What's in a Hyphenated Name?

I didn’t get married until 35.  I had years of professional experience using my last name and I didn’t know any other name for all those years. That could be half my life. Why change then?  I had many professional books and articles and presented workshops under my name.  If I changed my name, no one would know I was the same person.  And what if I got divorced?  I would have to switch my name yet again and have to explain it to everyone. My dad and his sister did not have any boys so we could be the last Bromanns in this family.  So I decided to keep my last name.  My husband was more traditional and insisted I take his.  So we compromised on a hyphenated name. It wasn’t a cool hyphenated name.  Bromann-Bender is obnoxiously long and awkward. I knew it, but at the time, I also knew I had to keep the name I was born with.

But now I can admit that it hasn’t been easy.  My stubbornness has caused many problems and I sometimes wonder if I should have just changed my name to Bender, although I still don’t feel like just a Bender.  At the time I did not have kids.  Now when I have to deal with the school or anything kid related, no one knows we are related or they assume we share the same name.  Teachers call me Mrs. Bender, which is fine. I have now kind of just unofficially kept Bromann professionally and use Bender with anything regarding my kids.  My name is so long that my driver’s license shows it on the third line so the school can never find my name tag because my last name prints as my middle name.

I work in a high school.  Teenagers don’t have time for this so they mostly call me Mrs. Bromann as do the teachers who knew me when.  Some will get even lazier and call me Mrs. B.B.  It’s actually kind of cute.  And they often ask me why my name is hyphenated, which is tiring, but it sometimes inspires a discussion of young women thinking about how they want to handle their future names.

My name doesn’t fit on bank cards and online forms don’t always accept it. I’m Bromann-Bende on my Starbucks gold card and just J on my debit cards.  After taking the time to type in my huge last name on online forms, it often rejects me because the system can’t handle hyphens.   You can’t have extra characters in the last name field.  And when you say your name over the phone, you have to be sure to tell them it is hyphenated and it takes a really long time to spell it out.

When I order pizza or anything or have tickets for something with my kids or husband, I can’t remember which name I gave. Some systems still have me as Bromann. Some as Bender and some as Bromann-Bender. So I always say “It’s under Bromann or maybe Bender or Bromann-Bender.” And sometimes they automatically change my kids’ or husband’s last name to Bromann-Bender or call my husband Mr. Bromann. When I make restaurant reservations, my extended family never knows what name it is under.

I really wish I could change my name. I mean, I can with a little hassle. But I wish I could get to a place where I am happy with someone else’s name and the name my kids have and give up my own. It would be so much more convenient. I don’t even think my kids know what my name is. And since getting married and having kids, being with them has become my priority and I no longer care about making a name for myself in my profession.   I mostly stopped writing books and articles to take them on adventures and spend every moment I can with them.  But after all the problems and questions, I still will always will feel like I am a Bromann and a Bender and so I will always be hyphenated.


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