Ask Una is a satire column in which we ask those burning wedding questions we know you’re thinking about but are too afraid to put in writing. So we did it for you. Seriously (we’re not serious).
I was planning on changing my name when I get married. However, I just googled it and it appears to already belong to a burlesque performer who is famous in certain circles for living life as an “adult baby.” (DO NOT GOOGLE THIS, CANNOT UNSEE!!!) Can I in good conscience take my husband’s name knowing that for the rest of my natural life I’m going to have to make awkward explanations to future employers, not to mention endure the humiliation of sharing Google image search results with an aging “dancer” wearing a diaper?
—Soon-To-Be Mrs. Pampers
Dear Mrs. P,
Oh, baby, that is quite a conundrum! In the early aughts when I was a junior in college, another Una arrived on campus as a freshman. Back then, as in Plato’s cave, we had only analog phones, and had to spell out a person’s name using the keypad in order to reach their extension. Most students assumed there was only one Una and didn’t bother to add a last name, so I began to receive calls intended for her. This new Una was very popular, and I soon learned she that was a loud, exhibitionist type, prone to staging topless hunger strikes in front of the campus library. We looked nothing alike and shared few interests, but in the pre-Facebook era no one could tell the difference.
You, my dear, are facing a similar crisis—albeit one with far-reaching digital roots and presumably even more areola-baring. The first thing I would ask you is, between you and your soon-to-be-husband, who has the better last name? Not many couples consider this, and I think it’s important. In my view, whenever two people decide to wed, the family names should be forced to compete, Hunger Games–style, for dominance. If we adopted this Darwinian approach to domestic nomenclature, names containing middle school giggle-triggers like “butts” or “cock” would die out, alongside with objectively fine but ruined-by-that-one-guy monikers like “Dahmer” or “Trump.” Tradition is all well and good, but in my opinion, you should only take a man’s last name if it’s an upgrade. My husband’s surname is Armenian and starts with a Z, and I decided I have enough trouble as it is, having gone through life with a name that challenges even the most astute Starbucks employee.
Even if you love his last name, or are fleeing from an albatross of your own, there are other factors to consider. For instance, what do you do for a living? Are you someone who needs to maintain a certain amount of gravitas, such as a judge, undertaker, or international diplomat? Do you work with children, whose parents will almost certainly Google you or—God forbid—teenagers, who can do it themselves? If you answered yes to any of those questions, it may be more trouble than it’s worth to explain away the multitude of fetish links that will pop up in response to your new name. If, on the other hand, you are the heiress to a bouncy house fortune, say, or a writer/performer who can exploit comic misfortunes for financial gain, I think you’re fine. If you’re worried about confusion you can always change your LinkedIn bio to say something like, “Does not sleep in a grown-up crib” or “The dog groomer, not the paraphilic infantilist!!!”
A third option, of course, is to embrace your name twin with open arms. Friend her (or was it him?) on Facebook, invite her out for coffee, or knit her a bonnet! If future employers, in-laws, or bailiffs mistake your identity and ask you to explain, say, “I only take a pacifier on weekends,” or “Oh, her? That’s my mother. She’s being a real bitch these days but I think it might be the colic.”
Remember, as Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” You will continue to be you, regardless of which name you go by. And even though I’ve never met you, I have a feeling you smell sweeter than an aging dancer in an adult diaper ever could.
Una LaMarche has written four young-adult novels, Five Summers, Like No Other, Don’t Fail Me Now, and You in Five Acts, as well as a comic essay collection, Unabrow. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Observer, Allure, and Parents, as well as online at the Huffington Post. The New York Times has called her writing “surprisingly seductive,” which she plans to use on her tombstone.