The Sunday Times July 16, 2006
Couples find new names for marriage
NEWLYWEDS in America are “meshing” their names in an attempt to banish the sexism that comes when a woman takes her husband’s surname.
Much as the tabloid newspapers have christened film stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes “Tomkat”, couples are opting to mix and match elements of their names as a sign of togetherness.
Gary Ruderman, 43, a playwright and architect, got married last year to Jodi Wilgoren, a writer for The New York Times. The couple now go by the name of Rudoren. Ruderman’s wife-to-be first raised the subject, saying that she would love to share his name but on an egalitarian basis.
“I have a lot of respect for Jodi so I considered it,” he said. “Some clients couldn’t wrap their heads around it, but very few people I talked to said, ‘Oh that’s stupid’.”
One friend teased Ruderman that “married life has taken the ‘man’ out of you” but even his parents came around to the idea. “They felt it was a little bit unusual, but I think they were just happy that, at 42, I was getting married,” he said. “My mother has taken to introducing me as her son Gary Rudoren.”
Jodi Rudoren, 35, ruled out hyphenation when her nephew pointed out that “our name wouldn’t fit on the back of a sports shirt”.
One name-meshing pioneer is Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, who combined his name of Villar with his wife’s name of Raigosa in 1988.
“I was planning to take his name,” his wife Corina recalled. “But he said, ‘Really? But Raigosa is your name’.
“He said, ‘I’ve been thinking about it and why don’t we combine our names to make one name? If you are willing to take my name, I should be willing to take yours’.”
Villaraigosa recalled that “guys made fun of me” but the voters of Los Angeles have long since forgotten it.
The feminist custom of retaining one’s maiden name is going out of fashion. According to Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University, the number of college-educated women in Massachusetts who kept their original name at marriage dropped from 23% in 1990 to 17% in 2000.
“It’s gone the same way as feminism,” Goldin said. “There has been a shift even among liberals towards more family-oriented values.”
Those who begin by hyphenating their surnames often give up, Goldin added: “They have these long names and then they have problems with the school district or the plumber. It gets too hard.”
x-posted to femminista