When my husband and I were planning our wedding, I was intent on keeping my last name. Not because I was particularly fond of my last name. Not because it was my family name or because I didn’t want to deal with the paperwork involved in changing it. My decision was mostly because I was, and always have been, Jaime Lownsbery. And with so many changes happening in my life at one time (besides getting married, I’d just started a new job, and I was getting ready to move into my husband’s home, which was an hour away from mine). To be honest, I was feeling anxious. And adding a name change into the mix wasn’t helping things.
My husband, who is much more traditional than I am, assured me that he was okay with me not changing my last name. He wasn’t doing back-flips at the thought of us not sharing the same name, but it wasn’t so important that he was going to call off the wedding. Even so, I could tell that it bothered him. I knew he’d be happy to have us both share the same last name. So I decided to compromise – I would hyphenate my last name. And that’s where the trouble began.
Soon after we were married I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. The pharmacy technician couldn’t find me in the computer. As it turns out, when you have an oddly spelled name like Lownsbery, and then you hyphenate it, adding another not so common name, it becomes impossible to read, write, or spell. Add a uniquely spelled first name, and it’s a recipe for disaster. In the end, it turns out my full name was too long for the pharmacy’s computer program. So now, whenever I go to the pharmacy to pick up my refill, I have to show them the label from the previous month.
When you have a weird, hyphenated last name nobody knows what to call you. (And, frankly, you’re not quite sure what to call yourself either). At the doctor’s office I’ll sometimes hear them call out Ms. Lownsbery, or Ms. Bondy, but never the full hyphenated version. When I visit The Goose’s school, the kids take one look at my name tag and decide to just call me The Goose’s mom. At the museum, the zoo, and even at the veterinarian’s office, we’re known simply as the Bondy family. (Which makes me wonder why I even decided to hyphenate at all).
Let’s face it – nobody wants to write my husband’s full name and my full name on Christmas cards, wedding invitations, or even on junk mail. We often get mail addressed to simply Jaime Bondy, Mr. and Mrs. Bondy, or sometimes even Mr. & Mrs. Lownsbery-Bondy. Those who really know and love us usually just address mail to the Lowns-Bondy Family and leave it at that.
Trying buying or selling a house with a long, complicated hyphenated name. It’s ridiculous. It’s even worse when they’ve spelled your name incorrectly, and you need to correct it – by hand – on every. single. form. This has happened to me not once, but twice. Writer’s cramp, anyone?
A few weeks ago, I was at the bank (the same bank where my husband has worked for 15 years, and I worked for 10 years) and the teller spent more than 10 minutes trying to find me in the computer. The problem? We had used my middle initial when we opened the account. Apparently throwing a middle initial in along with a long hyphenated name was more than their computer could handle at one time.
When people call me Mrs. Bondy, I automatically think they are speaking to or about my mother-in-law. Sometimes the name catches my attention, mainly because my husband and son both have the last name, Bondy, but most of the time it takes a few seconds for me to realize that they are talking to me. This often leads people to ask me if I was recently married, and when I explain that I just celebrated my sixth wedding anniversary, they think I’m insane.
In all honesty, if I had to do it over again, I’m not sure that I would choose to hyphenate my last name. Because, as it turns out, my name is just that – a name. It doesn’t define me. It doesn’t change who I am on the inside. It’s just a name.