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Do you use the name you were born with?

Marci Shatzman

By Marci Shatzman

Back in the day, professional women used a different name at work and still used their “Mrs.” in private.

I didn’t want to do that. I was in a generation of working women with a new point of view. I considered myself “progressive.” So, I took my husband’s last name, but I used it professionally, too.

When that brief marriage ended, I didn’t want to go through the rest of my life using someone else’s last name. So, I didn’t.

But my father took exception to me legally taking back our name. The Shatzmans weren’t even sure that was their real last name, so I could make up any name like actresses do, he insisted. Marci Mann had a nice ring to it.

But by that time, I was a feminist. And the tradition based on English law that when you marry the two are one and one is him didn’t appeal to me.

And as a journalist, I wanted to keep my original byline at the newspaper back home in Philly after working a few years at the Chicago Tribune.   

When I remarried, everyone advised me that separate last names would create identity chaos and we’d spend hours explaining my decision. That never happened.

We’ve been married for 43 years. We just tell customer service we have different last names. We’ve never had to show our marriage license to prove it.

The only fallout is that some people assume Shatzman is my husband’s last name too. We get invitations or we’re registered for an event that way. He always joked about it and by now he’s gotten used to it.  

I thought successive generations would follow my lead. I was wrong. Not changing what used to be called a “maiden name” for women never caught on. Most people who marry automatically take their spouse’s last name. I doubt they even think about it. Even mega star Jennifer Lopez legally changed her last name when she married Ben Affleck in 2022. I get it. I always used Ms., but that title never caught on either.

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