need silly reasons why partner changed her last name
May 11, 2019 9:37 PM   Subscribe

My partner of many years had changed her last name years before we met. She was never married, she simply did not like her name and changed it. My boundary stomping, new age woo-woo, conspiracy believing, feng-shuiing, on the narcissistic spectrum mother has "done her research" on my partner. She has concluded that the name change was because of a prior marriage. Perhaps there is a slight chance this will come up on my mother's day call.

(and by slight I mean a 98% chance). So I would like to have some ridiculous responses for why the name change. Partner has travelled, so perhaps she was bequeathed the name in an Eastern temple. Or she was inspired by the name of the town where she had her first UFO encounter.
What other reasons could we give my Mom?
posted by Sophont to Human Relations (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
She wanted to have the same last name as her cat.
posted by hazyjane at 9:40 PM on May 11 [99 favorites]

She had to rid herself of (or gain) a last name that was an anagram for Voldemort.
posted by Temeraria at 9:46 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]

Does your mother know the previous name? If not, that opens up a lot of possibilities like "It had bad feng shui".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:53 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]

She traded her true name to the Faeries for [good luck, beauty, a sandwich]
posted by Tabitha Someday at 9:54 PM on May 11 [18 favorites]

How fortunate that my grandfather explained numerology to me. I'm not a follower of this, to be clear.

For a given name (the full name, first, middle, and last, together), assign a number to each letter of the name. A=1, M=13, T=20, etc.

No! You don't sum the numbers. For each number greater than 9, you add the two digits together to get a number 9 or less. Then you sum THOSE numbers together, then add the digits of the sum together. THEN if that's greater than 9, you add those digits together, and so on, until you get a single digit. THEN you look that number up in a table, and that's your destiny.

Then look up your destiny number in a table. If you really didn't agree with your destiny, changing your name would seem to be a good alternative. Be sure to check the destiny of the new name.
posted by amtho at 9:55 PM on May 11 [12 favorites]

It wasn't one previous marriage, it was five.

Witness protection program. For knowing too much about Big Foot.
posted by freethefeet at 9:57 PM on May 11 [16 favorites]

Her original last name was the same one as a notorious serial killer (or other nefarious profession of choice) and she got tired of seeing their picture every time she googled herself.
posted by cgg at 10:03 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]

She had the same name as your mom and thought it might be weird for you when you eventually met.
posted by bleep at 10:07 PM on May 11 [50 favorites]

She changed it back to what it was in her past life.
posted by ctmf at 10:18 PM on May 11 [20 favorites]

She traveled back in time and told herself to do it.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 10:43 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]

A dramatic deathbed confession revealed that she was switched at birth.
posted by notquitemaryann at 10:47 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]

the immensely powerful higher demon currently inhabiting her flesh prison had trouble pronouncing the old one and if your mother keeps embarrassing her by bringing it up then your partner will have no choice but to slurp the marrow from her bones
posted by poffin boffin at 10:55 PM on May 11 [17 favorites]

The old name was her spy name as an operative but she is so in love with you that she’s given up the spy business and now using a new name for safety reasons.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:00 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]

She found out that in Basque it meant "one who does unspeakable things to marmots with a tuning fork", and as she's always had a soft spot for marmots she had to change it.

Or you could just say with great drama "so the prophecy may be fulfilled" and refuse to elaborate further.
posted by Vortisaur at 3:04 AM on May 12 [30 favorites]

"She was tired of living a lie." (Give no explanation of what the lie was.)

New one fits with her superhero/villain alias better.

Really really wanted a firstname.lastname Gmail address.

It was the only way to break ties with the family business.

OR, her parent(s) changed their name and she wanted to still match.

Everyone in her werewolf-vampire cult has the same name.
posted by teremala at 4:43 AM on May 12 [7 favorites]

Might actually be accepted, depending upon your mom's proclivities: Her MLM uplink told her to do it.
posted by teremala at 5:59 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]

Her new last name is easier to spell (bonus points if the new name is much, much more complex than the old name).
posted by christinetheslp at 6:04 AM on May 12 [7 favorites]

She’s planning on running for president, and wants to give people like your mother lots of distractions from real issues, like how people are actually performing in their roles.
posted by childofTethys at 6:20 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]

I'd just whisper to her that "we realllly cant talk about this and please please please dont mention it again" and then quick say "I gotta go call you back soon from a different phone. love you lots bye"
posted by museum of fire ants at 6:29 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]

Your mother is absolutely correct. There was a previous marriage. And you guys get to sit down and invent him(her) and all the details. But maybe the details should be kind of boring. At least, the details you share with your mother will be boring. But you two will both know that her previous husband is now doing seven concurrent life sentences, and there is a hit out on him, all because he uncovered a conspiracy and well, go to town with extravagant imaginations, whatever story makes you and your partner smile and connect when you create it together.

It is kind to agree with deluded people whenever you can. It makes their life better and prevents conflict. Since your mother has boundary problems, and your earlier attempt to delineate and maintain the boundaries failed, you can either spend the rest of your relationship fighting over it and getting annoyed, or develop the resistance properties of warm applesauce.

In honour of mother's day, why not honour your mother by agreeing with everything she says and believes? If your mother tells you that you are a success in life because she picked the right name for you using numerology, thank her for her forethought. If your mother says that your partner has $5,000,000 in the bank, say that's it's a terribly pity that she won't use it to pay down your mutual student debts. If your mother says that Spring is the loveliest time of the year, consider how lovely Spring is and blythe on about flowers and buds for her. If your mother tells you that you are racist, mourn "I do wish I didn't react to other people that way!" If, in the very next conversation you have with your mother, seven minutes later, she asserts that she raised her children right and you could never be a racist, agree with her that her parenting priorities absolutely eradicated any possibility that you might be a racist, ever, accidentally or otherwise.

If she points out that you have just made two contradictory statements, agree that indeed you have, and allow her to inform you what it was that caused your muddled thinking, and how silly you sounded.

You have already won this argument with your mother. Down is still down, and up is still up and there is no need for you to die on the hill of explaining that gravity exists. Gravity will continue to exist no matter whether you argue fiercely and unstintingly in its defense or if you slander it, malign it and assert that there was never any such thing, and like centripetal force, gravity is a fraud, and there has never been any true evidence of its existence. Gravity will not cry if you do this.

But when you do this, do NOT mock your mother, and do not patronize her. Just agree with her. Language is an inexact tool, and it could be, when meanings are parsed with a razor, that what your mother is saying about Spring is correct, because of how she is using her words. And it is possible that scientists will discover that what we think is gravity is actually a reverse black hole and every principle or theory to explain what we experience when we thing something is up is not only wrong, but no longer works. It's not likely, but it's not impossible. This is why gravity is a theory.

It is also possible that your mother is using an inexact tool to convey emotional things. "Your partner was previously married," may be the best verbal approximation that your mother can come up with when she is trying to say, "I have uncomfortable feelings about the fact that your partner's past is unknowable to me and the nuances of her self identity and the changes that she has gone through are unknowable to me." Her choice of words to express this have resulted in her saying complete nonsense. But what she is saying when she argues this, is that her feeling about not knowing your partner and not being able to know your partner, and maybe even fear for you because you can't know your partner are real things. Yep. And if she took LSD she might briefly understand the imponderable gulfs between how we perceive other people and the reality of who those people are, but she would still not have the words to express that enormous feeling inside, and it would still only be important because it is important to her; that alienation is human condition and more complex and nuanced than we can ever express. Some poets sometimes communicate a spark of it, but the human brain and the language tools can't adequately express these things.

Mocking your mother will likely make her defensive and anxious, so figure out how much of what she says you can honestly agree with and agree with it. "Partner has done a lot of things I don't know about." "Partner trusts me enough that she is telling me about her past." "The most comon time when women change their names is when they get married." "Partner doesn't think about those times much anymore." Anything like that which you can say, which is true, and which appears to be in agreement to what your mother is claiming, is a good response that doesn't let your mother entice you into squabbling. "She's not ready to tell me about that." "Partner has proven to me that no matter what she doesn't want to share with my family, I can trust her absolutely." "Everybody has secrets." "Sometimes people feel awkward about things that are really simple." "You sound like you feel this quite strongly."

You can even try to trigger some analysis, "Do you think partner has bad secrets?" "Does she scare you?" Your mother is absolutely allowed to think about your partner's past and what it might entail. She's just not entitled to make you miserable or harass you with the results of her thoughts.

I'm sorry that this is not the answer you want - these replies to your mother's creative reality are not funny or absurd. They even will require you to think fast on your feet, to maintain your truth and honour your own reality while not not confronting your mother with her disordered thinking. But they are an option you might consider, if you are ready to attempt a complex response.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:41 AM on May 12 [24 favorites]

I would be inclined to mutter something about knowing Rule 1 of Fight Club and leaving it at that.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:49 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]

It is kind to agree with deluded people whenever you can. It makes their life better and prevents conflict.

I think I generally have to agree with Jane the Brown. Some people absolutely won't listen to reason and only want to believe what they want to believe. It does you no good to try to fight for real reality. Your mother wants to believe your SO has an ex, and she by god will believe this no matter what cute answer you give, probably.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:08 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]

I’d say that “agreeing with whatever she believes” is only an option if said NarcMom isn’t going to take the opportunity to damage Partner’s reputation. The last thing you give a person like that is ammunition. If NarcMom doesn’t have anyone to tell (a lot of people like this don’t have friends anyway), then okay. But if NarcMom is active in a community and has people who would participate in this conspiracy, then no fucking way. Or, at least, the reason given for the name change should be as blatantly absurd as possible, so that Reasonable People(tm) will see that straight off.

The last thing OP or Partner needs is to one day apply for a security clearance or some shit, and have the FBI call Mom and hear, “Partner had a previous marriage and both of them are lying about it!” Better to tell her that Partner was abducted by aliens and sent back to Earth as the Chosen One or something.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:08 AM on May 12 [12 favorites]

Tell your mom she changed her name when the original inhabitant left and the alien took over her body. It's the alien's name.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:35 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, one of my friends changed her surname because it was a dumb, embarassing name. The surname that she chose was the name of the city that her grandmother grew up in, because my friend is fond of her grandmother, and wanted to honour her.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:14 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]

she was bequeathed the name in an Eastern temple

I don't even know what this means, but probably don't say this.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:49 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]

- Her old name was on too many wanted posters.

- She changed it to help fulfill the prophecy.

- When she finally got her passport, and the name was wrong, it was just easier to go along with it.

- This is the name she got assigned when she came through Ellis Island.

- Someday, this will be your name too. Join us.

- if she speaks the old name one more time, Cthulhu rises

- We don’t like to talk about the Incident.

- Every seven years she sheds her name, and skin, and is reborn anew. Voracious.

- Would you believe identical non-twins?

- A year later, she again got conked on the head, and this time she remembered who she really was. But she kept the name, it was better.

- She is NOT in witness protection, and don’t say that again where they can hear you.

- With a straight flush on the line, there is nothing she won’t bet.
posted by bigbigdog at 10:27 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]

There was another [old name] in the secret Masonic/Illuminati/Rosicrucian-linked group that runs everything, so it would have been confusing.
posted by ctmf at 10:27 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]

Lost a bet. She's lucky the spread wasn't larger or she'd be going by Mary Poppins.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:48 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

I really hate to be the one to ask, but since it's unfortunately not conspiracy-woo level uncommon for identity fraud to occur, is there actually any possibility that she could be correct, or does she confront you with absurd notions she's "researched" on the regular?
posted by OnefortheLast at 10:49 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Just ask her to give you the details on the research and say that Partner will look at it and get back to her.

Really, don't mess up a Mothers Day call by ridiculing your mother.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:18 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]

Oh just to clarfiy, by identify fraud, I don't necessarily mean being done by your partner, although I suppose that's possible but not probable since you've been with them for years, but being done to your partner under their new or previous name. It might be worth looking into what she claims to have found.
She could have also just have found someone who shares one of your partners names who looks similar. If I Google my own name, the image results show a picture of woman who looks to be of the sameish age who could be mistaken for me by someone who doesn't know me well.
Either way, she may not be totally crazy, just... hypervigilantly protective?
posted by OnefortheLast at 12:18 PM on May 12

Changed the name per onerous conditions of an inheritance; was disinherited anyway, so of course it's not a favored topic of conversation.

(If your mom's insisting on investigating your partner of "many years", maybe she's reasoning that an early marriage which didn't end well is why partner isn't a spouse now? I don't know dude, it's Mother's Day -- you can only speculate why she's being weird, and how to go about taking the edge off. But I get why you're asking. If you can't be gentle when she's difficult, make things easier on everyone and keep the call short.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:31 PM on May 12

She got tired of people mispronouncing Schrvylkkfrnbotwnqqqfritibierxplqtntfnonbkrbkrbkrbkrbkrbkrfoe.
posted by mreleganza at 12:37 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]

I could tell you the real reason she changed her name mum, but the nice man from the FBI (or intelligence gathering bureau in your country) made me sign papers saying I wouldn't tell anyone that hasn't been cleared. Sorry, I'm sure you understand national security & all. A little later during the call as her if she heard that weird noise on the line. . . hmm don't worry I'm sure it's nothing (and it's definitely not someone recording the call no siree).
posted by wwax at 12:49 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]

Since your busy-body mom is going all conspiracy theory on this:
”To hide the fact that she was born in Kenya.”
posted by blueberry at 5:56 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]

Borrowing this from the show Taxi:

She changed it to her current name because she believed that if you said it backwards it spelled "Starchild" or something equally mystical. The fact that she is most likely wrong about this is itself the joke.

(Here's the exchange on Taxi that made me think of this:

Alex: Why'd you change your name to Ignatowski?
Jim: Try saying it backwards.
Bobby: Ix-wah-tangy.
Jim: ....Oh wait. That's nowhere near "Starchild", is it? Darn.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on May 13

Is there any reason why you can't just tell her the truth? That she didn't like her name, and changed it? I feel like giving her an obviously joking reason will fuel her belief that your fiance is hiding something from you.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:32 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure if you're looking for realistic reasons. . . but, my spouse picked a stage name in film school and has used it ever since as her name. (Formalizing it upon marriage raised some eyebrows at the government office, since it has no relationship to my name, but didn't actually break any of their rules, so they processed the paperwork and she got a hassle-free and cheap name-change.) Claiming your partner was in high-school theater, made up a name to fit on the handbills, and liked it would be hard to investigate.

"Her father/grandmother/aunt worked for a 'government agency' and was told that everyone in his family should change their names for their own safety" is another slightly goofy, but not-entirely-implausible option.
posted by eotvos at 9:12 AM on May 13

I'm not sure if you're looking for realistic reasons. . . but, my spouse picked a stage name in film school and has used it ever since as her name.

Oh!!! I have information that can help you turn this into a plausible backstory if you want!

The actors unions require you to register a "name" with them that is completely and totally different from anyone else's name on their register. (That's actually why you see so many actors use their middle initial or middle name - Anthony Michael Hall wasn't just being pretentious about insisting on people using "Michael" when they talk about him, he probably had to include the "Michael" in his stage name because there already was an "Anthony Hall" in the union records or something.) SAG is the same way. Usually this is just for your stage name, and you can keep your original name as your legal name.

However, there can be some complicating circumstances, because the actors unions in the US and the UK keep separate lists - and same too with the screen actors' unions in both countries. And because a lot of actors in the UK are now starting to get work on TV here, and vice versa, this is causing some people some issues.

Case in point (and I'm finally getting to my example): David Tennant. He was actually born "David McDonald". When he enrolled in the British actors' union when he was 16, there already was a "David McDonald", so he had to pick a new name; instead of adding a middle initial or something (he could have been "David John McDonald" or something), he just picked a new last name to use as his stage name. Legally, his name was still "David McDonald."

But "David Tennant" was the stage name, and then when he first started getting on British TV he used that as his stage name there too. And after 10+ years on stage and TV in the UK, he started getting notice here in the US. And finally someone cast him in a US-based production of something. But there was just one bitty problem - the US screen actors' union already had a "David Tennant" and were trying to get him to pick yet another name. Which was ridiculous, because he already had a very-well established career as "David Tennant", and didn't want to have to think up a third alternate name just for his work in the US.

Then he found some obscure case where an actor sued the US screen actors' union over the name thing; the practical upshot of which was that "if a given name is an actors' legal name, the US Screen actors' union can't force them to pick a different name." But the desired name had to be his legal name. So he officially and formally changed his legal name to "David Tennant" in the UK, simply to keep the name "David Tennant" with the screen actors' union in the US.

So to sum up - your partner could have had an illustrious screen career under that name as a child in [insert obscure nation here] but put that on hold when she came here; she legally changed her name to her stage name just in case she ever wanted to pick that back up. :-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]

Please OP, post a followup on this one.
posted by Dmenet at 10:37 AM on May 13 [6 favorites]

I should be buying a lottery ticket, since it was the 2% scenario that occurred. Partner is sure mom is going to bring this up in the future after I've been lulled into anticipating an innocuous conversation. She likes all the reasons here, thinks I should just go down the list.
posted by Sophont at 1:58 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]

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