I’m one of those pretentious people with a double-barrelled surname and I can’t even blame my parents because I chose it.
No one to blame but myself
When I got married, I was faced with a difficult decision: should I follow the patriarchal tradition and take my husband’s name or buck the trend and keep my maiden name?
I’d been a journalist and writing under my name, Rogers, for a decade and I didn’t want to lose my professional identity. How would my fans find me if I suddenly changed names?! OK, I didn’t exactly have hordes of followers pursuing me to sign all my bestsellers, but I was still worried about the identity shift.
There was another reason that weighed heavily on my heart as well. My dad died when I was 20 and I became the last Rogers in our line. Our name will die with me, so I wasn’t ready to give it up so easily.
But I also really wanted to honour my husband and his family by taking their name. It seemed like the right thing to do.
So, I made the dubious decision to hyphenate. Everyone I knew made bug eyes at me when I told them, but I ignored them and changed my name legally.
I won’t say I regret my decision because Sabrina Rogers-Anderson has become my identity. It’s who I am now, and I’ve written countless articles and two books under that name. But there are a few factors that make my name a huge pain in the butt and I’d like you to consider them before mindlessly taking the hyphenated route. You can thank me later.
Here are six reasons not to hyphenate your surname …
1. It will never fit on a form again
There are never enough tiny squares. And should you put the hyphen in its own square or try to squeeze it between two squares?! So stressful. Also, it takes bloody ages to fill in all those letters. I used to love filling out forms (I know, I was super-nerdy), but now I dread it.
2. Some online forms won’t take hyphens
You know when you think you’re done filling out the first page of an online form and you try to hit “next”, but a big red warning appears above your surname declaring, “NO SPECIAL CHARACTERS ALLOWED”? No? Well, I do.
It’s not even a special character, darn it – it’s a hyphen! What’s so special about a hyphen? It’s the least spesh of all characters if you ask me. It’s just a tiny little line!
So, I end up with boarding passes that say “Sabrina Rogersanderson” and flight attendants who say to me, “Wow, that’s quite the surname!” Cue me muttering loudly about forms that refuse to accept hyphens as I stumble clumsily down the aisle.
3. Having a different surname than your kids can make your life complicated
For that same flight, I tried to check myself and my twins in online the day before. But when I was asked to select the main passenger, my name didn’t appear in the list – only my twins’ names were there (they’re both just Anderson). I spent ages on the phone with the airline and the lady told me there was some confusion because of the different surnames. The problem got fixed in the end, but my hyphenated surname cost me two hours of my life that I’ll never get back.
4. You constantly have to say, “Wait, it’s not over!” after saying the first part
Every time I talk to a representative at a call centre or I have to give someone my name, I say “Rogers” and they’re already like, “Yep, thank you … address?” I then have to explain I wasn’t done, and they inevitably spend two to four minutes fumbling to get back to the name part of the form to modify it. Another monumental waste of time for all involved.
So, I’ve taken to spluttering, “ROGERS-WAIT-I’M-NOT-FINISHED-HYPHEN-ANDERSON!” in a shrill and anxiety-ridden voice. It’s pretty stressful, guys. I hope you’re starting to see my point now.
5. You feel obliged to apologise for making your surname so long and complicated
Once I’m done shouting my name at people at the speed of light, I melt into a puddle of apologies for making such a stupid decision. It usually goes like this: “As if you needed a big, complicated, hyphenated name to ruin your day! HAHAHA … Sorry.” Or: “I chose to hyphenate my name just to make your life difficult! Ha! Just kidding. But it did make it a little difficult, didn’t it? Sorry!!” Ugh.
6. You create a cascade of difficult decisions that could last generations
I chose to spare my children the torture of the double barrel, but you may be tempted to bestow your clunky surname on your progeny. They will then be subjected to the pain of the five previous points for their entire lives.
And what if they have children with someone who also has a hyphenated surname? What the heck do they do then?! This is a common problem in my native Québec (the French part of Canada) where it’s common for parents to give their children double-barrelled surnames. So, a Catherine Tremblay-Dussault can meet a Frédéric Morin-Archambault and all hell breaks loose. Some resolve it by giving their kids only the dad’s original hyphenated name while others do a mish-mash combo of their two names. It ain’t pretty.
If you’re still tempted to hyphenate after the hellish picture I’ve just painted, you truly deserve to be a member of the Double Barrel Club. It isn’t for the faint of heart and you’ve passed the test.
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