The Name Game

You’ve probably seen me mention that I’m getting married soon. I’ve written about it here, and some of you actually know me well enough to know just how crazy I’m starting to get.

You may not know, though, that Kristin McFarland is my real name. I never adopted a “pen name” because, well, I’ve been writing under my real name for years. You can do a Google search and see a lot of pieces written by Kristin McFarland—news pieces from Berkeley, Indianapolis, IU, small-town New Mexico; about a gazillion blog posts; interviews; eHow articles—there’s tons of stuff, and they’re all out there, permanently a part of the interwebs.

And that’s okay. I vouch for my work, and I’m fine with all of the publications to which I’ve attached my name.

But now I’m getting married. I plan to keep my name. It’s MY name, after all, and I’ve lived with it for 27 years. Plus, all my work is under this name, so I’ll keep writing under it regardless of what name I end up with.

There are fair number of young women who aren’t changing their name when they  get married. I can name three good friends off the top of my head who have kept their names—though I admit I can name a lot more who haven’t. I can also think of a friend who changed her name and said it was a huge wrench to do it.

Lately, I’ve been suffering over it some myself. It all started when we had to take my cat to the vet.

Receptionist: “What’s the name?”

Kristin: “Well, MY name is Kristin McFarland, and the cat’s name is Portia.”

Receptionist: “Hmm… and you’re sure the cat has been here before?”

Kristin: (distinctly remembering feline wails and trauma while visiting this clinic) “Well, it’s been a few years, but yes, I’m sure.”

Receptionist: “I’m not finding you.”

Kristin: (lightbulb) “Well, our other cat is in the system under my fiance’s name.”

Receptionist: “Oh… yes, here Portia’s file is!”

And it occurred to me, after they teased me about it when I arrived with the cat, that this will be a pain in the rear my whole life. It will always be, “Well, did we do this under MY name or YOUR name? Better check both!” And it will get worse if we ever have any little-Kristins. A friend of mine who kept her name says people regularly judge her because they think her kids were born out of wedlock.

So I have to admit now that there’s a little logic to a family having the same name. It creates unity, after all. And I could see wanting to distance my writing persona from my personal-self. But I still don’t think it’s fair that the woman always changes her name.

Maybe we’ll just adopt a completely new name, like Skywalker or Summers or Baggins.

Readers, what would you do? If you’re married, what did you do?