For instance, are people named “Tall” actually tall? This, and other questions, are examined through cartography.
Mary Margaret Fletcher had a flutter of worry recently. She’s getting married next spring, and plans to change her last name to her husband’s. But one day it dawned on her: “I was like, ‘wait,’” she said. “My last name is in my email address.’“
Fletcher, an archivist who lives in Vermont, is one of the roughly 80 percent of brides expected to drop her maiden name upon marriage. That decision has always been a mix of the personal and the practical. It requires a lot of legwork, including interaction with multiple federal agencies and a trip to the dreaded DMV. But it also forces women to think about how they’ll be perceived with a new name and, at some level, a new identity.
The proliferation of online profiles and the growing demand for digital presence has managed to complicate both aspects.
Read more. [Image: A screenshot of The Atlantic’s very own Eleanor Britton nee Barkhorn’s Facebook profile]
“Before I came out and was still on a path of planning to marry a man,” says Victoria, “I was pretty radical and said I’ll never change my name.” But when Victoria Cunningham married Lita Grossman, in Washington D.C. in 2006, three years before same-sex marriage was legally recognized in the District, she was forced to reconsider. Finally, both wound up changing to a third surname.
Personal and professional considerations aside, for women entering heterosexual marriages, the last name decision often comes down to ideology. But for newlywed same-sex couples navigating their way through the thorny question of family nomenclature, there’s no tradition in place to buck or to follow. With the overturn of DOMA and an expanding geography of states legalizing same-sex marriage (nine plus the District of Columbia), it remains to be seen what naming trends will emerge as same sex-couples decide whether or not to use shared names to formally identify as units, and why.
Read more. [Image: Artur Bainozarov/Reuters]
So what does the Mary trend mean? First, it’s the growing cultural value of individuality, which leads to increasing diversity. People value names that are uncommon. When Mary last held the number-one spot, in 1961, there were 47,655 girls given that name. Now, out of about the same number of total births, the number-one name (Sophia) was given only 21,695 times. Conformity to tradition has been replaced by conformity to individuality. Being number one for so long ruined Mary for this era.
Read more. [Image: 20th Century Fox]