Paging ShadePlant Sauerbraten...-Smith?!
October 4, 2011 11:20 AM   Subscribe

What have your experiences been if you have a different last name for your job vs. personal life? Will this help protect my privacy, or just make things a confusing mess?

I'm a social worker/therapist and am debating about whether to differentiate between my professional and personal last names. I am thinking of the name change for privacy reasons. I've locked down my social networking accounts and such, but am still concerned about where my personal information pops up online.

Another consideration is pronounciation. My personal last name is a Germanic jumble that is constantly misspelled and mispronounced. My fiancé's last name is easily spelled, but so common as to "blend in." For example, there are many ShadePlant Smiths, but only one ShadePlant Sauerbratenartzstein.

For example, if I change my name for work, do I keep my professional name on the business cards but my personal name on my drivers license, etc?!

Also, if I do differentiate, should I use Common for work or Common for personal?

posted by ShadePlant to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's not too hard to differentiate. Women who build professional reputations and then marry sometimes take their new husband's last name personally, but keep the maiden name professionally. Frankly, I'd feel weird taking on a new last name when my college degrees, which hang in my office, say something else. It's fine to socially be "Mrs. Smith" but at work be "Ms. Schwartzentruber."

It's most common for the maiden name to stay on business cards, office plaques, work email, etc., but married name to go on driver's license, social security card, etc. The most common pitfall in using different names in different places is booking airline tickets with the name that doesn't match your ID. So watch out for that, but otherwise you're probably fine.
posted by juniperesque at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're going to do this, I suggest you carry around a certified copy -- not photocopy, but a legitimate, stamped, certified copy -- of the papers that state you changed your name from Sauerbratenartzstein to Smith. Otherwise, you will be entering a world of pain with regard to bureacracies who insist on doing things by the book and will hear of nothing else. I worked at one of these for years and holy crap did people in your situation get put through the wringer.
posted by griphus at 11:32 AM on October 4, 2011

It might protect your privacy from a really trivial googling if you're super religious about never conflating the two names anywhere online (and if you're talking about your married/maiden names, you're probably already out of luck, because your wedding announcement is probably online already.) But anyone with any motivation and google skills will find the other name quickly.

Whatever is on your drivers license, credit cards, mortgage, etc, is going to be the harder name to get rid of. Changing all of that stuff is a royal pain in the ass (which is why I haven't done it yet, despite never using my legal name unless paperwork requires it) and will probably take a while to chase down all the bits and pieces. If that's the name on your diploma/professional licenses, your patients will see it and it won't be a secret.

It's probably just easier to use something unrelated as an online handle and be diligent about not crossing the streams. That won't solve all your problems, but it may be the best you can do for now.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:36 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

my maiden name is Mary Margaret Kunkelsweitzer.
my husband's last name is Smith
When I lived in another state, my professional names was Mary Margaret Smith.
Now I've moved back to my childhood home and my professional name is Mary Kunkelsweitzer Smith.
My driver's license says Mary Margaret Kunkelsweitzer-Smith
To my friends and family I go by Mary Smith
My dad calls me Mary Margaret, always.
My passport and SS Card say Mary Maragret Kunkelsweitzer.

The one and only problem I had with this was, when we purchased a house, I did it as Mary Smith, and two years later the bank wrote me a letter saying that didn't match the IRS records, and forcing me to reconcile the situation. I changed my bank accounts and mortgages to match the IRS.

Even though it seems confusing typing it out, I've never ever had a problem. I just don't let my clients/professional contacts friend me on facebook, and I remain uncontroversial on twitter, and all is well.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:51 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The warning I was given when I was considering retaining my maiden name as my professional name is that you can end up with huge confusions and problems if work or anything you deal with on a professional level is ever purchasing you plane tickets, as then the ticket name might not match your name. I eventually decided to just use one name for work and life: first maiden(rare) husband's name (common). This has given me the option of using my husband's name only for social things rendering it fairly hard for google to connect that to my professional life.
posted by girl scientist at 12:19 PM on October 4, 2011

My wife took my surname when we married, but later got a bout of feminism and hyphenated with her very uncommon maiden name. Due to the hassle of dealing with that hyphenated name, and in honor of her parents who've now both died, she wants to go by just her maiden name. Legally, my name is still her last name; she's never bothered to legally change her name (since she did when we married), but her driver's license (I think) and our bank accounts have her hyphenated name.

I never know what name she's used, and it drives me crazy. Call to check on something she ordered: "Is the order ready for Taylor? No such order? How about Maiden-Taylor? That's M-A-I-D-E-N-hyphen-Taylor, no M-A-I-D-as-in-dog-E-N-hyphen-Taylor. Or just Maiden?" Grrrrr...

What does this have to do with you? Whatever you decide to do, get the legalities sorted out, be consistent, and STICK WITH IT!!!!!

Good luck.
posted by tippiedog at 12:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My wife has all her life been called by her middle name but used her first name in business. As dpx.mfx notes, the only time this caused a problem was with financial paperwork.

When we got married we were in our 40's and both had careers, and we could not see any reason for her to change her name. The only time that has caused a problem was re-entering the country at a rural Canadian border crossing, the border agent had not gotten the memo that this was allowed.
posted by localroger at 1:05 PM on October 4, 2011

I began my first marriage using my maiden name professionally and my married name socially. My company was cool about issuing paychecks in my married name so it would match the joint bank account, and this was in the days before TSA so flying under my maiden name was never a problem. Over time, in a series of small steps, I ended up using my married name for everything except working with my clients.

One factor no one else has mentioned: You'll have a measure of privacy from prying clients if you use different last names. You won't even need an unlisted phone number.
posted by DrGail at 1:30 PM on October 4, 2011

Here's what I think you should do: keep your name legally, use it in a professional/legal context, and take your fiance's name socially. My former mother-in-law did this and I think I will do it, if and when the time comes.

Since you'll be starting fresh with the social name, you'll have more control over where and when you use the new name online. You'll have the anonymity you want, but without forgoing the professional reputation that is tied to your longer name or making everyone at work change their address books. It will also help you keep track of where you're listed online if your longer name is the one you want to control- you'll be able to find references to it much more easily.

I don't know that I see a lot of sense in doing the opposite of this. Your family and especially your in-laws will be confused if you're using your future husband's name only in a professional context, and you'll still spend a lot of time correcting people.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:58 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback; I think I'll just stick to one or the other for both work and play. I don't know if this is a great option for everyone, but I'm just pragmatic/lazy.
posted by ShadePlant at 8:06 AM on October 11, 2011

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