When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up
Those born at the height of the name-hyphenating craze will be the first to tell you — having two last names can be more trouble than it’s worth. There’s the perennial confusion at school and at the doctor’s office, and the challenge of squeezing your name onto forms.
And now that the hyphenated generation is marrying and parenting, a whole host of new tricky situations has emerged.
Take Leila and Brendan. Their story is one of those fairy tale stories of love at first sight. She was in the lobby of her apartment building when this cute guy started moving in.
Not to sound too cliche, Leila says, but “I could tell there was something different about him.”
“And I saw her, and I was just happy there was at least one babe living in the apartment building,” Brendan says.
Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl
The pair chatted and flirted for a bit. Those were the good old days, before they started discovering the kind of issues that inevitably pop up later. Like when Brendan first noticed the name on Leila’s mailbox.
“I remember looking at hers and being like, ‘Holy crap, there’s another hyphenated last name!’ “
Brendan’s last name is Greene-Walsh, and Leila’s, Rathert-Knowles.
They both hoped things would continue to go well — but they both also knew they were a pileup waiting to happen.
“My names would probably be Leila Rathert-Knowles Greene-Walsh,” Leila says, laughing.
Brendan smirks, too. “It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?”
Now, four years later, these hyphenated honeys are still in love — but also still stumped on what they would possibly do if they decide to get hitched.
“I just don’t have any good answers,” sighs Leila.
One idea is melding. “Take, like, three letters from each name, and mix them up into a new word,” Brendan explains.
“Growlsh,” Leila offers.
Too much like Grolsch beer, Brendan counters.
Another option, Brendan says, is blind chance. “We could put all four of the names on pieces of paper in a hat, and just draw one,” he says.
And there’s always option “C”: none of the above.
“We can go the route of Prince and just drop our last names just, be like, ‘I’m Brendan.’ ” — The Brendan formerly known as Brendan Greene-Walsh.
A Bureaucratic Nightmare
Hyphenating has waned since its peak in the ‘80s and ‘90s, in part, experts say, because it’s become less of a feminist statement and more of a bureaucratic nightmare.
But also — as most “hyphens” will now tell you — it wasn’t really sustainable anyway. Hyphenating was destined to hit a wall after one generation.
“Yeah, it was gonna happen eventually,” says the man formerly known as Ian McKenna-Thomas. “And I did ask my mom, ‘What were you expecting me to do?’ “
His mother’s answer, Ian says, was basically, “You figure it out.”
Growing up, he was always teased about his name, Ian says. The big joke — what would he do if he married another hyphen? — was less humorous when it happened.
“So, sure enough, we had the potential of being the McKenna-Thomas Camera-Smith household,” Ian says. “Which sounded too much like a law firm, really.”
That mouthful wasn’t going to fly, so the couple sat down with a family tree and counted all of their cousins. When they concluded that “Camera” was the most endangered of all their last names, they decided they’d both take that one.
They worried about offending the other family members. But at the big reveal at their wedding, the pair kept their eyes on the bride’s maternal grandfather, an elderly Italian immigrant named Matteo Camera.
“He was very confused, but he did smile when we announced,” Ian says. “He smiled pretty big when we told folks what we were doing.”
And Baby Makes Three Names. Or Four.
Of course, figuring out a married name is only the beginning of the dilemma; what to name the kids can be even trickier.