Seeking a fair way out of hyphenated names - Newsday

Seeking a fair way out of hyphenated names

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Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: When we got married seven years ago, I didn't care whether my wife took my name, and she didn't ask me to take hers (I wouldn't have). We have blissfully retained our individual identities. My wife and I have a child, with another on the way. While she was gestating our first, we discussed last names and quickly realized that neither of us was going to be happy with his or her last name relegated to the exile of being a middle name or any other decision that favored one last name over another. The result is that we hyphenated the last name. Our daughter now has a first and middle name to go with a hyphenated last name that's of considerable length. We have saddled our children with the consequences of our inability to compromise. I can't even begin to contemplate the possibilities for when they get married. Can you imagine when a hyphen marries a hyphen? At one point we discussed a hybridization of our last names, but the most natural way to accomplish this includes my complete name and only a part of hers, which seems unfair. Any advice?

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--Conflicted Father


DEAR CONFLICTED: You (and your wife) need to answer this question: Who can claim primacy to your child's identity -- you or your wife? OK. That was a trick question.

Your child's primary identity belongs to the child.

So far, your child, whom I will call "Brittany Clovis Stevenson-Glockenspiel" is mainly the symptom carrier for her mommy and daddy's unwillingness to identify as anything other than their individual selves.

One way out lies in the symmetry of your growing family. You could give one child your surname and the other your wife's. This keeps everything fair, with each of you clinging to your respective separateness.

I take issue with your characterization of a middle name as being some sort of identity exile. Because you wrote, I vote for your name to go in the middle.

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