Why I Changed My Mind and Decided Not to Change My Last Name

Our names matter. For many of us, our name is our identity, our brand, it’s what connects us with our past and our present. In full disclosure, I’ve always hated my first name. Heather has never seemed to suit me, but it is what it is. Picked off a romance novel my mom happened to be reading when I was born. The cover was purple, because, of course it was.

My last name, however, is original. How many other Bien’s do you know? My educated guess is 0. And, since I’ve known too many casual acquaintances that have gone years without knowing how to correctly say my name, it’s pronounced Bee-en. As in good in Spanish or French. For the record, it’s French, though that’s made for some confusing conversations. “Bien? Are you Spanish?” “Well, my last name is French, but my grandfather was from Mexico, so, yes…” That’s about when I lose people. But, how can I give up a last name that means good in not one, but two, romance languages? 


Regardless of my attachment to my last name, I always assumed I’d change my last name. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the South where not changing my last name didn’t even seem like an option, but I believed that’s just what you did when you got married. I grew up on doodling my first name with the last name of every crush I came across. I couldn’t even comprehend why someone would have a different last name than their husband or their children. What kind of backwards world is that?! I couldn’t have imagined changing my mind on changing my last name.

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However as the years passed and I graduated from college, entered the real world, and become more aware of my own place in the universe, I realized that perhaps my name meant too much to change. I grappled with how I would manage a name change – when I didn’t want to change my name – and decided that I would do what a former colleague had done. She changed her name legally – for the ease of any future children – while keeping her name professionally. That seems like a happy medium, right?


Well, when the time came and I began to look into the logistics of changing my name, I realized that there were two feelings at play that I hadn’t anticipated – feelings that led me to the conclusion that I had changed my mind on changing my last name. First, there was the logistical nightmare that is changing one’s last name. Seriously, do y’all have any idea how many accounts, cards, and memberships have your name on them?! The idea of sorting through everything and working out the legal paperwork at the DMV, Social Security, and Passport office seemed exhausting. There was no way I was spending my valuable time doing that.

Then, there was the feeling that I would be signing away my identity. I’ve been Heather Bien for over 30 years. Why is it that my last name would be the one to disappear?! I’m still me. Why should my last name change just because I found a life partner? There’s no reason we can’t be any less of a family just because I’m not going to adopt a new name.

And, so, I’m not changing my last name.


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First off, no, I won’t get mad if someone addresses me as Heather Shapiro or if we get a wedding invitation addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Adam Shapiro.

But, you also may be wondering, what’s our plan if we have a child at some point? Well, they’ll have Adam’s last name, Shapiro, and Bien as one of their two middle names. It’s as simple as that.

And, no, they won’t be the only child in their class like that. Last month, Adam and I went to Saturday services with our synagogue and, being as it’s a small congregation, we went around the room and everyone introduced themselves. Every mother in the congregation had a different last name than their child – which I triumphantly pointed out to Adam as we walked home.


1 Comment

  1. April 9, 2019 / 11:03 am

    It was very interesting to read your thoughts on this! I remember how much of a pain it was to change my last name when we got married. But, I felt like it was another step in becoming officially a family. And hard to undo! (Which I think is a good thing.) I just added my new last name onto the end of my original name and still feel very much like myself. I have several friends who didn’t change their name, and although sometimes it’s confusing for them, I think they feel happy with their choice too! And you are so right, between hyphenated names, divorce and other reasons a there are a variety of last name situations in schools! (Some people give their children a unique last name too!)
    And Bien is an awesome last name! I’m glad I’ve been pronouncing it correctly in my head.

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