I’ve been considering the idea of giving all my kids different last names. Resurrecting various maiden names or something, picking them the way people often pick middle names out of their whole pool of known family names.
I think it is mainly being married that has me thinking about names and name systems. It’s easy to skip that whole “married name” business, but if you want to give your kid some kind of awesome, non-patriarchal name you actually have to come up with a plan. That gets complicated really fast, even in the common, surface solutions like hyphenating last names or using the mother’s family name in an attempt to go matrilineal (by passing on her dad’s name). All of those schemes run into the usual problems if there is a break from monogamy, if anybody leaves a relationship, breeds with more than one person, or dies. The “team name” gets broken all the time, even if you are trying to play along. Even just making up a new last name doesn’t solve the question of what the grandkids would be called.
Family structures and systems are fucking intense. Where do they all come from? Which ones are good? Research questions.
This multiple last name idea has been wildly unpopular with everyone I’ve mentioned it to. Intensely unpopular. Instant frowning. Worst idea ever. I still kind of like it. Galen and I already have different last names and we manage to be a family team. Maybe it would be good, if we had kids, to remember that they were individual people and not just “ours.” Maybe a team name is just a manifestation of compulsory/wishful monogamy and maybe we can do better than that. It scales well across multiple generations, unlike, say, hyphenation. I’m lucky enough to know a lot of my ancestral family names, and it seems like maybe reusing them would be a fairly robust way to remember your lineage if you moved or were displaced. Or maybe it would just make it impossible to find each other again.
Lacking a unified last name, maybe we could give our household its own name, to make it easy to refer to. That happens sometimes with places populated by roommates. (I’m thinking of places I’ve known called The Husbandry, The Folk Museum, The Queens Den, The Triple Crush Palace…). That doesn’t solve anything about family members who don’t live in the same home, but it’s a start.
This is unresolved. I just found an old booksale purchase called World Revolution and Family Patterns that I’m hoping might contain some inspiration. I also found a Kurt Vonnegut quote via Bex that I have filed away.
12. … Even when Vonnegut dared to propose a utopian scheme, it was a happily dysfunctional one. In Slapstick, Wilbur Swain wins the presidency with a scheme to eliminate loneliness by issuing people complicated middle names (he becomes Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain) which make them part of new extended families. He advises people to tell new relatives they hate, or members of other families asking for help: “Why don’t you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don’t you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?” Of course, this fails to prevent plagues, the breakdown of his government, and civil wars later in the story.
Complicated middle names: noted.