Monday, June 26, 2006

Living with long last names: a poll among the readers

I have recently posted about a new law which allows French mums to transmit their last names too to their progeny. I have been thinking about adding my last name to Milo, and consequently to his coming brother. As the deadline for presenting the papers approaches (June 30), discussions have intensified with the Belgianite, who declares himself in agreement with the principle but is very skeptical on the fact that we both happen to bear pretty long last names, and is convinced we are condemning our kids to a series of impracticalities which will make they bureaucratic life a nightmare.

I can’t make my mind up: am I being too selfish? The main reason to add my last name is to give my children the option to pass it on the day they will have children, especially if they will choose to live in Italy. It is not about a narcissistic need to see my last name associated to their names daily: I’d be happy with them using the father’s last name in everyday life, however, a city hall officer confirmed that they will have to use both last names in every official documentation (from school registration to the bank, and so on).
The Belgianite flashed me a credit card, a social security card, a passport and said: “Look! There isn’t even enough space for our two last names!” (which, together, account for 20 letters). I suspect that his cold and rational approach do hid an emotional reason, somewhere in his unconscious…
Objectively, I think we are not going to be the only ones in this situation and the administrations will have to adapt their forms accordingly, if they haven’t already; also, as previously noted, in France the double last name is a custom already present among the old aristocracy, so we are certainly not the first ones with long and complex names; finally, technology is constantly evolving, by the time my boys will be 18 they won’t probably circulate with passports and ID cards anymore but all our data will be retrieved by the iris of our eye or a chip in-planted in our index, or via fingerprints.
The only painful view from the future that such a decision brings me is when I imagine the kids in elementary school, learning how to write their names and spending hours to spell out their full last names…
So, I ask my readers to manifest themselves with their opinion, especially the ones who have a long last name, those to happen to have a double one or know someone who do, and let me know if it has been really an handicap for them or not and to what extent it has been a pain in the neck (if anything) in their lives! Help me make the right choice!!!


giovanni said...

In the Netherlands it is possible for kids to change their name and adopt their mother's name. I know of two friends and their kids who have done this. In your case, it would solve elegantly your and your husband's problems.
If this is not possible, I would opt for your "Belgianite's" family name -- just for the sake of simplicity and, yes indeed, "tradition".
I wish sometimes I could have adopted the family name of my Italian grandmother. It is "De Ferrante", which is a name I always liked. Hélas !

Cari saluti di Giovanni de Ferrante

Alice in Austria said...

Well, Clo. I've had the most annoying, impractical last name imaginable (if you want to know what it was I can email it to you, but for privacy's sake I don't want to post it here) - for about half a year, then I begged the authorities here to change it. I really couldn't stand the impracticalities of it anymore. Fitting it on a credit card is the least problem (mine fit). I just got SO tired of people not knowing what to call me (my name consisted of 3 different names, the latino double name of my husband PLUS my own maiden name, separated by a hyphen, but only between the first two names. People NEVEr got it right!) So to some people I was Mrs K, to others Mrs. L, and to others again Mrs G. It was difficult for me too, to react to all three different versions! Most people couldn't pronounce my name, they always misspelled it, even after they asked me to spell it for them. People also kept misfiling my documents. So the health insurance has some documents filed under the first name, and the rest under the second, and some under the third! It took them some time to figure this out, and it was a mess! Same problem with the post office and with the phone books. And so forth!

Maybe for a person with more patience and a greater sense of humor this is no problem. But it drove me nuts. No matter what I wanted, whenever I had to give my name people got really confused.

I was able to drop my maiden name, and now I have dh's double name. I still have problems with it, but it's manageable now!

So, since you're asking so excplicitly for our opinion, I'd advise you to do your children a favor and give them a simple, uncomplicated last name. I also think it is beautiful that one family shares the same last name... but that is just my opinion .. ;)

HOWEVER. If you really feel very strongly about passing on your name, then go for the double name option. And see, as Giovanni suggests, whether it is possible one day for your children to choose their own last name!

kristell said...

As my dad side of the family hasn't got many boys to carry our surname, i've always said that my kids would have my surname (luckily it is short)and my partner's surname. When my daughter was born my wishes were granted and on every legal papers she has got both surnames. However it can be quite difficult to have to spell it all the time (ex: doctor's appointment ect...)and i must admit that slowly people have come to the point where they only use her dad's surname.It doesn't bother me much as i know that legally she has got my surname and she can decide when she will be older how she wants to be known as but i the moment practiality prevails

Lilian said...

OK, let's see, I don't think my opinion won't be of much help, but I've always had my mom and my dad's last names and I added my husband's name to that - so I have 3 last names. Here in the U.S. I only use my husband's last name, though. I gave my sons my last name as their "middle" name, so in the U.S. (unfortunately) it won't be really used in documents, only if they want to, but in Brazil both names would appear everywhere. The names are of a manageable length (14 letters together), though, so I don't see a problem.

I think I'd go for both names and have them decide later whether they want to keep them or not...

Frog in L.A. said...

If you have to put both names to make sure that your kids are entitled to both or either in the future, then it's worth it. But if you have the possibility to choose in the future no matter what, I'd avoid it. Keep it short... and blissfully simple!

I have one of those 'noms à rallonge' (exceedingly long names), and it does make life difficult: chopped on credit cards and other documents (but you never seem to remember *how* chopped), misspelled at school, at work, on business cards, in contracts, ... I'm not even talking about having to spell your name on the phone twenty times a day.

Like Lilian, I only use the shortest version possible for everyday life, and leave the impossibly long one to official doc.

Sara said...

i've been thinking about the same thing, when i got married i hypenated my last name so it is now 13 letters.

my perspective comes from growing up with my fathers last name only, my mom never changed hers when they got married and their 2 names together are 17 names so they decided to just pass on one. i do remember being kind of sad sometimes that i didnt share the same last name as my mom (and still now having to explain that yes my parents are married, they just dont have the same last name).

even with all of that im hesitant to pass on my new double name to my kid, i figure at least now since i have a double name, if they have only their dads name we will still share a name, and if someday they get married they wont have to drop one of the names to make a double name, or force the other person to add a double name to their last name.

Guillaume said...

We gave to our children both last names. They will have 16 letters + the strange double "--" to write in all official forms, I don't find it so long. My mother has allways needed to write 17 letters for the last name (her own name + her husband's name) in official forms and never complained. But she just uses her husband's name in the daily life.

Guillaume said...

Another comment, the French law is only valid for French authorities and in theory only if your children have (or when they will have) French citizenship. Italy and Belgium will never take into account your decision. The risk is that they could have different last names for each nationality.

But I guess it's too late now, it's the 30th of june, you may have already taken your decision!

Elizabeth said...

I would definitely go with the two last son and daughter have my husband's and my last names. They both have short first names and no middle name which makes it easy. I want them to be proud of both their heritages bc they are multilingual and are dual citizenship international world citizens! Why deny them that when a name can so beautifully represent who you are and tell so much about your background. Writing a couple of extra letters for a second name is a minor 'inconvenience' if you call it that. Cheers