I seem to be at an age when every summer weekend involves a wedding. When it came to my own wedding this summer I had to face the dilemma of whether or not to change my surname. This has been a fairly hot topic amongst my friends, many of whom are doctors, and seems to provoke impassioned debate on both sides. I remember thinking it odd the first time I realised that some female surgeons known as “Miss” wore wedding rings.
This apparent contradiction puzzled me but over the last 10 years I’ve spent studying and working in hospital it has become quite normal. In fact, these days if I am introduced to a female surgeon as “Mrs” I register this, involuntarily, with surprise. Interestingly, most of my surgeon friends have kept their maiden name at work while most GP friends have taken their married name.
I decided to take my married name and set about changing it with every organisation I could think of. After about the fiftieth letter I was beginning to sympathise with the argument that it’s simply easier not to change it, but I persevered. When I spoke to my university about changing my name their rather enigmatic advice was to consider my options carefully, as they would need to see legal documentation if I wanted to change it back again. This made me wonder whether they were implying my marriage wouldn’t make it through to June (when I will hopefully qualify) but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they were trying to counsel me well. I then arrived at the BMJ, to start as a Clegg scholar, where I had forgotten to mention my name change to anyone. For the sake of simplicity I have reverted back to my maiden name for eight weeks, but find myself hesitating for thought whenever I introduce myself, which hardly engenders confidence in my new acquaintances. My most recent name change challenge came when I tried (unsuccessfully) to enrol on the foundation programme application website. Unfortunately, University’s name change hadn’t caught up with the information submitted to the foundation programme, so after a couple of days of emails and phone calls together we managed to unravel it. One of my (more superficial) reasons for wanting to change my name was that I could have a new signature. At work I had often lamented my rather laborious signature and envied those sensible enough to have a little squiggle signature instead, thinking of the seconds it would save when prescribing and signing letters. However, old habits die hard. My new signature is actually a replica of the old one, only my new surname is longer.
The last few months have given me a much better understanding of the arguments for not taking you married name, but despite the teething problems, I’m still glad I did.
Lucy Dennison is a Clegg scholar at the BMJ.