When my sister got married, she gave up our family name, Semon, for another. What woman in her right mind would give up such a dignified name, you might ask. What woman would deny herself the joy of repeating in person and over the phone for every appointment, for every dinner reservation, “Yes, it’s Semon.“ (Pronounced: See-min) When my brother’s wife took the name, I thought, “That is true love.”
Sam has a similar story. She’s a Goettlich (Pronounced: Get-Lick) It doesn’t produce the same immediate lascivious reactions as Semon, but still, when the two are paired, like a great steak and a full-bodied Cabernet, the results are exquisite. How did two women with such tenacious last names end up together? Fate. (Obviously. This was the work of the Gods, or perhaps the tides, maybe the moon, like a menstrual cycle.)
Typically, and rather simply, when a man and a woman are married it is customary that she takes his name. Sure, I was teased in school, but my name gave me a thick skin, I even liked it, repeating it for substitute teachers a touch too loud and a little too boldly; Semon. Still, I dreamed of the day I would marry and thus inherit a fancy new name. Then I met Sam. In the beginning we didn’t worry about a last name. That would have been silly, to worry about crossing the bridge when we had yet to scale the mountain in front of it, but then we reached the mountaintop, the glorious summit, our U-Haul trailer hitch intact, and we decided that we wanted to be married. Still, there was the possibility of keeping our respective names. And why not? I love being a Semon. I do. But Sam and I plan to have a family in the future, and that there was our problem. What would become of our children? If we are to be two women in a marriage that most of our country doesn’t even recognize, then we would want to band together and share the same name, and if we were to bring children into this world, we would want them to carry that name. So what were we to do? Semon-Goettlich? Goettlich-Semon? Our friends had a blast conjuring Semonlich and Goetsemon, both major contenders. “Our poor future children,” I lamented. “Our poor unborn babies,” Sam replied. “What kind of monsters would raise children with two mommies and the last name Semon OR Goettlich OR Semon-Goettlich OR Goettlich-Semon OR Semonlich OR Goetsemon?” We cannot. And we will not.
Our friends threw us a fabulous little engagement soiree. Here we are posing in front of one of our future name options. It’s worth noting that decorations also included a penis pinata and a vagina installation made of streamers and a deflated pink balloon. I know what you’re thinking, “What creative types their friends are!”
Negotiations began. Sam wasn’t going to take my name (Though Sam Semon does have a ring to it) and I wasn’t going to take Goettlich, of that we were sure. There was no paternalistic solution to our dilemma. We needed a name. We considered the maiden name’s of our Mothers, names passed down through our families, and finally we decided to do something that many other couples have done before us, we will take Sam’s middle name as our last name. Simple. Nice. Solution. Step one was complete. We had a name.
Next, we needed to find out how to change our names. This would not be as simple as other couples getting married in New York. We each have to petition the court for a name change. When I filled out my paperwork and I was given a space to write why I wanted to change my name, I explained that my fiancee and I would both be taking her middle name as our last when we get married. Aside from petitioning the court for permission to change our names, along with the $65 fee we will each need to pay, we will then need to publish our name-changes in a NY newspaper. I’ve read that the Irish Echo is the cheapest place to do that, at $35.
So now we need to take this down to the court. We also need to go there to dissolve our domestic partnership before we can obtain our marriage license. My practical side would like to find a way to do all three of these things in the same visit, while my realistic side reminds me that nothing in this city has ever been quite that easy and admits that this will likely take no fewer than three visits. When I try to ask my friends or family how they did it most remind me that they were married in other states while some remind me that it was different for them, since they were taking their husband’s last name. We’re doing this the long way.
I will certainly update our name change mission as it approaches completion, but for now I suspect that this is not so much hard as it is time-consuming and frustrating, but of course, worth it. From what I know about relationships, that’s really all that marriage is anyway.