decision for you that you put a lot of thought into, but how your Christmas cards are addressed does not obviate all that.)
posted by OmieWise at 5:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


None of your friends saw your agonizing naming process you toiled over. They are not doing this out of malice or harshness.

You have a couple of options :

- let it go, quickly.
- drop his name and go back to your maiden name.

What you are inclined to do is all of the things you suspect it is (childish, churlish, uppity, self centered), which conveys much more poorly on you than if you were to just to change your name formally.

However, be prepared that some will still use your husband's name - such things are a part of life and the "adjustment" has to be made on your end.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's probably not much you can do for this year, but next year, you could mail out your own Christmas cards early (like, send them out around Thanksgiving), with your name as you prefer it prominently featured on the return address label and again inside the card. You might catch folks before they address and send their own, such that they remember you 'go by' something other than what they would have written out of habit.

After that, if people still don't do it, you might have to let it go.
posted by amy lecteur at 5:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I did change my name, mainly because I wasn't fond of it, and I did like Mr Augenblick's name very much. Where I decided to draw the line was Mr and Mrs FirstNameHusband SecondNameHusband. Which only came, incidentally, from old ladies who had known me for my entire life.

Oh Metafilter, I am ashamed to say, (and a little bit not) that I may have rung up said old lady and said, Dearest Old Lady, it is Mr and Dr SecondNameHusband now. Bear in mind there are two hills next to one another, they look identical. One is 'moral high ground', the other, across from you is 'ludicrous position'. It is very tricky to tell which hill you're on, and sometimes, ringing old ladies might just be on the ludicrous side. Still, it does please me when I get their cards now. (see this: Ordinance Survey produces new map of Moral High Ground)
posted by Augenblick at 5:34 AM on December 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


Doesn't the option you've chosen regarding surnames make it difficult to address a Christmas card to you and your husband? If I understand you correctly, he didn't add your surname to his, so the card, if properly addressed, would read "Mr. X. Hisname and Mrs. X. Hername Hisname." I don't know that you're going to have much success getting that, and I'm not sure what prompting beyond a direct request would communicate to people how mail intended for both your and your husband should be addressed.
posted by layceepee at 5:35 AM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


I kept my own name when I got married seven years ago. And for seven years, we've been receiving Christmas cards and mail from his side of the family addressed to either Me and Him Hislastname, or even worse Mr. and Mrs. Him Hislastname.

And for seven years, we've been sending cards back with address labels with our correct names on them in big print. Hasn't made a difference.

Hell, my father-in-law can't even spell my FIRST name correctly.

It still rankles a little but I've decided it indicates they're slightly boorish people who don't pay attention to details and the best thing is to just ignore it.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:36 AM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Unfortunately, even if you had kept your maiden name you may have still received cards addressed that way. Almost every card we received from my husband's family is Mr. and Mrs. Hislast despite that I kept my maiden name.
posted by statsgirl at 5:36 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh and for the record, for two people with different last names, you address cards like this:

Ms. Example Anonymous
Mr. Dude Guyname
123 Lazy Cat Drive
Wabash Valley, MA, 00241

It's not hard unless you genuinely don't give a fuck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:38 AM on December 20, 2012 [32 favorites]


This is an exhausting thing to worry about. My sister pointed out yesterday that a person who knows me quite well and who sees my full name on a daily basis, got my last name wrong on my Christmas card. She was kind of appalled; I was like, "oh, yeah, she does that." Still bugs me that she leaves the "h" off my given name; I'm a work-in-progress on the issue.

Nothing on this side of proper etiquette happens to be effective for this problem, I'm afraid (and believe me, I have tried offending people to resolve it - and that doesn't work either.) I'm very sorry, but you're probably not going to be able to change their behavior.

Working on getting OK with their behavior also takes a lot of effort, but at least you have control over that...
posted by SMPA at 5:38 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think you're doomed to people calling you the wrong name, no matter what you do. My mother had a similarly configured name when my parents were married. The only evidence of this was that her driver's license number started T and not C (they start with the first letter of your last name where I grew up) and the way her name was written on my birth certificate. She gave up and decided to have two middle names instead of two last names, which also confounded forms. After my parents divorced, her last name became T again. My friends assumed she had to be 'Mrs C' and the school sent things to 'the T family' because it was obviously impossible that my mother and I have different surnames.
posted by hoyland at 5:40 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I kept my name, and this is my take on it. It does not have to be your take on it, and etiquette does absolutely dictact that you be addressed according to your preferences, but...

The people who do this with me are my husband's older relatives. I get it pretty much exclusively on Christmas cards and the like. I just roll with it. I love my husband, and I like being married with him, and if they wish to celebrate our union by calling me Mrs. H. Hislastname, I actually find it kind of arcane and cute.

Maybe I'm so chill about it because my husband doesn't mind when my family addresses our Christmas cards to Dr. and Mr. Tech.
posted by BrashTech at 5:42 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's worth adding - I don't think this is a ludicrous concern in any way, but I do think you have to make a decision about exactly how much mental energy you are going to expend on it - send out Christmas cards early etc, and then enjoy the Eggnog.
posted by Augenblick at 5:43 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just sent out eighty holiday cards. If someone sent me an email acknowledging the card with a different name than the one I used, I would definitely take notice and amend my list for next year. I did the best I could with the data I had.
posted by 41swans at 5:43 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, it's a traditional staple of society. It always irked me that the mouse was called Mrs. Jonathan Frisby and apparently didn't have a first name of her own, yet that didn't change that she was an strong, motivated character.

So when you send cards back, make sure that you put both your names on the envelope. Chances are, some lists will get updated (and others won't). Some people just won't change. My mom worked at a small town newspaper and one of her fellow writers referred to her as 'Mary' in spite of the fact that everyone else (correctly) called her 'Mary Kay'.
posted by plinth at 5:46 AM on December 20, 2012


Can you revise in your mind what it means to get a card addressed to "Mr & Mrs. J. Hislastname"?

Like, what if you understood "Mrs. J. Hislastname" to mean not "Yourfirstname Hislastname" but rather "the woman married to Mr. J. Hislastname", which is a true statement referring to you regardless of what last name you use.

It's my recollection from the etiquette books that this is in fact the meaning of the title "Mrs."
posted by gauche at 5:48 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


My wife kept her maiden name (for reasons similar to your own) and she gets annoyed with this issue regularly. But instead of risking an awkward encounter or passive-aggressive note to her relatives, she just complains about it to me. I'm totally fine with that, because that's what being married is all about.

I just checked with her and she agreed with the other commenters who suggested using both full names for return addresses to get the message across, but nothing more than that.
posted by wolfnote at 5:49 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


[A couple of comments deleted; don't debate each other about this. Offer advice if you think you can help.]
posted by taz at 5:51 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another vote for signing things the way you want to be addressed. Some people will follow suit and others won't.

I address cards to Mr and Mrs John Q Public unless I know that the preferred form is Ms Jane Drain/Mr John Q Public in a given case. I maintain notes in my contacts list so that I don't mix it up.

I realize that you feel your very identity has been violated and that a good portion of your life's work has gone into thinking this over, agonizing over it, and defining it, but anyone who misaddresses correspondence to you is probably just using the default form. They probably are unaware, or have forgotten, that it is quintessential to your sense of being in the social world that they address you a certain way.

I wonder if, given the resources you have already poured into this, it might be worth getting an engraving die made. You could then have informals made with your name at the top: "Mrs Firstname Yoursurname Hissurname". You could send a brief note to each person in your contacts list - at this point, maybe to wish them a Happy New Year? That kind of gesture will make an impression and hopefully be retained in the memory of anyone who doesn't have a memory like a sieve about these things.

For people whose snail address you don't know and with whom you only correspond by email, add an email signature

--------
Mrs Firstname Yoursurname Hissurname
minima maxima sunt
posted by tel3path at 5:52 AM on December 20, 2012


For professional and feminist reasons I am not taking my partner's last name. Socially, however, I have realized I can't control other people and I expect to sometimes be called Mrs HisName. (Originally the plan was to accept this once we have kids and their friends call us Mr and Mrs His Name since the kids will have his name, and to use his last name for dinner reservations, but it's expanded well beyond that)

Somehow, despite me making my wishes clear, we've got...

Mrs MyFirstInitial MyMiddleInitial MyLast on my bank card for our joint account (I have NO idea where that came from, as I have never in my life willingly ticked a "Mrs" box, and what one earth is a bank doing with Mr or Mrs instead of a full first name a debit card anyway?!)

Mr and Mrs His Name when his parents write us letters

The HisNames when well-meaning older relatives on both sides of our families are trying to be proper (and also simply don't have a cultural reference for how to deal with a couple with different last names - I have some sympathy for that)

The MyNames when my coworkers and friends are trying to be funny

And we got some important piece of paperwork accidentally addressed to Mr. HisFirst MyLast which I wanted to frame and hang on the fridge.

I'm also experiencing some challenges addressing wedding invitations. Many of our older family members and more traditional friends absolutely positively want to be Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. Others absolutely positively want to be Mr. and Dr. HisLast. Others want to be Mr. Him and Mrs. Her HisLast. Others prefer that they are each addressed entirely separately. We have a number of married (when legal) or committed (where not legal) same-sex couples with varying conventions in how they like to be addressed depending on whether they've taken the other's last name, hyphenated, combined, invented a new last name, etc. I am doing my best to be sensitive to everyone's wishes for what is right and proper, given my own preferences, but I admit that, especially given how seldom we all have reason to formally address snail mail these days, I'm not always entirely sure what someone wants. And I'm sure I'll accidentally screw something up.

I will say my only real chance to see what people prefer is to save the bits of envelope where they write their return addresses for future reference. So perhaps ensure that you have fully written out how you prefer to be addressed when you send your cards, and hope people are observant enough to notice for next year.

In the next best case, maybe laughingly bring it up at a new year's or other party with these friends or family -- "Yes, ha ha, it's always funny to me to get letters to Mrs. HisLast; I'm always sure they've accidentally sent something meant for my mother-in-law! Ms. MyLast HisLast is the only way to be sure to reach me!"

In the worst case... do what I do. Politely ignore it and understand that as a participant in a major social shift toward more equal partnership in marriage, you are still subject to well-intentioned but inappropriate conventions from the old way of doing things. Write a it off to ignorance of how formal addressing works these days. I don't like "suck it up and deal" answers to feminist issues, believe me, but I was spending a lot of energy being angry and annoyed about this and then one day decided to just see the humor and old-fashionedness in it instead. Now I have more energy to deal with sexist idiots I encounter through work.
posted by olinerd at 6:01 AM on December 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


It may not seem like you're asking very much, but when someone has dozens and dozens of people on the holiday card list, it can be challenging to keep specific track of who wants to be addressed in what way.

It's certainly your prerogative to send folks a note that says "please address me as follows," but you need to be prepared to accept that some folks will get their nose out of joint.

I'm with the majority here. Just let it go.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:01 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oops my mistake - yes, I made a typo when I appeared to suggest you put an honorific on your writing paper.

However, I still think a heading "Yourfirstname Yourlastname Hislastname" is the best way to communicate your preferences.
posted by tel3path at 6:02 AM on December 20, 2012


My mother didn't change anything about her last name when she married my father. She still routinely gets mail, cards, etc addressed to Mrs. HisSurname. She understands that this is the result of people sitting down to address a stack of 50 holiday cards, so they just take a quick stab at it and move on. It's obviously regrettable that the wife taking her husband's is most people's default guess, and it'd be great if people were more careful. However, I suggest you frame it less as people not acknowledging your decision of identity, and more as people being stressed and rushing. I hope that will bring you more peace about the situation.

I would not trouble to try to correct people about it. Unless they're friends that you interact with closely, on an individual basis. For instance, if someone sends you a dinner invitation as Mr. and Mrs. X, then it's fair and helpful to gently remind them - maybe by mentioning just how often people mess it up!
posted by estlin at 6:02 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


For many people they aren't going to be able to correctly pick up on stuff like your email signature because your last name looks like a middle name and last name. And people will use that form when they want to be differentiated from someone else who shares part of their name.

For example a friend signs all his email Foo Bar Baz not with the expectation that people will call him Foo Bar Baz but to differentiate his mail from his father who is Foo Qux Baz. Snail mail to him is addressed Foo Baz.

Obviously this doesn't apply to a return address but that is a pretty subtle hint for people who already know your mailing address.
posted by Mitheral at 6:07 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have faced this problem or one akin to it all my life because my name is FirstName 1stLastName 2ndLastName. 1stLastName and 2ndLastName are my mom and dad's first names respectively. (My mom changed her last name when she got married, which she later regretted, and decided to give me a combination of their first names as a last name).

This caused... surprisingly few problems in India where I was born, and where all manner of combinations of initials, first names, last names, middle names, family names and so on are used, and the usage varies so much state by state, that people have no choice but to respect what people want to be called and go with that. That said, I still got the occasional holiday card from my dad's side of the family (not our close relatives, but the more distant ones), addressed to 1stName Dad'sLastName. I don't think we ever said anything to them about it, and just commented on it privately ourselves.

In the US, things got more complicated because people here are less used to all sorts of crazy constructions for names. They really have no way of knowing that my last name is not 2ndLastName, so I just gently correct once and leave it at that. I have never had people get offended, but I do live in a little extremely liberal island. I believe in just being gentle but firm and going ahead and letting people get a bit offended if they so choose.

I'll be getting married soon and don't intend to change my name. We'll see if it causes any problems. I've already told my fiance that if anyone in his family addresses me as MyFirstName HisLastName or Mrs. HisLastName, that it's his job to gently inform them of how I wished to be addressed. He has agreed readily to this, but feels that it won't be such a problem because even his mother didn't change her name when she got married. I'm not so sure, since I think his mom only didn't change her name because her husband's name sounded much more Jewish, and in the USSR at that time, these things made a difference. If these people are on your husband's side of the family, or are closer to him, perhaps you should ask him to address them the way you want to be addressed?
posted by peacheater at 6:10 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can see I'm doing quite a bit of projecting here. I'd been thinking that if I'm completely socially inept and I find it fairly easy to address Christmas cards using the names people like to be called by, then other people should be able to manage it too, but I realise now that I'm seeing this through the filter of my own thoughts on the issue (ie, mainly that it's any kind of issue at all; names just don't matter to a lot of people). So I do totally accept that:

a) this is actually the "correct" formal way to address married couples
b) they're envelopes, who cares, and
c) people have got more important things to worry about than my inane idiosyncrasies.

However, I don't think I ever thought before about why this really bothers me when it isn't a big deal to others. (I think before asking the question I'd assumed that most people in a similar situation would be equally irked, but it appears I'm being unreasonable). I think it's that I feel rather excluded from my husband's family, and that therefore taking his name (or being addressed by his name) feels weird and presumptuous and wrong. Therefore every time I get something even as inconsequent as an envelope addressed to Mrs X Hisname, it reminds me that I should be a part of his family and am not. I know that that's not how anyone means it and that I shouldn't interpret it as such, but the whole "not part of his family" thing becomes much more of an issue around this time of year, so I can't quite stop myself from seeing it as a judgement. I think I just need to reframe what's happening and remember that this isn't malicious or judgemental and no-one is trying to tell me I'm a failure for not successfully becoming a part of my husband's family, that's just my way of seeing it.

None of your friends saw your agonizing naming process you toiled over.

Ah, but they did. That's the whole point. Husband and I met at university and have a whole bunch of mutual friends that were very closely involved in our wedding. We had discussion after discussion about what I was thinking of doing, what they did when they got married, how they made the decision, what people would think if I did xyz etc etc etc. They absolutely knew it mattered to me. (And, thankfully, no-one referred to me as "the new Mrs Hisname" at our wedding, which seems to have happened at every wedding I've been to other than my own.) If I'd never mentioned it to anyone ever I could totally understand the "oh, that's just what people do" argument - I don't mind his grandmother doing it in the least.

What you are inclined to do is all of the things you suspect it is (childish, churlish, uppity, self centered), which conveys much more poorly on you than if you were to just to change your name formally.

I'm not inclined to do it at all, that's why I'm trying to find a way around it - but it looks like I'm just going to have to suck it up and get over it, by the looks of things!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 6:11 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Reverse your last names. Put yours last?
posted by roboton666 at 6:11 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree with the return address with the two separate names. I kept my name as well.

This past weekend, my daughter (who is five) insisted her last name is the same as mine. Her father was quite upset. This is neither here nor there, but just makes the point that people are confused because it is easier for them to remember one last name. Especially when they know him before you.

Just introduce yourself as You Yourlastname. When you send a card, be sure to have your name and his separate so people know you like to be addressed as such.
posted by Yellow at 6:12 AM on December 20, 2012


You will still get this if you change back to your maiden name (although you might get it less). The 'Mrs Hisfirst Hislast' thing, to mean 'Mr Hisfirst Hislast and wife', is surprisingly well entrenched. And I agree that it is infuriating, but yeah, there's probably not much you can do without getting people's backs up.

The way I've settled on to feel better about this is to put a coin in a piggy bank every time I get "Mrs Hisfirst Hislast" or "Mrs Hislast" (I didn't change my name). Once it's full, we're going to go out for a great meal or a hotel break somewhere nice. Make sexism work for you!
posted by Catseye at 6:18 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


None of your friends saw your agonizing naming process you toiled over.

Ah, but they did. That's the whole point.


No, they didn't. I mean, they were around it, maybe even in it, but they really don't remember it the way you do. Trust me on this.

My former spouse and I agonized just as much as you did over what we would do with our names and our children's names. We involved every friend we had. We took polls. We adjusted the polls. We asked our parents, and our living grandparents. It was a topic of wide discussion at one of my family reunions.

Eight years later, after we split up, I mentioned to a cousin that both my ex and I had been prepared for a throw-down street brawl over what our daughter's name would be post-divorce (it wasn't, thanfully). This cousin -- who had been at that family reunion, who is one of my closest friends, who was the second person I asked, "Hey, what do you think of this solution?" way back when we were agonizing -- said, "Wow, I never realized how important this name thing was to you guys." And he meant it, too. People are self-centered, and your agonizing exists exactly to the extent that they have to share in the agonizing, and then, poof, it's gone.
posted by Etrigan at 6:23 AM on December 20, 2012 [23 favorites]


What you are inclined to do is all of the things you suspect it is (childish, churlish, uppity, self centered), which conveys much more poorly on you than if you were to just to change your name formally.

You know I honestly just really disagree with this. Wanting to be addressed by the name you choose to go by is none of those things. In the OP's particular situation, where her last name is an amalgam of two names, I can understand it seeming more nit-picky than in most situations, but it is in no way childish or churlish to ask to be addressed by your last name rather than your husband's.
posted by peacheater at 6:24 AM on December 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm hyphenated on some of my official government ID, but I never changed my social security card or passport, so technically, I never changed my name.

I'm Ruth-Maiden Name at work
I'm Ruth-Husband's last name in private life
I'm Ruth Maiden name-Husband's last name to nearly no one.

And HOO-BOY! Does this cause problems. Reservations, doctor's offices, etc. I'm perpetually confused.

As in everything in my life, I took the path of least resistance. I figured out that the easiest thing would be to hyphenate and that's what I did.

I don't have any strong conviction about my last name. I was nearly 40 when I got married and everyone knows me by my family last name, especially in business. My husband's family is pretty traditional and they just assumed I'd be taking his name.

This is not the hill I want to die on. As a native american friend of mine said about how he liked his people to be addressed, "You can say Native American or you can say Indian. I don't care. I know who I am and who my people are."

While it may annoy you, people aren't intentionally trying to make a statement with how they address you on a greeting card. They just want to wish you the joy of the season.

In the grand scheme of things, you know who you are, is this really worth it to get your panties in a twist over?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:25 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's childish, churlish, uppity, or any of that to want to be addressed by your preferred name. But I still think you will probably be happiest if you let it go. Every married couple I know where they have different last names deals with this. (Including same-sex couples!)

There are probably some people who, if you ask them, will correct your name on their list and do it right next year (if they keep a list... I don't). There are some people who will think you are childish/uppity/"a feminazi" if you correct them. I bet you have a pretty good idea of which ones are which, so correct the ones who seem amenable to being corrected and roll your eyes at the others.
posted by mskyle at 6:31 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's not a question of hyphenating, I kept my name and I still get cards (from his side of the family) addressed to Mr and Mrs HisFirst HisLast.

Addressing ours with our correct names makes no difference. They were all at our wedding, they know I didn't change my name. They just can't conceive of a woman not taking her husband's name, it's beyond them.

It drives me absolutely batshit crazy. I have reached the point where I might start returning cards to sender because there is no such person at this address. Well, not really, but I dream of doing that. It would not accomplish anything but it would make me feel better. It's disrespectful, pure and simple. Address people the way they want to be addressed.

We're probably going to hyphenate our kids' names, I am really not looking forward to dealing with that.
posted by lydhre at 6:31 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


None of your friends saw your agonizing naming process you toiled over.

Ah, but they did. That's the whole point.


Ahhh, so maybe here's the issue. If you're anything like me, agonizing over the last name issue was in the context of "But I am me! I have always been MyFirst MyLast! I have a professional/social reputation as MyFirst MyLast! I want to stay *me*!" So in that context, the issue of keeping your name is probably something these friends and/or family see as an issue in how they address *you*.

However, Christmas cards don't go to *you*, do they? They go to The Couple or The Family. And while I'm sure everyone very much respects your decision to keep your name, in their heads they may be separating "how to address Raspberry-Ripple" versus "how to address Raspberry-Ripple as part of a couple and a new family." And I think there people default to what they know; however much you see it as a willful rejection of your personal decision, they may see it is using the right etiquette for the right situation. Does that make sense?

For what it's worth, I don't think you're being unreasonable. Part of my peace with this whole issue stems from the fact that my first name, Mikell, is pronounced Michael, but despite the fact that I am clearly female and I very clearly say my name is "Mikell, pronounced just like the men's name," I get emails and phone calls to Mike, Michelle, Mikel, Michael, Mikkel, etc. People I've just met will literally (literally literally) insist to me that my name can't possibly be "Michael" and they say "No, it's not. It must be Michelle or something?" (Thanks, assholes, for insisting I must have gotten my name wrong.) Pronunciation-wise, everyone assumes it's "Mee-KELL" on first read, and people I've known and worked with for years who know damn well how my name is pronounced still say it wrong. I've got grandparents who for years spelled it wrong on my Christmas cards.

The short version is, people can really be jerks about names and, much like the whole thing about asking women to smile, they figure it's no big deal if they do it once by accident, but for those of us they're doing it to FOR OUR ENTIRE GODDAMN LIVES it becomes infuriating. It seems to us that they don't bother, they don't care, they don't respect it, and even when I correct them they still sometimes screw it up. But I don't think that's the case. It's not willful assholishness. It's just that writing or speaking my name is a few seconds out of someone's busy day and they probably have enough else going on in their lives to not process it as a Big Fucking Deal to get it wrong.

Spending 27 years dealing with people fucking up my first name, and learning to stop getting angry about it, has helped me find peace on the issue with my last name that has cropped up in just the last year. I can't offer that to you by any means, other than just to say that it can be done. Eventually. With some deep breathing, scented candles, and righteous rants at your partner about the unfairness of the world.
posted by olinerd at 6:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


My friends solved this by them both taking both names. So if my friends are Jane A. Smith and Bob C. Harris, they are respectively Jane A. Smith Harris and Bob C. Smith Harris. So I address things to them as "Bob and Jane Smith Harris."

It's an option for you guys to consider if it's this important to you.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think you should change what you call yourself because of how people address Christmas cards. Addressing Christmas cards is often a frantic business: wrist cramping, not enough stamps, accidentally sending the secular card to the religious aunt or vice versa. Even people who technically have the knowledge somewhere in their brain that you prefer to be called "Ms. Herlast Hislast" might forget it in the heat of the moment.

You control how your name appears in your emails, your letters, your business cards - those outweigh how your name appears on the cards you receive from other people once a year. People who have known me for years misspell my first name all the time. And it's not that difficult to spell. Sometimes I correct, sometimes I let it slide. On xmas cards I let it slide.

I have two examples to call from of people who want to be addressed in a specific non-traditional way.

One is an aunt. I know she prefers to be called Ms. X, but once I forgot and I got a long long email about "Thank you for the card BUT I must ask you to ..." GAH. That's a lot of grief for sending a card.

One is a friend. I probably got her name wrong a few times after she first got married. But on FB she now and then posts a mildly humorous mini-rant along the lines of "Dear Utility Company, I am not Mrs. Hislast. I am Ms. Mylast-Hislast. If you are going to overcharge me for electricity the least you could do is address my mail correctly. Thank you."

After seeing one of these every 6 months or so, it sticks in my head how she prefers to be called and I think I've gotten it right for several years now.
posted by bunderful at 6:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a recent discussion of difficulties with surnames at Making Light.
posted by Bruce H. at 6:38 AM on December 20, 2012


Looking at my answer up above, I see that it might have come across as a bit insensitive and I'd like to fill it out a bit more. I wrote:

what if you understood "Mrs. J. Hislastname" to mean not "Yourfirstname Hislastname" but rather "the woman married to Mr. J. Hislastname", which is a true statement referring to you regardless of what last name you use.

And what I didn't write, but what I'd like to convey also, is that I definitely get that this definition, too, is problematic for a lot of reasons. But that is one of the broadly-accepted meanings of the title "Mrs.", for better or for worse, and while we might hope to, and want to, and indeed work to change it, that change is not going to be without a certain amount of friction and inertia in the way that any forced change of language is going to be difficult. A certain amount of sang-froid may be helpful to you as you work to further this change.

What I meant is that you can read "Mrs. J. Hislastname" not as though people are giving you a name you don't wish to take, but rather that they are addressing you by reference to your social relationship as a married woman rather than by your given name. They aren't changing your identity; they are referring to you by one of your freely-accepted identities, but one which you do not, it seems, prefer to be your primary identity (for reasons that, for what it's worth, I think are eminently valid.)

And you can, of course, upon recognition of this, think to yourself, "those benighted fools, they don't even know how they are perpetuating an oppressive gender politic by their assumptions about women's identities and the language they use." Less of "how dare you disrespect me" and more of "eh, they don't know any better. I wish they did, and maybe over the next year let's talk about this some."

For what it's worth, I don't think that your desire to be addressed how you want to be addressed is unreasonable or churlish or uppity. But I do think that couples who do not hew to the "Mr. & Mrs. Lastname" convention, like everyone who eschews any convention, ought to be patient with those who rely on convention to navigate their lives.

Could we have a different convention? Of course we could. Should we? Very probably. But we don't (yet). It is important to be patient, and kind, and to remember that even very well-intentioned people will sometimes screw up things that are important to you, and that the pull of convention is strong.
posted by gauche at 6:39 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


My friends solved this by them both taking both names. So if my friends are Jane A. Smith and Bob C. Harris, they are respectively Jane A. Smith Harris and Bob C. Smith Harris. So I address things to them as "Bob and Jane Smith Harris."

It's an option for you guys to consider if it's this important to you.


If only it were. Husband's take was "do what you like with your last name (but I'd prefer you to take mine), I'm keeping mine as it is".

I actually think this is completely fair, except for the preference that I take his. He is otherwise extremely forward-thinking and egalitarian, but has a total blind spot around this issue. And I kind of understand why - he grew up thinking he'd never have any reason to change his name. (Which is a problem itself, I suppose.)

I don't even want to think about what we're going to do with our kids' surnames when we have them. We've already had a few difficult discussions about that...
posted by raspberry-ripple at 6:39 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


People are either being expedient or following a rulebook when addressing envelopes. His surname is the last word in your name; whether that's your surname or your partial surname or your name's suffix isn't for them to suss out, and nobody means to be insulting by going the traditional route. I get that you feel piqued, I still get mail addressed to a "me" that never existed with the last name of an ex-husband. It is what it is. I don't need others to validate for me what my identity is.

Also, your husband is not his extended family. He is not excluding you and his name is not some awful thing, it's as much his identity as yours is to you. Be careful you don't cross the line between defending your name and insulting his. (He may not tell you you're doing this ... at least until you're deep into another "difficult" discussion about naming your children.)
posted by headnsouth at 6:40 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would it help to distinguish between names and forms of address?

This person's name is not HM Queen Elizabeth or Your Majesty. Her name is Elizabeth Windsor (or something like that).

This person's name is not Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton, but neither is her husband's name Mr. William Jefferson Clinton. The secretary of state's name is Hilary Rodham Clinton and the ex-president's name is William Jefferson Clinton. They may be addressed respectively as Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. W. J. Clinton, or Ms. Hilary Rodham Clinton, depending on the context; and Mr. Clinton or Mr. W. J. Clinton. They may be addressed, jointly, on an envelope, as Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Clinton. There is no such beast as Mrs. Hilary Rodham Clinton.

The conventions of address are sexist and heteronormative, which is why the honorific "Ms." came into usage during the 20th century. It doesn't completely undo the sexism and heteronormativity, though.

You get to choose your own name, but conventions of etiquette are (like language) defined by social usage and you don't generally get to specify which form of address is "correct" for yourself. You may be "officially Mrs Firstname Mysurname Hissurname" in your own mind, and your name may be officially Firstname Mysurname Hissurname, but "Mrs Firstname Mysurname Hissurname," like "Mrs. Hilary Rodham Clinton," is neither a name nor a conventionally correct form of address.

Conventions can be changed by a mass change of social usage, which is how "Ms. Hername" became a conventional form of address, but it takes a while before a new convention comes to be commonly understood as correct. You can request that your acquaintances address you in the manner you desire, but I suggest that you frame it as a request to do something different, not as a correction.
posted by Orinda at 6:41 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


But what can you say? "Thank you for the Christmas card. For future reference, my name is...."

I don't see why that's a problem. That's what I say when we get mail addressed to TheFella & Elsa HisLastName. I start with an effusive "We got your card. The [pictures of your kids/dog's costumes/pretty ornaments] are so great! Thanks so much for thinking of us! Oh, incidentally, my last name isn't HisLastName, it's MyLastName. So, how is your [holiday shaping up/ new business venture/ motorcycle gang]?"

And that's the thing: I thank them earnestly and a little effusively both for the card and the thought, casually drop in the correction so they'll know, and --- this is crucial --- move on to a new topic. We're not having a discussion about my name, I'm not interested in debating anyone about what my name is or teaching them etiquette. Now they know my last name; if they want to be correct and polite, they'll use it. If they don't, well, that makes them impolite for insisting. I am not impolite to correct others on my actual name.

I mean you can totally rock that but don't expect another Christmas card.

Yes, if someone crosses me off their Christmas card list for pleasantly informing them of my name, that's okey-dokey with me.

In my own experience, the only people who respond churlishly to this kind of gentle, pleasant correction have an ax to grind. By gracious dropping your correct name into casual conversation and then moving on, you'll see who won't move on --- that is, if they stick at your pleasant remark explaining your actual name, then it's not that they didn't know, but that they have a point to make and are doing it all over your Christmas card envelopes.
posted by Elsa at 6:42 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


But what can you say? "Thank you for the Christmas card. For future reference, my name is...."

I don't see why that's a problem.


As indicated above, I don't even start on this issue with most my husband's family. We're not that close, and I don't care what they think. However, his father has known me for 15 years now, 7 of which I've been married to his son, and as I mentioned, he always spells my first name incorrectly.

This bothers me much more than sexist assumptions from distant family about my surname. So first I got a nameplate necklace to wear around him. Didn't make a difference. Then I had to wait a year or so for an opportunity to address it in person. One Christmas, he handed us a card with my husband's first name, and mine - spelled incorrectly. I very politely said, "Thank you for thinking of us. I just want to mention my name is actually spelled this way." As expected, he asked me if I was sure (?? he's a boor) and promised to remember.

He has not remembered.

I asked, he did not change. I will not push the issue and prefer to just think a little worse of him than make waves about it.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:49 AM on December 20, 2012


Christmas cards are just silly ritual. Correct people if they get it wrong in person or in a significant context.
posted by mean cheez at 6:53 AM on December 20, 2012


I was completely and totally opposed to taking my husband's name upon marriage. My husband could not possibly have cared less and offered to take my name. For a few brief moments we entertained both changing our name to MyLast-HisLast but then remembered how lazy we are and how much work it would require and we kept our own surnames. If we have children, they will be MyLast-HisLast. I don't give a crap what happens when they grow up and get married, they can use any damn name they want to.

Having said all that, I routinely get mail addressed to MyFirst HisLast and also Mrs. HisLast and I sort of sigh and roll my eyes and move along. The only thing that really irritates me is Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, which seriously is so fucking erasing of my identity it makes me grind my teeth so I totally get how annoyed you are.

I think you should go back to your maiden name. Using his name at the end of your names without a hyphen is easily confused by people who are already expecting that you are going to take his name anyway because that's what a lot of folks do. If his feelings are hurt, oh well. Your feelings are being hurt constantly.
posted by crankylex at 6:57 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd assumed that most people in a similar situation would be equally irked, but it appears I'm being unreasonable

Its not unreasonable to be irked but its not worth the mental energy in staying irked or trying to change anyone, it doesn't mean anything, its just an envelope. Cut your friends some slack and release those demons.

The issue of you being excluded from his family is separate and something that you should work on though - I assume there's more going on there than you keeping your name.
posted by missmagenta at 7:00 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


We kept our own names. Our families both know both of our last names. We send mail with our names on it. We have gently reminded.

We both have family members who send Christmas cards addressed to "Mr. HisFirst HisLast and MyFirst." And to "Ms. MyFirst MyLast and HisFirst." What? There's no etiquette rule ever that says eh, fuck it, just leave off the partner's last name.
posted by desuetude at 7:00 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


raspberry, your dilemma is a striking argument for a woman's keeping her original surname and using only that. No ensuing confusion.

Please worry less about being childish or churlish. This is your entity we're talking about! It bugs me that you're the one undergoing this over-thinking and anguish, while others (including your husband) are going merrily on their way.

Future children? Girls take your original surname, boys take his. No, it's not a tidy solution, but there has to come a time when girls and women cease to be saddled with THE MAN'S name.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:02 AM on December 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's perfectly reasonable to want to be called by a certain name.

If this were coming up in conversation you could go "All right then, Mrs Wrongname, I'll - " "Actually it's Mrs Rightname please" "Oh sorry, that's Mrs Rightname, I'll send those out to you."

The trouble is that this is coming up on addressed envelopes. There's no moment that you're in when you can throw in a correction without interrupting the flow.

You could slip into the next bit of correspondence "Thank you for your card (by the way my correct name is Jane Correctname Rememberthisplease)" but I can't think of a way of doing this that isn't clunky.

Ultimately, this is a problem of trying to get people to behave a certain way. There comes a point where, short of pulling a gun on them, you just won't get it through their thick skulls.

There may be certain people who are pointedly ignoring your preference, but in that case there will be other signs of ill-will in your relationship. In the end, issues like that have to be addressed (no pun intended) for what they are - interpersonal problems, rather than naming convention problems.

Other than those special cases, yeah, sorry this is an irritant, but I just don't know what the heck you can do about it without going postal (postal, geddit).
posted by tel3path at 7:05 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


None of your friends saw your agonizing naming process you toiled over.

Ah, but they did. That's the whole point.


If these are your friends who are doing this, then definitely give them a call or a heads-up the next time you see them. Presumably if they were good enough friends to be included in the pre-marriage name conversations, they are still good enough friends to say, "Hey, you probably didn't even think about it, but when you address cards can you use ____ instead? Thanks!" They may have fallen into the "formal" pattern without thinking about it because it's just easier to write and if you're hand-addressing dozens of cards, easier trumps a lot.

For those who are not friends you've talked with about this in the past, people your own age or thereabouts are also more likely to take that sort of heads-up well, if you don't have an aggrieved tone about it (in a conversation - if you only ever interact via Xmas cards, I'd let it go - if there's no real meaningful relationship, who cares how they address you, really). If it's your husband's family, you're probably out of luck, unless your husband tells them himself so it doesn't sound like some sort of family rejection. And for people of an older generation, it's unlikely to do anything but make you seem foolish - a lot of the comments here addressing "formal forms of address" are in line with the most charitable way of thinking about this -- that your feelings don't matter because there's A Right Way To Do Things.

I kept my name and am still regularly addressed as Mrs. Hislastname, especially on invitations and seating cards at weddings (ugh). But it's almost always by people who know me because I married him (his friends first), and so I try to remind myself that as far as a lot of people are concerned, "Mr. and Mrs. X" is just shorthand for "Couple," and since we actually are a couple, turning it into Him and Me is basically creating a distinction that doesn't matter -- you're asking people to do extra work when all they're trying to do is write out 100 names in longhand clearly enough to be read. Even couples who are Mr. and Mrs. X with no qualms about it still have two first names and distinct identities. Calling them that doesn't say the woman isn't a person, it just says "I don't have the time or patience to write out that many extra names, so I'm sticking with tradition because it's easiest."

Having said all that, people who address things to only the woman with Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname, can go die in a fire.
posted by Mchelly at 7:05 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having just finished sending out Xmas cards, this is also on my mind.

We're kind of obsessive about this. We have a google spreadsheet with addresses and first name/last name for both partners, and titles (as in "no, they're both doctors now - update the entry"). It's hard to keep track of this stuff. Very good friend living with someone new - what is that persons last name? And why isn't very good friend connected to their live-in on facebook so I can find out? Well, because they're gay and not yet out to their family. We're not above addressing the card to first names only, in a pinch.

In general, what we've observed is that my wife's friends use the same algorithm to address her that they've chosen for themselves. Never changed off maiden means cards from that person address the Mrs. by her maiden name. Hyphenated? Then the Mrs. gets hyphenated. Etc.

I think it's an example of people really not thinking too much about other people's hang-ups. Maybe that's a sign of institutionalized sexism, but I think I'd prefer my preferences be ignored than analyzed in detail. We've had friends who should have been addressed as Dr. for years - but their professional status never really came up, and they never corrected us - doesn't change our love for them, either way.

In general, people in your family's life know you through them. So you become rasberry-ripple's husband or rasberry-ripple's Mom. Or the best one: your kid's Mom. I don't get too bent out of shape that people who know my kid think of and address me as kid's Dad, or that there was a period where the Mrs. friends referred to me as "her boy" - as if my name wasn't worth knowing until it was clear I was the one that was going to stick around.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 7:07 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


people who address things to only the woman with Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname, can go die in a fire.

Well, you know, there are just as many issues with Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastnames who want me to go die in a fire if I address a letter to Herfirstname Hislastname.

I really think Miss Manners resolved the dilemma best: use the default form of address unless you know the addressee prefers otherwise, and if you are the addressee, you can lightly correct people but please try not to wish a horrible death by fire upon them, because it's not that important.

People call me by all kinds of names, some of them completely wrong, I do not care about this at all, I do know other people care quite a bit about their names so I try to get them right. I do, however, have my other pet peeves, and I try to manage them by having a sense of proportion.
posted by tel3path at 7:14 AM on December 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


Count me as another family with separate last names who still get joint Hisname mailings -- I attribute it less even to negligence than to the long establishment of the utility of thinking of people as the SharedName Family, which becomes trickier in a combo unit. Our daughter has a hyphenated last name, and even her grandparents took a couple of years to realize that that was an actual legal combo name, rather than, say, one of the names as a middle name. I suspect that most people assume your dual name is a middle name + last name, rather than an unhypenated last name, but obviously even a hyphen doesn't save everybody, so you do the best you can.

Hard to really think your husband is "forward-thinking" if he thinks it's the woman's obligation to make the development of a family unit happen (via names or whatever else), but he didn't create that notion himself either. Still, "how to handle last names" could be seen as an early exercise in team-building, which he chose to sit out. Age at time of marriage often affects these decisions too, as a 30-something woman is likely to have professional and personal investment in her name that's not so easy to drop like a hat, while a fresh-from-college woman is not and may not think about it.

Anyway, handle your actual it however seems best for/most true yourself and your future, but don't expect that the world will ever pay attention to your choices. Eventually this will diminish, but we've already been saying that for 30 years, and there's still a default assumption that the question of names is a Women Problem, so we're not making much progress.
posted by acm at 7:16 AM on December 20, 2012


a) this is actually the "correct" formal way to address married couples

It's not, though. The rule that governs is that you address people how they ask you to address them unless it's a racial slur. If they want to be known as Mrs. Funcats Partypants, then that's how you address the envelope. Your other option is to not address the envelope at all. Knowingly calling someone by the wrong name is a horrific breach of etiquette.

In terms of correcting it, you really can't win because it's considered extremely rude by some to want to be seen as a person, but if you think they'd be open to it, I suggest calling these people and chatting with them, thanking them for the lovely card, and then gently asking them to correct it on their list. If they're family that you don't like anyway, then I wouldn't bother, but if they're close enough to chat with then it's reasonable enough.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:20 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


The vast majority of my friends are in 2 name households. I try to do holiday card labels as 'The Smith-Miller Family' - even though no one hypenates.
posted by k8t at 7:20 AM on December 20, 2012


Well, you know, there are just as many issues with Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastnames who want me to go die in a fire if I address a letter to Herfirstname Hislastname.

Yeah, sorry, I wasn't clear there - I meant when the woman goes by Ms Herfirstname Herlastname and is suddenly turned into Lady Offshoot. Fire!!!
posted by Mchelly at 7:23 AM on December 20, 2012


I'm sorry to say you're probably going to have to get used to it. My wife didn't take my last name, and we get cards from HER family addressed to Mr. and Mrs. M. Zurer. That's what many folks were taught is the correct way. Personally I try to address people's envelopes in the way I address them in person, with the exception of using Dr. where appropriate. You decided to take a principled stand on what your name is, but society hasn't caught up yet. You're welcome to try and move that mountain, but I think you're correct that repeatedly correcting people comes off as petty and churlish to those who don't get it.
posted by mzurer at 7:23 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hanlon's razor: never attribute malice where ignorance will suffice. These people mean well. I'd let it go. Wouldn't it be worse if you got no cards at all?
posted by k8lin at 7:29 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Raspberry-ripple:

You think this is tough, wait until it comes to the names of your kids (if that's relevant).

You're attempting to rectify centuries old convention through your own naming dilemma. If you "win" this battle, you will have another, and another. Your feminist vision, as noble as it may be to you, does not offer "silver bullet" solution... because, human beings are involved. Some will prefer this, others will resist, some will ridicule you, others will support you. You're upset, and you don't even have full support of your forward-thinking husband, because the best of people still have many blind spots.

It becomes a life of battle, and not all battles are equal.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:35 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you so much; this has all been so interesting. Particularly those of you who did hyphenate your names or even kept your own surname and still get called by your husband's name - this is depressing, but in a strange way makes me feel a little better, because it seems like this is less about me not "doing enough" to show my maiden name is part of my own name (though I do accept that if it's not hyphenated then it's technically just a middle name) and more about others calling you by what they assume is the correct form of address.

I wanted to mark a lot of the answers as "best answers" but I've tried to pick the ones that have helped me think of this in a different way - for example, helping me realise that forms of address to a couple are not meant to erase my identity as an individual, or that while I may choose what I call myself as an individual, I can't choose the accepted way of addressing me as part of a married couple. So, yes, I do see that what someone writes on an envelope is not necessarily a reflection of what they think of you. I was a little cross with my husband's aunt because she herself kept her maiden name when she got married (and makes a real point of making sure no-one calls her anything else), but then I can see why members of his family would do that (after all, she probably doesn't even know what my maiden name is).

Also, your husband is not his extended family. He is not excluding you and his name is not some awful thing, it's as much his identity as yours is to you. Be careful you don't cross the line between defending your name and insulting his.

I think this was definitely worth pointing out, and I will try to remember it in future. This is the real crux of the issue, and why I didn't just keep my maiden name and be done with it - I did want to share (at least part of) my name with him, just not with the rest of his family. Ideally we would have just made up a surname all of our own but he wasn't keen on that either.

And I should probably defend him here, as I can see the sense in this:
Hard to really think your husband is "forward-thinking" if he thinks it's the woman's obligation to make the development of a family unit happen (via names or whatever else), but he didn't create that notion himself either.

It's not that he thinks it's the woman's obligation per se. I will try to explain his point of view even though it makes no sense to me: he thinks that as convention has established that the woman takes the man's name, then it just makes sense to go along with convention. If the established convention was for the man to take the woman's name he would go along with that just as happily, and I do believe him on that. He just does not like to be seen to be doing something that deviates from the norm, and if I'm happy to do something "weird" with my name then that's up to me but he's sticking with what men usually do. I think if it's an unfair convention - which in this case, to me it is - then the only sensible thing to do is ignore it and do your own thing. I do get why he thinks like this, because he is much more practical and in favour of doing what everyone else does and not making a fuss than I am about most things, but it does bother me. If anyone can either think of an argument against his line of reasoning, or a way of helping me to accept it, I would be very grateful for that too!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 7:48 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I honestly think the real problem here is that you weren't entirely happy taking his name in any respect. The solution you chose in some ways encourages this, because his name is your last name--people are likely to assume that your maiden name is now a middle name, which is how naming traditions work in certain geographic areas (wife drops her middle name and replaces it with maiden name).

I kept my name, and, while a few relatives (especially on his side) were confused initially, we gently corrected them and three years on almost never get correspondence addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Hislastname. And why would we? Mrs. Hislastname doesn't exist.

So honestly, I think the suggestion to switch the name order would be best--have his name as a second middle name, and yours as your surname. It's important to you. It continues to be important to you. That's okay. Frankly, he expressed a preference for you to take his name, but a preference isn't a decree. You could have kept your name, too. What really matters is that you are happy and comfortable with your name. Not that anyone--old biddy relatives or husbands or anyone--else is. You have a right to be called Leonard if you want. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:49 AM on December 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


I also kept my maiden name, very publicly; I have novels published under that name, it's my name on Facebook, my website and blog address, my twitter handle, everything. and we still get cards addressed to the hislastname family or hisname and myname hislastname, even by friends in our generation (we're 30ish). every time it irritates me, because I have never once anywhere gone by myname hislastname. I am sitting here irritated thinking about it, because like you I kept my name very deliberately. however -- I join the chorus that actually confronting people about it probably isn't worth the fallout. while a couple people might be acting a bit passive aggressively by ignoring your wishes (not unlikely), they're the petty ones.
posted by changeling at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2012


I wrote up a long response but it was essentially saying what PhoBWanKenobi just said on preview, so am deleting it but I will just say I agree with the feeling that you are resentful about taking his name. You can strongly consider switching the order of your names, but your husband sounds like my husband, and so my guess is that if you did this, he would be hurt by it (just as a warning, not to say that you shouldn't do it because of this). I know even though my husband said I could do what I liked with the name, he did want me to take his. He would have gotten over it eventually though, because something like that's not important when you've decided you want to spend your life together.

To respond to your follow up, there's an easy argument to counter his - it's your name, you can do what you want with it, and it really doesn't matter what other people consider 'weird' or 'conventional'. You can't live your life worrying constantly about what other people will think if you deviate from the norm. It doesn't help you get what you want out of life and you're hurting yourself the most if you compromise your own values based on your idea of what others expect you to do (and really, you're the one who cares most about what you do, so your opinion should matter most).

I am a feminist and also changed my name in the same way you did after I got married, but I absolutely don't consider my middle name part of my last name, or I would have kept my former middle name. I don't expect people to know my personal feelings about my name... I feel lucky if my friends don't tell me the same story twice when we get together because they forgot I've heard it once before already. Life is short, memory is fallible, and good friends are hard to find.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:00 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


You can strongly consider switching the order of your names, but your husband sounds like my husband, and so my guess is that if you did this, he would be hurt by it.

I guess my feeling is that keeping a last name that doesn't suit you and that makes you unhappy is hurtful in a way, too. I would hope that your husband would be able to see the pain this is causing you and reach an understanding that works better for both of you. What's happening now isn't right or fair to either of you. It's not really a solution.

For what it's worth, the way we handled this was to call up individuals who sent us cards, have a conversation with them, thank them for the cards, and drop in there, "By the way, Phoebe still goes by her own last name, North. No biggie, just want to make sure you know." It's not churlish. It's perfectly polite. In fact, we got a similar call from my father-in-law when, after twenty years, his wife decided to take his last name. It's the Miss Manners-approved way of dealing with such a thing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:05 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Just for a quick reference point, Emily Post says that as you "use your husband's name socially" it is correct to address you as Mrs X Hisname, unless you use Ms. instead of Mrs. (It doesn't address the issue of having two last names.)

I find that personally I don't mind being addressed as a couple as Mr & Mrs. M. Brubeck as much as I mind M. Brubeck & Margalo Brubeck, because I agree that I'm M. Brubeck's wife, but I didn't change my last name. I don't think it would hurt to mention this once with people -- when my cousin got married, his wife took his last name, but made a point of being Ms., so that's what I use for her (I put it into my address book so I won't forget).
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:10 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


One way to help others change the way they write your name in addresses without pushing too hard would be to be very consistent in how you write your name formally. In the return address for the holiday cards that you and your husband send out, put your names how you would like them to appear when people send cards to you (you could get labels made and use them whenever you send out any correspondence, not just at Christmas). Put your correct name in your email signature. If people ask you for your address for wedding or other big event invitations, also provide the correct way you would like you and your husband's name written at the top of the address. It won't work on the hopeless, but I bet some people will just copy what you've written, and as someone upthread said, that's progress, and that's how change happens.
posted by bluefly at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


And for what it's worth, here's a page on Miss Manners and naming gaffes. She seems to think one should be quite firm with corrections (and I'm inclined to agree; they'll never know they're wrong if you don't correct them).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Your other option is to not address the envelope at all. Knowingly calling someone by the wrong name is a horrific breach of etiquette.

In terms of correcting it, you really can't win because it's considered extremely rude by some to want to be seen as a person


That's a really slanted take on this, in my opinion. I don't think that's the issue at all, and this is part of the problem, as the OP has acknowledged: often your own emotional baggage comes into this question and influences the way you think about it.

OP, when you get flyers or bulk mail addressed to "resident", does it inflame you because it doesn't have the proper name? Probably not (though you might be annoyed at the content of the mail itself), because you recognize that this is a convention of convenience. It's an annoyance that your mail is not addressed to an individual, but that doesn't mean that the person sending out the bulk mailing really believes the resident of your home is not a person!

Envelopes might as well be GPS coordinates on a map because that's the purpose they serve-- ensuring that what's inside gets from point A to point B. It's what's inside that's the personal message, not what's on the outside. If what's inside is a lovely card wishing you a happy holiday, that's what should be getting your attention.

Is it wrong to want, even expect, to be called by your chosen name, OP? Of course not! As I understand it, though, your friends aren't doing this in person. They likely call you by your first name, and I imagine they don't even think of your last name 99% of the time. Why would they? The issue of your last name, extraordinarily important to you personally, is peripheral to their own extraordinarily important issues in their own lives. That's only natural. It only comes up in discussions with you, like those you had before your wedding.

When they come to addressing Christmas cards, it's likely those discussions are not in their minds. In yours, where your husband's family's lack of inclusiveness is right there on the surface at Christmastime, of course it seems hugely significant that the envelope includes only his last name.

But, as far as the etiquette goes, even there the young rope-rider is partially right. It is proper etiquette, once a person has indicated a preference, to address that person by her preference.

However, you have added a wrinkle to that etiquette, OP. You do not choose to be called by your maiden name socially OR by your maiden name-spouse's last name, OR by spouse's last name. You use your maiden name as a middle name, essentially, and your spouse's as the last one, which might easily be construed as "using his last name socially". The proper etiquette would be as follows, from Emily Post: Mrs. or Mrs. raspberry-ripple . As people are using the first initial instead of the first name, but you both share the same first initial, they are essentially doing just that: Mrs. R . So, as far as etiquette goes, they are wrong to use the initial, if that makes you feel better, but otherwise correct. I doubt your friends are attempting to belittle you or consider you any less of a person by referring to you by initial rather than the whole first name. Do you really think that is something your friends would do?

It's not wrong for your spouse to want to be called by his name, either, by the way. It's interesting that him wanting to keep his name the same is seen as sexism on his part by some in this thread. I think that's unfair. Why assume he has less of a personal connection to his name than you do to yours? It was a nice gesture for you to take his last name as well as yours, but not something either partner should feel compelled to do. He told you his preference, but I would hope it was just that, and not coercion on his part to take his name. Likewise, there is no reason for him to feel compelled to take yours.

One last thing to think about, too. Maybe it will help to put things in perspective if you look at the bigger picture. You don't say, but your name before marriage may also be your father's last name, that your mother took upon marriage. So, technically, that name you identify with most strongly could be that of your father's family. Does that mean that you are sexist for taking your Dad's last name, or that you didn't see your Mother as a person in her own right? Or that you are snubbing your Mom's family? Of course not!

Don't sweat the small stuff. In the end, this address on an envelope is not the harbinger of exclusion or lack of personhood you are making it out to be in your mind.

posted by misha at 8:31 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had a really awkward time addressing my wedding invitations, because you're supposed to use the "Mr. and Mrs. John Husband" convention, and I hated doing that, but I didn't want to make any sort of faux pas. My worry seems awfully silly in retrospect, because it's not like there was a god of etiquette to smite me. So if you choose to correct people, be friendly and low-key about it, because it's not necessarily from a place of passive-aggressive sexism; it could easily be that the sender wasn't sure how you'd like to be addressed, erred on the side of formality, and would be relieved to know your preference.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Adding another thing to consider.

I kept my name wholesale; my husband is John Smith and I'm Eyebrows McGee; our preferred address is "Ms. Eyebrows McGee and Mr. John Smith" or whatever.

One of my favorite great-aunts, who knows this and has no problem with women keeping their names, always always always sends me mail as "Mrs. John Smith." Because when my great aunt's much-beloved husband died after they'd only been married five years, leaving her a young widow with no skills and three children, and she still misses him so much, after almost 50 years, that addressing her as anything other than "Mrs. James Doe" would hurt her feelings terribly, because it's a memory of the happy marriage she got to have for such a short time. And she sends me letters as "Mrs. John Smith" because it's important to her to be addressed that way and because she wants my marriage to be as happy as hers was.

A lot of women of my mother's generation grew up in the first generation with a lot of divorce, and being "Mrs. Jane Smith" was for a divorcee, and for some of them, addressing letters to a married woman as "Mrs. Jane Smith" (or, worse, "Ms. Jane Maiden") used to be used as a subtle slur to say, "If you're not divorced yet, you ought to be!" I know a lot of these women KNOW younger married women prefer Mrs. Jane Smith or Ms. Jane Maiden, but it's hard for them because it feels disrespectful, particularly for women who knew you when you were a child (aunts, mom's friends) and who want to show they're giving you respect as a peer adult.

Anyway, most of the letters I get that don't have our names right are from people who don't have a lot of time to think about it, or from older people who are trying to show respect for our marriage and love for us in ways that, for them, married couples are traditionally given respect and acknowledgement. And that's okay. I will take love and respect in any form it's offered, even if it's a form I find a bit old-fashioned.

And if you know for sure someone's using the wrong name to spite you, I would just laugh that someone is spending so much effort going, "I'll misaddress her letter! THAT'LL SHOW HER! AN ENVELOPE! MWAH HA HA HA." Um, great evil plan there!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2012 [20 favorites]


My mother has been Ms Herfirstname Herlastname Hislastname for over 25 years.

She got an invitation to her brother's wedding addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname last year. Her own brother! He seemed to think that was the more "formal" way of addressing an invitation.
posted by inertia at 8:55 AM on December 20, 2012


I'm assuming that the uni discussions were several years ago. If so, dunno that it's reasonable for people to remember them.
posted by ambient2 at 9:21 AM on December 20, 2012


My mother did with her name what you've done with yours -- a first name and two un-hyphenated last names. She has said that if she were doing it over she'd just hyphenate it or keep her maiden name, because she (after 30 years of marriage, now) has never been able to get people to understand that she has two last names not one middle name and one last name.

See roomthreeseventeen's incorrect-but-much-favorited comment about how you have made your maiden name your middle name for an example of this. Saying that your maiden name is now your middle name sort of flatly contradicts a basic truth about your identity, something which is true by fiat, i.e. simply because you say it is. It's your name, not the world's name for you, and if you say you have two last names then you do. (Having two last names isn't even that unusual, lots of cultures have situations where people have to last names, it's quite in Latin America for instance.)

I don't have a good solution though other than to politely and consistently correct people when they misuse your name. If they do it on a letter then it's hard to find a socially-acceptable way to do it other than signing any return letters with the correct version of your name which may not sink in. If they do it in person in a social context, I'd just smile and say something like "Actually, it's firstname lastname lastname. Two last names! But it's great to meet you..." If it's in a bureaucratic context where it may become important to be able to identify yourself exactly or where your provided name needs to match up with your name on official documents, then I would definitely be proactive about making sure that whichever functionary you are dealing with knows that you have two. last. names. I would make an explanatory note, in writing, in such a case -- and I would it to still get messed up about 1/3 of the time.

This is going to be a persistent hassle though, I'm afraid. My mother never stopped having to correct people about her name, though she did eventually stop caring whether people got her name right or not. People still mess it up much more often than not, and she pretty much just lets it slide as long as there's not some compelling reason why it absolutely has to be correct. That may be all you can do here because people just do not seem to be able to get this one right, as strange as that may sound.
posted by Scientist at 9:26 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


"If anyone can either think of an argument against his line of reasoning, or a way of helping me to accept it, I would be very grateful for that too!"

Because if no one ever examined and changed behaviours based on "conventions", then women wouldn't be able to vote (because that was the norm, and fighting for voting rights was very "weird"), poor children would still be working in factories (very normal), basic rights for minorities (hell, slavery is in the bible, isn't it?), the list is endless.

It's not a complete coincidence that he has no issue with a convention that isn't unfair to him, and if he's a white male in a white male dominated area then I imagine there are very few "conventions" that would be, so deciding to stick with the norm makes sense.

Doesn't speak much for his abilities with empathy, however.
posted by Dynex at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes, people just like doing old fashioned stuff- and it's only sexist because everything old-fashioned is old... and our version of feminism has only been around for a couple decadeds.

Asking people to address you the way you want is totally fine- but I hope you take all envelopes in stride because it really isn't about you. Except for a very small minority of people, no one is striving to disrespect anybody.

Correct your friends and family- let it go for everyone else. It's just a lot of energy over someone's well intentioned (if hamhanded) holiday wishes.
posted by Blisterlips at 9:38 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


When we got married, I kept my name the same (just as my mom did). People from both of our families address cards to us as The Steals or Dude and Kendra Steal. It's annoying, I totally get that, particularly from my mom's family who really should know better. I also accept that we aren't following convention. (Though kudos to my husband for never expecting me to take his name in any form.)

Correct them if you feel like it. Short and direct. Be consistent with how you write your name in responses. I would also think about the degrees of closeness. Good friends, family members you see regularly and are close to - if they are addressing you by the wrong name, they should know better. Random great aunts? Eh... I would let that slide. There will probably be hold outs, but that's just sort of the price of family. If people are doing it pointedly to annoy you, that's stupid on their part and really... think about how dumb that is. I know you agonized over your name change but most people aren't that conscious.
posted by kendrak at 9:42 AM on December 20, 2012


One is 'moral high ground', the other, across from you is 'ludicrous position'. It is very tricky to tell which hill you're on, and sometimes, ringing old ladies might just be on the ludicrous side.

Choose your hills carefully. That is all.

Anecdata: I went to the same school as Boss and Mrs Boss but when I was addressing wedding invitations I addressed it to Mr Boss and family (since I knew most of them and had attended their wedding from HIS side). They didn't come to the wedding. Instead they showed up a week later where she made it a point to say that they did not attend due to it not being addressed to her as well. I had no intention of any discourtesy, simply extending the invitation to all concerned *and* handwriting hundreds of envelopes meant I might have taken the easier umbrella way out (they used to live with his parents).

I also kept my own entire name. Something I never regretted since I was divorced later and no paperwork was required for name changes.

I learnt a lesson well but have lost close friend Boss whom I've known since forever. Its been 15 years.

I still hurt.
posted by infini at 10:12 AM on December 20, 2012


As another data point: My mother has the same name configuration that you do, and she says that her maiden name is now her middle name. No one addresses mail to her as Mrs. FirstName MaidenName LastName - usually just Mrs. FirstName LastName.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:13 AM on December 20, 2012


I think you should let the issue about how cards are addressed to you and your husband go. There's all sorts of ancient formalities swirling around sitting down and actually writing something to another person that is quite frankly not really something most people today feel like navigating for the one time they use it in a year.


On the other hand, I think it's completely appropriate to correct people who verbally address you with the wrong name. And in my experience most people just make a mental note and move on. Have you ever been addressed verbally as Mrs. X Hisname? Quite possibly not, because that sounds old as dirt, but for some reason the written formality hasn't dies quite as fast.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:38 AM on December 20, 2012


My cousin, who kept her own name, often, upon receiving the mail, says to her husband, "Oh, you and Mrs. Yourlastname got invited to a wedding again! Do tell me when I'll get to meet her!" I assume this is her way of making a joke out of something that she finds infuriating, which, if you choose to go with the "get over it" route, might be the best way to go. Of course, her husband (mostly) finds this funny--others may vary.
posted by newrambler at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saying that your maiden name is now your middle name sort of flatly contradicts a basic truth about your identity, something which is true by fiat, i.e. simply because you say it is. It's your name, not the world's name for you, and if you say you have two last names then you do. (Having two last names isn't even that unusual, lots of cultures have situations where people have to last names, it's quite in Latin America for instance.)

Well, that was what I thought at the time - that the whole point of a deed poll was to make your name whatever you said it was. I teach, and we get plenty of Spanish and South American visiting pupils, and we can all cope with them having three names; none of us shorten X Y Z to X Z unless they ask us to. I accept, though, that the two-surname thing just isn't common enough for people to believe it exists, and that people aren't going to call me that just because I do.

And if you know for sure someone's using the wrong name to spite you, I would just laugh that someone is spending so much effort going, "I'll misaddress her letter! THAT'LL SHOW HER! AN ENVELOPE! MWAH HA HA HA." Um, great evil plan there!

I know, I know, I realise no-one's doing that. I suppose I just couldn't help interpreting it as just not giving a toss - a bit like that time one of our best and oldest friends got us a coffee machine for our wedding, when there was no way she could possibly not have known that neither of us ever drinks coffee.

What I can't work out is that the same people who are calling me Mrs X Hisname on the envelope are somehow managing to remember that my first name has an accent on one of the letters when they write it in the card (even though I don't even bother putting it on myself when my name is typed, because it's just too much effort) - so it's not that they're forgetful, careless or don't bother with details, they just don't care that they're calling me by a name that, at some stage in our friendship, I made it very clear that I didn't want to be called. Or at least, that's what it feels like; it's not that I don't realise that people are busy and addressing envelopes just isn't a big deal and all the rest, I suppose it's just that I wouldn't do that myself, that's all.

It's not a complete coincidence that he has no issue with a convention that isn't unfair to him, and if he's a white male in a white male dominated area then I imagine there are very few "conventions" that would be, so deciding to stick with the norm makes sense.

Well, I do honestly think a lot of it is coincidence. I really do believe him when he says that if men changed their names more often than not, then that's what he'd do. I can truly say that he is not remotely sexist about any other issue - this really is just a blind spot for him, which is why it makes so little sense to me. I blame his excessively traditional upbringing rather than him - I suppose it is as much ingrained into boys that they won't change their names as it is into girls that they will change theirs - which is why I think it's very, very important that if we ever have any male children, they do not grow up just assuming that they'll never have to change their name, so it isn't a shock to them when they marry an uppitty feminazi who doesn't want to change hers!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 11:16 AM on December 20, 2012


ablazingsaddle and others - My mom has that name configuration too, and considers it her middle name (she dropped her original), but that doesn't mean that it's correct in all cases.

My mom is Mom Herlast Dadlast, or Mrs. Dadlast, alphabetized under D. She'd be grumpy with letters addressed to Mrs. Herlast Dadlast, since that's not her name.

The Peruvian writer is (Jorge) Mario (Pedro) Vargas Llosa, Mr. Vargas Llosa, alphabetized under V. If he follows the typical Latinoamerican pattern, he'd be Mario Vargas, not Mario Llosa, in casual conversation.

For no reason than my own taste, my opinion of my own name and my intended's (among the many options I'm considering) is that it looks nicer as Me Mine His than as Me Mine-His. Leaving me as Ms. Mine His, etc etc. If I go that route, I plan on leaning heavily on "Two last names, like in Spain" to get my point across (even though the sources of the last names don't actually follow the traditional pattern.)

To answer the original question - Raspberry, did you keep your original middle name? I wonder if in addition to the standard problems of variously-named women everywhere, you're also fighting familiarity with a fairly standard convention (in my mom's circle, anyway) of middle-name-izing maiden names.

If that applies, some stationary (or email footers) reading Raspberry Middle Ripple HisName would suggest pretty strongly to me that I was dealing with a person with two last names, while I might not know (until you told me) how you preferred Raspberry Ripple Hisname to be split up.

And of course there's no reason you should have to lean on *any* tradition to get called what you want to be called, but you could always try reminding people that having two (or more!) last names is vastly common in large parts of the world.

This doesn't really solve the problem of people who have already been told what you prefer neglecting to address you by your name, but I wonder if it might help you set up people's expectations as they're meeting you
posted by heyforfour at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2012


I took my husband's last name when we married, kept my middle name (since it has a special family significance), and dropped my maiden name entirely. Names still get screwed up:

- People send mail to my husband as Mr. HisFirstName MyMaidenName.

- I still get things addressed to MaidenName-MarriedName. I have never used my name hyphenated.

- Sometimes I get things as Ms. FirstName HisLastName de MaidenName. I've never used that format either, but some women in the family do. It's possible they put me on a mailing list in that format.

I see these as accidental errors. No one is sending me a Christmas card to offend me. I don't even bother to correct it. I just can't be bothered trying to get everyone's address book corrected. If it bugs you a gentle correction is certainly fine.
posted by 26.2 at 11:31 AM on December 20, 2012


My mother changed her name under duress, by the way. My dad's health insurance company refused to believe they were married with separate names. Granted, this was thirty years ago.

If it makes you feel any better, I'm a woman with an adrogynous name and I get a lot of mail and email addressed to Mr. Abalazingsaddle. My last name is also frequently mispelled, and while it's slightly Eastern European, it's not terribly uncommon or difficult to spell. And my mother's female friend who is a doctor often gets Christmas cards addressed to, "Dr. and Mrs. Lastname." And unmarried female teachers are often called "Mrs." instead of "Ms." (or worse, "Miss"). In sum: People are bad at addressing others correctly. Get stationary with your name, verbally correct people when you get the chance, and let this go.

If it really bothers you, go back to your maiden name or hyphenate. A lot of Christmas cards will still probably be addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname," though, because people are not good at this stuff.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:38 AM on December 20, 2012


This might come off as sounding slightly crazy -- I don't know of anyone who has done this thing that I've always kind of wanted to do -- but here goes:

I am not married, and never have been. If I were to be married, though, I would raise the following option to my wife-to-be (I certainly wouldn't insist upon it):

We combine our last names into an entirely new amalgamation, and both change to that. I don't mean anything like "we both take a hyphenated combination of our last name". Instead, for example, looking at the NYT's website and taking the names of the first man and woman that I see on there:

Were I Cory Booker, and engaged to Scarlett Johansson, I would suggest that we both change our last name to Bookansson*.

I think this sort of thing is pleasantly symbolic of our mutual joining, and the equality between us, and it avoids (what seems to me to be) issues that go along with hyphenation and such.

And, although I certainly understand and respect the wish to keep a birth name, honestly the idea of being "the X's" rather than "Cory Y" and "Scarlett Z" is appealing to me on some level; I think this is a good way to get to the good parts of that without needing to also take the bad parts ("the woman's name is thrown away because she is the woman").

So then instead of "I'm not Mrs. Him!", it's more "I am Mrs. Him, and he is Mr. Her, too".

Perhaps (if this sort of thing sounds appealing to you) you could suggest it to your husband and see if it sounds good to him too.

*: I must admit I find "Bookansson" significantly more appealing than the option, "Johooker".
posted by Flunkie at 11:50 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


a bit like that time one of our best and oldest friends got us a coffee machine for our wedding, when there was no way she could possibly not have known that neither of us ever drinks coffee.

Yeah, I have a friend like this, for whom even well-intentioned gifts and things are seen as not quite good enough, or even as slights. Who knows, your friend may have known you love to entertain so got you a nice coffee machine for use with guests because she knew you wouldn't have one. It's really much more pleasant to assume the best about people.

Not to move away from your original complaint but as you say, maybe the two are related.
posted by headnsouth at 11:54 AM on December 20, 2012


Yep, I tried that, Flunkie - I think it's a great idea too; equally fair to both parties, and as you say, nicely symbolic of joining together to become a new unit. Unfortunately his stance is he isn't changing his name at all, regardless of what I do with mine.

headnsouth, her reason was "you're both teachers, and teachers drink a lot of coffee, don't they?". A gift based on an assumption about our jobs that her knowledge of us contradicted felt a little thoughtless, that's all (not just to us, incidentally, but to several of our other friends; but maybe they are all as whiny, nit-picky and unappreciative as I am). But I take your point.
posted by raspberry-ripple at 12:04 PM on December 20, 2012


[Please don't turn this into a different conversation, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:36 PM on December 20, 2012


FWIW I don't think you're insufferable at all. You want people to use your name correctly which is an entirely reasonable request. Just noting that you've got to go to the person directly. Anything else is going to yield some hard feelings.
posted by 26.2 at 12:39 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also FWIW, despite being one of the "Oh, this is always going to happen, forget it" sorts upthread, I would also encourage you not to be afraid to mention it to people who mess it up, if you think they're not people who will take it the wrong way. At the very least, it could be a perfectly good excuse for a conversation with Great-Aunt Hortense who doesn't hear from you much these days, and that'll be nice.
posted by Etrigan at 12:56 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm put in mind of the Caitlin Moran quote, “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.”

What you're being pressured to do by some folks here is to accept being called by your spouse's name rather than your own. Now, imagine that you misaddressed an envelope to married couple John Smith and Jane Doe-Smith to "Mr. and Mrs. Doe-Smith." The next time you see John Smith, he smiles, thanks you for the card, and says, "Only Jane's a Doe-Smith, by the way. I go by just John Smith." Would you then find John "childish, churlish, uppity, [and] self-centered"? Would you wonder where on earth he got the nerve to reprimand you like that, and withhold future holiday greetings out of spite?

Of course not. You'd make a note to get it right next time. Many would even feel bad for "emasculating" him. Calling a man by a woman's name! Heavens to Betsy! Don't let anyone hack off part of you if they wouldn't hack off part of a man.
posted by cirocco at 1:01 PM on December 20, 2012 [20 favorites]


I agree that getting names right is really important. There is a great deal of variety in the way cultures use names, so it shouldn't be that difficult for people to at least pay attention to. However.

I would consider an alternate plan, and consistently thank people who get your name right. You have considered your husband's preferences, and have adopted his name; he should consider your preferences, and introduce you as Jane HerLast HisLast. People learn by repetition: make sure your checks have your correct name, and the email system at work, etc. The email admins may gripe about getting your email name correct, but they can do it. You should use HerLast HisLast in your personal email. Use address stickers that list both of your correct names:
Jane HerLast HisLast
R. Chris HisLast
street
city
and maybe even get printed holiday cards with
Jane HerLast HisLast and R. Chris HisLast
that you hand write Jane & Chris on.

Make it a habit to calmly correct people
Friend: This is Jane HisLast
You: Nice to meet you, I use Jane HerLast HisLast. Here's my card, do you have a card? It will be so helpful to have email addresses as we work on this committee, etc.

I would correct family members who mis-address you, and anyone with whom you have a business relationship. I would try hard not to let people's errors get to you. It's hard to remember names at all, and people are imperfect. Best, Theora Herlast
posted by theora55 at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I know, I know, I realise no-one's doing that. I suppose I just couldn't help interpreting it as just not giving a toss - a bit like that time one of our best and oldest friends got us a coffee machine for our wedding, when there was no way she could possibly not have known that neither of us ever drinks coffee

They probably don't give a toss, really. I know it's important to you, but that doesn't make it important to anyone else. And I have no idea which of my friends and acquaintances would have no use for a coffee machine, except for one former co-worker who went into too much detail about her UTIs. You might have agonized over it with them before the wedding, but they might have just lumped it in the same "forget about this" basket with you agonizing about flower choices or what kind of cake to serve.

There's a chance you're taking this too personally and too seriously. I get Christmas cards addressed to Mr Corpse's last name and I don't see what the harm is -- yeah, it's not actually my name, but they're not calling me that to my face and they don't mean anything cruel by it.

It's going to get worse if you have kids, so you might want to relax now. My daughter and I have one last name, while Mr Corpse and our son have a different last name, and we all get called by the wrong name all the time -- but I figure that's just the price we pay for being unconventional, and I don't mind. I don't even consider it a price to pay, come to think of it, it's just a little quirk of life.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


> "Only Jane's a Doe-Smith, by the way. I go by just John Smith." Would you then find John "childish, churlish, uppity, [and] self-centered"?

Kinda, yeah, because I think either nobody should change their names or everybody should.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:06 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another thought: I've known many women who've taken on two last names like you have, or I see them on Facebook using both last names, and most of them have gradually dropped their birth names and now just go by Hislastname. People might be presuming you're making a gradual transition rather than abruptly changing your name. They're wrong and they're annoying but they're not being mean.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:08 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course not. You'd make a note to get it right next time. Many would even feel bad for "emasculating" him. Calling a man by a woman's name! Heavens to Betsy! Don't let anyone hack off part of you if they wouldn't hack off part of a man.

I am a (what some people would call radical) feminist, and I know that it's painful, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. If someone is addressing you by the wrong name at work, for example, that's a big fucking deal. Christmas cards from distant relatives? Eh.

And by the way, if you're unhappy with the decision to take your husband's last name, you can change it back! In much the same way people don't care enough to get your name right now, no one will be shocked if you go back to using your original last name.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:27 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


hey OP, if it makes you feel any better, my own dad (with whom I am very close, and who respects me probably more than anyone else in the world does) sometimes addresses correspondence to our house to Mr & Mrs HusbandFirst HusbandLast.

It struck me as a funny oddity the first time. I figure maybe it is him trying to indicate respect for my husband and my couple-hood. But really it's... just an envelope, and who cares?

And your friends who "should know better".... are just trying to get through their giant pile of cards before their hands cramp up, you know? It isn't the issue to them that it is to you. They mean no harm. They're just trying to address some cards to families they love and get them all done before New Years'.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2012


My goodness, this has become quite a long thread! I am not able to read through all of the responses you received, but many that I did read are quite reasonable.

for my own part, I did almost exactly what you did. My name, which I changed after a year of marriage as a surprise gift to my husband, is MyFirst MyMiddle MyMaiden HisLast. Basically, I now have two middle names on my social security card, but everywhere else I use my maiden as my middle, including my passport.

When people address things to both of us, my strong preference is to have both our first names and our shared last name. The one person who really took years and years to get this right was my mother of all people. She is pretty old school, and she addressed things to Mr and Mrs Hisfirst HisLast for about the first 15 years of our marriage. It took a long time for me to fess up and tell her that I would prefer not to be called Mrs HisFirst HisLast, and even longer for her to remember to do it, but eventually she came around. I think if you have a reasonably open relationship with these folks, you can ask them to call you by your preferred name.

Years after we were married, my husband completed his PhD. I dreaded the first envelope that said Dr and Mrs HisFirst HisLast, and when it finally came, I was pretty irritated. But, since this was from a person who wasn't close to us, there was nothing we could do to change it. (I have a Master's degree, and I'm still waiting for the address to come to Dr and Master HisLast. Some day.)

That all said, I think you need to choose the people whom you can ask politely to use your full name, and let the others slide. It becomes less important as the years pass. :)

Also, when we put return addresses on our envelopes, we use MyLast His Last as the name on the first line. It makes me feel a little better. Might it for you?
posted by blurker at 1:53 PM on December 20, 2012


Women still change their name when they get married? I assumed that custom wouldn't survive another generation.

Please keep insisting that people address you by your real name—as well as afford you every other basic sign of respect.
posted by she's not there at 2:06 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


About the two last names vs. a middle name and a last name thing. My mom has a two-name first name (e.g. "Barbara Ann"). And forever, just about every mass mailing referred to her as Barbara. (Past tense because I don't see her mail anymore.) Maybe she'd get lucky and be called BarbaraAnn. That space between Barbara and Ann was and maybe still is just an unbridgable chasm as far as many companies are concerned.

I provide this in case it's helpful to hear an example that doesn't involve a lack of attention to gender and cultural equality issues. People don't know how to deal with spaces in names, especially when mass-addressing things. Yes, people should learn that a space doesn't always separate different parts of the name. But they haven't yet.
posted by slidell at 2:07 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Of course not. You'd make a note to get it right next time. Many would even feel bad for "emasculating" him. Calling a man by a woman's name! Heavens to Betsy! Don't let anyone hack off part of you if they wouldn't hack off part of a man."

This isn't something that is universally regarded with indignation, BTW. At my church there used to be a couple called Firstname Twopart Lastname. After they'd been there six years, one of them mentioned that actually, they were called Firstname Herlastname Hislastname. The husband's real name was Firstname Hislastname, but there was a typo in the church's address list.

He was quite a prominent speaker and writer by then, so he would have had definite professional motives for correcting the error, however, he just honestly didn't give a shit. Did not care what we called him.

He could also have asked that the typo be corrected, and then the error would never have persisted.
posted by tel3path at 2:26 PM on December 20, 2012


>>It's not a complete coincidence that he has no issue with a convention that isn't unfair to him, and if he's a white male in a white male dominated area then I imagine there are very few "conventions" that would be, so deciding to stick with the norm makes sense.

>Well, I do honestly think a lot of it is coincidence. I really do believe him when he says that if men changed their names more often than not, then that's what he'd do. I can truly say that he is not remotely sexist about any other issue - this really is just a blind spot for him, which is why it makes so little sense to me.


I wasn't saying he's sexist, it was an argument for why this blind spot of his is blind. His reasoning is bad, if he doesn't defend or use that bad reason, then why hold that belief?

There was a local woman once who decided her first name wouldn't be capitalized and fought hard to have all her government issued ID written such. My first thought was that's completely idiotic, but when I examined it I couldn't think of why other then "how it's done, the norm, not being "weird"". Those are just plain bad reasons to police someone else's choices and behaviour.

They are also the reasons the first part of your two last names is getting left off of envelopes, come to think of it.
posted by Dynex at 2:29 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


My wife kept her name and regularly receives mail with my last name. It just means it's coming from someone who doesn't know her well, whether they are family or friends or from the school district or elsewhere. No point in getting mad about it. It comes with doing something that is strange and foreign to a large group of people.
posted by look busy at 2:35 PM on December 20, 2012


They didn't come to the wedding. Instead they showed up a week later where she made it a point to say that they did not attend due to it not being addressed to her as well.

That is utterly ridiculous.

Anyway, I kept my last name when I got married. Not really for feminist reasons, but I spent years where I was primarily referred to by my last name and the idea of changing it just seemed too weird to me. Everyone, even my parents and siblings, addresses things to me at Mrs. [Husband's Lastname] from time to time, if not always. I remind them sometimes, but mostly I just get over it. It's hard to push back against something so overwhelmingly the norm.
posted by lullaby at 3:13 PM on December 20, 2012


Hey, I didn't even change my name, and I still get cards with Mrs. Hislastname.

Next time I'm talking to the person, I just mention that I never changed my last name. Not that I don't like it, but my first name is really uncommon, and just really goes better with my original last name.

Of course, people usually pronounce my first name incorrectly, so I already have a running start on the whole 'what's my name' thingy. But I assume that people actually would like to address me by my actual first and last name, and are just taking a best shot at what that is. I've been lucky - no one's really given me grief over it when I've corrected them. If they forget two or three times, (and I've corrected them, I usually just let it go) - it's usually only about 15% of the group.
posted by anitanita at 3:29 PM on December 20, 2012


It's not wrong for your spouse to want to be called by his name, either, by the way. It's interesting that him wanting to keep his name the same is seen as sexism on his part by some in this thread. I think that's unfair. Why assume he has less of a personal connection to his name than you do to yours? It was a nice gesture for you to take his last name as well as yours, but not something either partner should feel compelled to do. He told you his preference, but I would hope it was just that, and not coercion on his part to take his name. Likewise, there is no reason for him to feel compelled to take yours.

Well, here's the thing-- not only does he not want to change his name, he'll probably be hurt if she doesn't take his name, and so his practical, conventional, egalitarian way of looking at things is actually just sexist in the way that a lot of sexism is just borne of ignorance and/or laziness. I don't mean to use any of these words as horrible slurs-- OP, I'm sure your husband is a cool guy who is usually egalitarian, and that you have a good marriage-- but like 99% of situations and questions like this one from the women's POV include some kind of note about how their husband will "let" them do whatever they want but will be "kind of hurt" if they don't take his name and also they obviously will not change their name and think it's "much easier to go with convention."
posted by stoneandstar at 4:23 PM on December 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm glad that hearing other women's experiences makes you feel a bit better.
My contribution: I got engaged in the first week of December last year. The following week we got a Christmas card from my fiancee's stepmom addressed to Him and Her HisLastname. We'd only been six days and she took it upon herself to marry us and change my name for me!

I rolled my eyes, chalked it up to her incredibly self-centered nature and let it go. I'm keeping my last name and assume this sort of thing will continue to happen. It's completely galling but I choose to see it as a reflection of her character and not mine.
posted by 8dot3 at 5:12 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have always loved the advice given by, I think, Emily Post (hers was in regards to someone who didn't like being addressed informally by strangers, but I think it applies).

Imagine the tone of voice you would say to someone addressing you formally to invite them to address you informally. Using that tone, state, "Please call me Ms. [Firstname] [lastname] [lastname]."

You are not making an impolite request; the tone is because you're tyring to minimize their embarrassment for makign such a blunder, so you are kindly correcting them. Remain polite, but firm - your name is your name, and you deserve to be called by it.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:18 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


raspberry-ripple, if/when you ever make any kind of singular achievement (write a paper, receive the Nobel Peace prize, earn the high score on Words With Friends ) and are misattributed as Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname, then I absolutely think you should speak up for yourself! In that instance, I feel like it would be treating you as if you were an appendage of your spouse rather than an individual in your own right, and that's insulting.

I just don't think that's what's going on with the holiday cards. I think people who care about you are just messing up because they feel that Mr. and Mrs. FirstInitial Hislastname is the formal way to address the two of you in written correspondence.

On preview: stoneandstar, a woman may think it is "much easier to go with convention" and take her husband's name so as not to hurt her fiance's feelings, but her fiance may also feel like he should buy her a diamond engagement ring, for the same reason. Or they may just want to do those things! That's entirely up to them, and I'm not going to label them as sexist if they choose to go the conventional route. I think it's presumptuous to assume you know anyone's motivations better than they do themselves. Obviously, YMMV.
posted by misha at 5:30 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not quite the same situation, but: I took my husband's last name (I liked it better than mine), but I prefer go by Ms. MyFirstName HisLastName, not Mrs.—there's just nothing about "Mrs." that feels right to me. But of course just about every card we get in the mail to both of us is addressed to Mr. & Mrs. OurLastName.

I feel weird every time I see that "Mrs." on there—it's the same feeling I get when I see a typo—but I also know that there's no way everyone knows (or that everyone who does know will even remember) that I prefer Ms. to Mrs. And I don't send out many physical holiday cards myself, nor do I ever sign things with my title, so there isn't really a good way to let them know.

And so...I don't worry too much about it.

But of course, this is your name—and names, unlike titles, seem to be sticking around. So another anecdote: For continuity and general ease for myself and everyone else, my work email address has remained the same, even though I've changed my last name. But I've changed the initials I use to sign off on things or post my schedule on the work calendar. As far as I know, everyone who's wanted to reach me has been able to reach me by email—but even a couple years later, coworkers still sometimes use my old initials on things.

I used to get a little frustrated by this—it's not like changing your last name is that old-fashioned or uncommon, even in my field, where a lot of women writers make the decision to keep their last name for SEO reasons or so the clips don't look weird or what have you. (Which, honestly, I think is kind of a copout and a way to avoid dealing with difficult questions. Anyone who would discount a woman's work because she has two different last names on it over the years is a fool. And if you can't make the SEO work, you probably shouldn't be worried about SEO in the first place. But I digress...) Anyway, I've just corrected it whenever possible, and persisted in using my own initials (we initial a lot), and people have gradually started to get it. I think that's about all you can reasonably do!
posted by limeonaire at 5:38 PM on December 20, 2012


Oh, and another anecdote, which gives lie to the idea that going by one's maiden name will solve this: My officemate, who has an uncommonly spelled first name and kept her last name, keeps a running list of the bizarre names people have addressed her by. She too goes by Ms., and feels completely weirded out when people address her as Mrs. But there's not really much she can do to alleviate the confusion about any of it, other than clearly stating her name, her title, and their spelling when the opportunity presents itself.

I think some of my resignation on this also comes from the fact that I have a first name that for whatever reason almost no one but the elderly seems to be able to spell. (It was a top-10 name in an earlier era.) And I now and always have had last names that are extremely common, yet are consistently misspelled—the only thing I can reliably conclude is that people really just can't (or don't care to) spell correctly. So I automatically spell my name for people when I give it to them, I take pains to always spell my own name right (I have, sigh, seen many people who don't), and beyond that, I can't worry too much about it (beyond minor grousing).
posted by limeonaire at 5:51 PM on December 20, 2012


(Are all these envelopes addressed by hand? If not, my first assumption would be that a mail-merge is making its own rules since the two last names are not hyphenated. That might make it feel less personal both on the receiving end and the correcting end. Just a thought.)
posted by Room 641-A at 6:12 PM on December 20, 2012


I've been married for well over a decade; my spouse and I both kept our birth names. There was only once that I was addressed as Mrs HisFamilyName when we had been married a month. It was a company that had dealt exclusively with him but knew I existed and called up asking for the Mrs HisFamyName fortunately my MIL was in the room so I passed the phone to her, wondering how they knew she was at my house...

Since then I have never had anyone call me by his name, and only a couple of times has a teacher called me Ms MyFamilyName-HisFamilyName (which is my children's name). I deal a HUGE amount with bureaucracies and institutions too with no problem.

Because I work in such a diverse society the expectations about family names are flexible; I hope your area also moves away from the rigidity you see. There is hope.

One thing I often do in writing names is putting the entire family name in CAPS (since it can sometimes be placed where westerners think of the "first name") which also captures family names with spaces (very common in the Italian and Latin American community too) so the name may look like Mitzou Peaches LA FEMME where La Femme is the family name.
posted by saucysault at 6:47 PM on December 20, 2012


I'm not a traditionalist by any means, and I am one of the only people in my group of married friends that changed her last name when she got married, and I would never address a card to Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname regardless of what the wife's last name is, AND this is going to make me sound like a total bitch, but if I received a phone call or email from you telling me that I addressed your holiday card incorrectly and in the future, please address it to whatever it is you decide you prefer, then more than likely you would not get a holiday card from me next year because I went through the effort of sending you a card and you are clearly missing the whole point of me sending you a holiday card, so why should I even bother from now on out? So that is just something to consider when you're getting mad about holiday cards specifically.

To directly answer your question - the only polite way of reminding people of your preferred name is to send your own card with the wording that you prefer.

(And I do agree with several others that the way you have chosen to do your name by dropping your middle name and adding a second last name is probably confusing because a lot of people, myself included, just use their maiden name as their middle name nowadays, so that may be part of the problem.)
posted by echo0720 at 7:09 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are a few direct questions I've neglected to answer:
heyforfour, yes I did keep my original middle name. I'm in the UK, where as far as I know there isn't a tradition of turning maiden names into middle names.

Shortly after I got married I changed my name on Facebook from Myfirst Mylast to Myfirst Mylast Hislast, and did the same with my e-mail signature. My actual e-mail address stayed the same, with just my maiden name. (I will concede that the Facebook thing could be a little misleading if you don't know me outside Facebook, as I could be doing that thing where you put your maiden name in just so that people who only know you by that can find you on Facebook. I have, however, more commonly seen that as either "Firstname Hisname Was Hername" or "Firstname Hisname (Firstname Hername)" - I don't know anyone who puts a middle name in their Facebook name who doesn't actually call themselves by that name. Which is not to say that people don't do it, obviously.)

I still don't reeeally buy the "they just think it's your middle name" thing for close friends, because a) well, I've told them it isn't and b) if I drop one surname, conversationally or in writing or whatever, it's his. I never ever refer to myself as Myfirst Hislast, but I do quite often still call myself Myfirst Mylast. Because of this, I'd sort of imagined that people would never get used to calling me or even thinking of me as just Myfirst Hislast - you know how it takes a little while to get used to calling someone by their married name, then after a while you have to think about it a little to remember their maiden name? I've tried to make sure this doesn't happen in my case.

Room 641-A, the addresses are being written by hand.

I think my fundamental misreading of the situation is this: I had this idea that if, when I'm writing addresses on envelopes, I think about whether someone changed their name or didn't or likes to be addressed as something other than The Norm, then so must other people. However, I think I've got a large enough sample size now to appreciate that while I'm doing this because names - even just names on Christmas card envelopes - matter to me because of my various hang-ups, I have to accept that they do not matter that much to most other people, and what has been, is and will continue to be A Thing for me has completely disappeared from everyone else's minds. Which is completely fair enough, we all have our own concerns.

I think my original question really should have been "How can I stop being annoyed by this?", as I don't think I ever really had any intention of doing anything about it. The only thing I've done is ask my husband, not in the context of Christmas cards even but at some point in the future, to tell members of his family that actually my name isn't Myfirst Hislast as they've been assuming - as I suspected, he'd never told them otherwise at all... I may go back to my maiden name altogether, as some of you are suggesting - I don't think that's a bad idea. I do go by my maiden name at work, and I still get asked "What's your real name?" by the children I teach. Usually asking them if they ever ask a married male teacher his "real" name gets the point across, though...

I think the only thing that continues to bother me is this. Part of my reason for wanting to keep my maiden name was that I felt a lot of pressure to change it, and a lot of people just assumed that was what I'd do. And changing it felt like perpetuating that - making it just that little bit harder for the next person who didn't want to change her name not to. So it feels, slightly, as though the more everyone accepts being called the "wrong" name, in whatever context, the more it will continue to happen to others. I suppose some small part of me has been cherishing the faint hope that if I sometimes say "actually that isn't my name", then the next person in my friendship group won't get the same set of assumptions and pressures when she gets married and will be called by whatever she wants to be called - in person and on the envelopes of her Christmas cards. I think there is still the perception among a lot of people, even, that you're not actually "properly" married if you don't change your name to his - I've even had people ask me why I bothered getting married if I wasn't going to change my name. I suppose this sort of thing just winds me up sooooo much that even the slightest reminder of it - like something as totally insignificant as a Christmas card envelope - makes me feel frustrated and pressured all over again. But I totally accept that it isn't actually that big a deal and I do indeed need to let it go and shut up about it. Thank you for all your thoughts!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 12:53 AM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


On preview: stoneandstar, a woman may think it is "much easier to go with convention" and take her husband's name so as not to hurt her fiance's feelings, but her fiance may also feel like he should buy her a diamond engagement ring, for the same reason. Or they may just want to do those things! That's entirely up to them, and I'm not going to label them as sexist if they choose to go the conventional route. I think it's presumptuous to assume you know anyone's motivations better than they do themselves. Obviously, YMMV.

You can not label them sexist if you want, but there are sexist structures in play that make women feel like they "should" take a man's last name and make men feel like they "should" spend tens of thousands of dollars on an engagement ring/not receive one themselves. It's actually cathartic to acknowledge this, for many people.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:29 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's one thought, for how to be less annoyed. When I address Christmas cards, I usually sit down with a huge stack and a movie to get me through it, and just flip through my address book writing out the names and addresses that are in there. I hope I have everything accurate, but I don't really have a way to find out unless someone lets me know or they send me a card and I can tell that the name or address is different from what I've got. (And I do check, but I'm not sure I'd realize that you were using two last names unless you actually made a point to tell me, because to me, the name I had written down for you would look the same as the one in the card.) While it's important for me to be accurate (I try to write in my address book which women prefer Ms. and which prefer Mrs.), I am still handwriting forty cards and envelopes, and fairly quickly at that. So if I messed up, I'm totally sorry (and would fix it in my address book for next year), but are you glad you got the card?

I think you're right that not changing your name would help take the pressure off the next generation -- between my four parents and two in-laws, there are six last names. No one ever expected me to change my name, though they were also totally fine when my sister decided to change hers. And I also have a family friend (same generation as my parents) who had hyphenated her name to her husband's for years, and just decided to drop his name and just use the one name. I think go with what's going to make you happiest, name-wise.

And focus on how pretty the card is and that they wanted you to have it.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:50 PM on December 21, 2012


I have a bunch of friends who've gotten married over the last year or two. They are all thoroughly modern folks. Some of the women have Taken His Name. Some have Not Taken His Name. Others are in some grey area, as you are, or worse, they got married within the last few months and have not made it crystal clear what they are going by these days.

Now, all of these people are people whose choices I respect. But when you send someone mail, you can't just write "Hey, You!" on the envelope. Also, because of address writing conventions, not all forms of address are equally viable on the front of an envelope. (The case where the woman is hyphenating while her husband is not was especially thorny.)

So this year for cards I mixed it up. For one couple I wrote "JOHN AND SUZY FOREVER!" in lieu of surnames. For another, I arbitrarily combined their last names in a funny way that I know they aren't actually using. One blended/non-married-cohabiting family happens to have some members with the surname Lyons, so I made a The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe pun. In all these cases I assume that they get mail at their address regularly enough that postal workers can figure it out.

I'm pretty sure older people don't have this sense of envelope whimsy. They want to write the cards and send them and get it over with. Thus all married couples get "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith", and who cares if feelings are hurt. I don't have any solution for this, but I understand that they are old and this is how it was done in "their day". Sorry.
posted by Sara C. at 8:42 PM on December 22, 2012


[raspberry-ripple, I hope this has helped you sort things out a bit, but Ask Metafilter is not meant to be an in-depth conversation / continuing examination of the issue from the poster, so you need to relax with the commenting now. Thanks. ]
posted by taz at 1:24 AM on December 23, 2012


To update my earlier comment: I recently got married and got my first piece of mail addressed to Mr and Mrs Hisfirstname Hislastname. It annoyed me more than I thought it would. :)
posted by 8dot3 at 7:59 AM on March 21, 2013


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