by Anne Edison-Albright
“At my wedding shower, the hot topic of conversation was ‘What will your children do if they marry someone else with a hyphenated last name?’ Since my question was ‘What in the world am I doing getting married so young?’ I did not take the bait about the potential last names of my potential children. ‘I guess they’ll do whatever they want,’ I said, and had some more chicken salad.
Growing up as an Edison-Swift was awesome. Sure, there were people who just didn’t get it. There was some teasing, but not a lot. Mostly there were mis-filing issues, which are annoying but usually fixable. In kindergarten, I was too lazy to spell the whole thing out and advocated for shortening it to “E-S.” My teacher did not accept this. My parents discovered that the spelling fits quite well with the Mickey Mouse Club theme song (try it! It works!) and having a theme song of your own is just plain cool. I grew up very proud of my last name.
Every once and awhile I pondered the hypothetical question about marriage and last names. When I was 7, I asked Whad’Ya Know host Michael Feldman what he thought I should do if I married Kurt Tinglev-Hansen. He suggested hyphenating all four names to create one long, super name. Not very helpful, Michael Feldman. But, it was just a hypothetical question, so I didn’t worry about it.
In 2004, Sean Albright and I got engaged and the question became less hypothetical. I still wasn’t worried. We’d figure something out. A few months before we were married in 2006, we still hadn’t decided what to do. Sean had offered to take my last name and become an Edison-Swift. “There are only three of you in the whole world,” he said. “How cool would it be to get to be the fourth?” But that didn’t seem to be in the spirit of the merger-not-takeover idea that inspired my parents to hyphenate. We pondered, we considered, we debated.
One day, I went to pick up my medications from the student health center at Yale. The pharmacist called my name and said, “Edison-Swift. You have the coolest name, did you know that?” I agreed with her and mentioned that I was trying to figure out what to do when I got married that summer. “What’s your fiance’s last name?” she asked. “Albright.” “Oh, that’s easy!” she said. “Your new last name is Edison-Albright.”
Suddenly it seemed very easy indeed. I walked out of the pharmacy and called Sean, letting him know it had been decided. He was quite pleased, too.
As it was with my parents 30 years earlier, so it was with Sean and me. Sean was able to change his last name on all his official documents with nary an eyebrow raised. I was given all sorts of bureaucratic grief about my name change, including an incident at the New Haven DMV that’s become a part of family lore.
The Edison-Swift-Albrights were all together in New Haven, Conn., for Thanksgiving. We went to the DMV as a family outing to get my new driver’s license with my new name. The man behind the desk said it was absolutely impossible. Because of new homeland security laws, I had the following options for my last name: keep my maiden name, take my husband’s name, or hyphenate all three names into one long, super name (suddenly, I realized that Michael Feldman is a prophet.)
I’d been warned about this by friends from Texas who’d had problems changing their last names. I thought about relenting, but then he said something about, “Maybe if you kept your dad’s part of the name, the Swift part, and gave up the Edison part it would work” and I realized he had no idea what he actually was and wasn’t allowed to do. My dad came up to the counter and, with tears in his eyes, told the man behind the desk: “You are going to do this for my daughter. You are going to let her have her last name.” DMV man’s resolve was weakening. I pounced: “You know, I heard about this from some friends of mine. But that happened to them in Texas. I thought Connecticut would be different.”
I love being an Edison-Albright. It’s like being part of the Edison-Swifts and the Albrights while still being our own little family, too. There are only three of us in the whole world (me, Sean and Hank the Dog) and soon there will be four. What will Walter Paul Edison-Albright do with his last name when/if he gets married? Hopefully, whatever he wants. Pass the chicken salad, please.