My Maiden name was Kram.
It was nice and short and went well with Cindy.
Easy to remember, and easy to spell.
And the fun part of the name was that it was ”Mark” spelled backwards.
My dad named his manufacturing company “Mark Industries” (a nice little family inside joke). And, I’m pretty sure I have a cousin out there named Mark Kram (funny family huh?).
People used to tell me that my last name was almost certainly shortened from “Kramer” (a well known German name) when my grandfather immigrated to this country, but my dad denied it…adamantly…as did his dad.
But I didn’t care. I just thought it was cool that it was Mark spelled backwards.
Growing up, I never felt a strong attachment to the name. But I identified with it. I was Cindy Kram.
I guess, as a girl, I got the message early on that it was a temporary moniker that I’d someday shed for another, so don’t get too close. Boys are raised with the expectation that they will keep their last names and “carry on” the name throughout the generations, but none of that pressure (or expectation) is bestowed upon girls.
But I was raised in a pretty progressive family where most of the gender expectations were being challenged on a regular basis. So when it came to actually changing my name when I got married…I really had to think about whether or not I wanted a new name.
I felt like I could choose to take on a new name…or not, (which actually ended up causing me lots of angst).
Should I hold onto my given name and buck tradition? Did Cindy Kram carry an attachment to my heritage and history that I should hold on to? Did giving up my last name for a man mean that I wasn’t an independent woman? Did I want to have a different last name than my husband? Or… my (future) kids?
Finally…it came down to the most important question of all…did I like the name?
Carrillo. Cindy Carrillo.
It kind of flowed.
I liked the two “C’s.”
But I couldn’t roll my “rrrrrr’s” when saying the name (unless I used the phlegm in my throat) and felt a bit intimidated by a name that I knew carried a whole new ethnicity with it.
Most folks think its Italian, but it’s actually Hispanic. Or rather Spanish…as my mother-in-law used to tell me.
But even so, she said I didn’t have to role the “rrrrrrr’s.” She said they pronounced it with a hard “r” and “l” sound (Car-ril-lo)…not (Carrrrr-eee-yo).
So I tried it on. Played with it. Wrote it down. Practiced a new signature. Pretended that I was being introduced at a party, “I’d like you to meet Cindy Carrillo.”
And I started to like the way it felt.
Only then did I start to embrace the idea of taking on a new name with true enthusiasm (and let go of all the other stuff).
But not my mom.
She never really loved the name Kram herself (her maiden name was Dankner – so not all that wonderful on its own!), but I think she liked the married identity that the name brought to her. And that it was shorter than her maiden name (she loved having a full name that was only 7 letters – Del Kram). And (if truth be told)…that it was Jewish.
And Carrillo was not.
So she came up with an alternative that she carefully proposed to Brian and me.
She explained that since Brian was becoming a doctor…and we were now living in a time when women shouldn’t have to change their names to match their husband (ALWAYS the feminist)…she thought we BOTH should change our names to…
Cohen. A nice Jewish name.
Brian would be Dr. Cohen: a nice Jewish doctor.
Except I kinda liked the whole Hispanic (sorry…Spanish) thing. It’s not often a blonde haired- blue eyed-Jew-from the suburbs of Detroit, could get a new layer to her identity without anyone judging her.
So I took the name Carrillo (mom ended up embracing the whole idea), with all its history and richness, and wore it with love and pride.
I never felt like I “gave up” Kram. I just wore Carrillo over Kram like the layering of a perfect outfit.
And…when Brian and I split up, I asked him if it would be ok if I kept Carrillo (I asked his mom too).
It had become a significant piece of my identity. I had two beautiful Hispanic (sorry…Spanish) kids with the name, and the name had been with me for almost as long as I had the name Kram, so it felt like it was mine.
So, I’ve kept it, and I’m glad I’m a Carrillo.
And a Kram.
P.S. Now that Ally is getting married…to a “Kohn” (I know, the irony is almost scary), I’m leaving her alone to make her own decision.
P.S.S. My mom would not.
First off, I’m changing this topic to “Should ALLY change her name when she gets married?” I’m super selfish like that.
(And also because I don’t believe that there’s a rule. There’s no “should” when it comes to this. It’s up to her (and him).)
We’ve wanted to write about this subject for quite a long time, and now that I actually have to MAKE A DECISION about this in the near future, it’s time to talk it out.
I love my last name. I identify with it. I like having the same last name as my family.
I LOVE that my initials are ABC (just like my Daddy).
And with all of that said, it seems obvious that I should keep my last name when I get married to Mike.
I never even thought about this when I was growing up. Sure, Alexandra Taylor Thomas or Alexandra DiCaprio sounded fun, but I never actually thought that I’d have to change my name someday. My folks never brought it up with me or anything (which I now resent you guys for because I feel a little blind-sided).
Over the past decade, I think I’ve always assumed that I’d keep my name.
But now that it’s HERE (which is awesome), I have to think about what to actually do.
Even though I love my name and initials, I also want to have the same name as Mike (which is Kohn).
And, even more than that, I want the same name as my future kids.
(I don’t even have children yet, and they’re already making shit complicated…)
Mike says he’s completely supportive of whatever I decide, which is ABSOLUTELY NO HELP AT ALL.
So, I’ve been compiling a mental pro and con list about what I should do.
PROS OF CHANGING MY LAST NAME:
- I’ll have the same name as Mike… everyone will know we’re Mr. and Mrs. (Though, with our luck – and the fact that we look vaguely similar – people will probably just assume that we’re brother and sister… or at least cousins.) We can be introduced as Ally and Mike Kohn, not Ally Carrillo and her husband Mike Kohn. It’s a symbol of us as a couple, as a team…
- I’ll have the same name as our kids. Now I know our future children don’t HAVE to have just Mike’s name, but I don’t want to hyphenate. Carrillo is long enough on it’s own – I’m not adding four more letters to it. I think that’s just mean.
- Speaking of length, Mike’s name is half as long as mine. My full name is Alexandra B Carrillo, and that is one long ass name to fill in on standardized test sheets. I loose valuable test time filling in name bubbles! Plus, I’d be able to cut my email address in half, and spelling it out for people would be way easier…
CONS OF CHANGING MY LAST NAME:
- I won’t be ABC anymore! ABK just doesn’t have the same ring to it… If Mike would just change the spelling of his last name to Cohn, this wouldn’t be an issue…
- I’ll have to change all of my online accounts. I know, that seems like a silly thing to say, but damn if it isn’t a pain in the ass. I mean, on top of changing my driver’s license, I have to change my Facebook URL!
- I have perfected the Alexandra Carrillo signature. I’m proud of my signature. Learning a new one makes me feel sleepy. (It’s a lot of effort…)
- I like that my name is Spanish.
- Yes, most of these CONS are silly and stupid, but this one is real – and the one that matters: I have an indescribable, irrational, overwhelming fear that I’ll loose part of my identity. Again, this seems foolish – even as I write it – but it’s a strange, lonely feeling thinking that I won’t have Carrillo attached to the end of my name. I know that I’ll still BE a Carrillo, but still.
I tell myself to listen to my gut, but my gut is as indecisive as my brain.
And so, to sum up, you all decide for me.
YOU HAVE ELEVEN MONTHS (!) to get your pro and con lists in.
PS: While were at it, tell me whether or not I should work during my first year of Graduate School, and whether I should cut my bangs again. These are all super important things I need to think about.
PPS: Maybe I should just change my last name to INDECISIVE… but that’s even longer than Carrillo…