Monday, January 16, 2017
16,000 Readers Reflect on Their Surnames
Ian Willms for The New York Times
“Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!” the other children would shout, teasing Katherine Yuk all through elementary school about her Chinese last name.
“When I was a child and a new immigrant in Canada, I longed for the day when I could get married and take someone else’s last name,” she wrote.
Ms. Yuk was one of more than 16,000 readers who responded when The New York Times asked women around the world why they had kept or changed their surnames when they married.
By the time she had the chance, Ms. Yuk wrote, her thinking had come around. She decided to embrace and keep her name, despite the teasing.
“I hadn’t only survived it, but it had defined me — as someone who was different yet proud of those differences, a survivor of childhood bullying, a first-generation immigrant with a funny last name who had found her own skin and found her own opportunities and identity,” said Ms. Yuk, now 45 and living in Toronto. “I didn’t want to lose my identity.”
Women from a variety of nationalities, religions, sexual orientations and ages wrote to The Times about how their names were a core part of who they were. For many, the decision on whether to change their names carried significant weight, and it was shaped by the traditions, the norms and, in some cases, the laws of the societies in which they live. Some looked to their names as badges of cultural identity, others as symbolic links to their fathers that they were eager to preserve, or to sever.
Here are some of the responses. They have been edited and condensed.