- That’s convenient!
- Guess you won’t have to change your name!
- Are you changing your name?
- Is he taking your name?
- Are you hyphenating?
- Are you related?
- I bet you’re sick of everyone joking about your having the same name!
Not remarking on this seems to be completely out of the question.
It’s not that I mind these jokes: they’re all so totally hilarious! And I understand the human need to fill space with words. What’s both noteworthy and somehow inspiring is the sense of delighted discovery each person brings to his variation, as if he is the first one to notice this amazing coincidence. Did Eleanor Roosevelt have to deal with such nonsense? I occasionally fume.
Yes, it’s funny. But given how common Stein is—one of those Ashkenazi catchalls hundreds of families took in the nineteenth century—it doesn’t seem like that big a deal, certainly not in New York. And for those who are counting, our forebears didn’t even come from the same part of Eastern Europe.
Of course, I embrace the name thing when it suits me. “Cheers! Love the Steins,” reads the little card accompanying the pair of miniature beer steins given to out-of-town relatives. “#🍻,” I write on Instagram. “The bride will continue to use her name professionally,” I wrote on our wedding announcement.
The truth is, it is convenient. It spares me a lot of decision making, plenty of paperwork, and a potential identity crisis. I promised my father years ago I’d never change my name—and given that my mother still goes by her maiden name, it had always seemed like an obvious choice for me. And yet, when we went to City Hall to get our license and the electronic form for Spouse A was on the screen before me, I read the words, “Will you be changing your name?” and decisively checked the box marked YES. To what? Stein.
Marriage, I am told, is all about compromise. Or at least, baby steps.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review and the Daily’s correspondent. She’s off next week.