My maiden name, Gawronski, has never been easy for people to spell or pronounce. The “W” in the first syllable throws people off, and there’s no pretending that the name’s got a nice ring to it—even when it’s not being botched. It is, as my favorite English teacher once said, cacophonous, and I’ve never felt attached to it.
I looked forward to giving it up for the easier, prettier, two-syllable Lastoe upon marrying my husband. Legally, I’d take his surname, but professionally I’d keep the identity attached to my body of work as a writer and a professional. It was what women who weren’t just starting out in their career did, right?
Maybe it was, but it didn’t mean I had to follow suit. The more I thought about it, the more I hated the idea of having two identities: one personally and one professionally. My life isn’t compartmentalized like that, and it was starting to feel really confusing being a Gawronski sometimes and a Lastoe other times. My head already spun every time a signature was required of me. Was I Mrs. Lastoe or was I Ms. Gawronski? Who the heck was I?
Attempting to parse this out proved to be more than I wanted to handle. And so, one afternoon a couple of months ago, not long after I’d tied the knot, I decided to say farewell to my maiden name and go all-in with my married one—personally, professionally, ultimately.
I learned some things, a few nuggets which you may find useful:
1. The Decision Is Yours
There will always be people who weigh in (unsolicited) about your choices. One writer friend—who didn’t change hers—commented that she rather liked my old name. My sister echoed a similar sentiment and announced that she wished she’d kept her maiden name when she got married.
A colleague I don’t know well expressed surprise to the point that I felt obligated to defend myself and my reasons for my decision. Later, I wished I’d just acknowledged the change and not felt the need to elaborate. You alone are in charge of this choice.
It’s an overused phrase but quite fitting here: You do you. Whether you dislike the sound of your new name or you’re staunchly against a woman taking her husband’s name, it’s up to you what you do. To hell what anyone else thinks, says, or believes.
2. It’s a Process, Even if You’re Organized
First off, you’ve got to let HR know so they can help you set the record straight with your insurance, 401K, and everywhere else your name appears within the company.
Then you’ve got to think about your online branding. As a writer, I spent exactly one agonizing afternoon reaching out to all the editors I’ve ever worked with (at least those who I could remember working with) asking them to make the change on my digital publications.
To my surprise, all were amendable and responded quickly that it was taken care of. I was amazed and delighted as this was the part that I’d been most concerned about when I decided to go 100% Stacey Lastoe. I felt motivated enough to get a new personal site up and running to help cement my new last name professionally.
Lucky for me, neither my Twitter nor my Instagram handle included my full name, so I didn’t have to worry about fiddling with those. But if that’s not the case for you, it’s something else to think about.
If it helps you stay organized, make a special to-do list and work your way through it the way you would a large project.
3. You Don’t Have to Do it All at Once
After planning a wedding and a honeymoon, I gave myself some leeway in getting it all squared away. The only rush is in how quickly you want it taken care of, so, again, try not to stress about it.
My LinkedIn profile currently includes my maiden name in parentheses, and I think it’ll be a while before I feel ready to delete it. I don’t want anyone to be confused about who I am, even though this is probably a silly worry. My email signature’s also portrayed this way (with that said, I did what I could to speed up the process of getting people to see me with my married name by changing the way I show up in someone’s inbox when I send a message).
You can overthink this to death—I’m quite certain my pre-marriage byline is out there on the vast reaches of the internet, but I refuse to stress it—but I promise you, no one else, not least of all your network, is.
Whatever you’ve heard about changing your name, know that it’s not reputation-ruining, it’s not a rejection of feminism, and it’s not the hardest thing you’ll ever do—not by a long shot. My recommendation is that you think through your options and then set a plan for yourself if making a legal change is what you’ve decided.
Photo of woman signing her name courtesy of ONOKY-Eric Audras/Getty Images.