The Guilty Admission: I Hate My Name



It’s true. I hate my name.

Not my first name. I love the name Aliya. It used to be unique. Until Aliya the singer came along. Then it seemed like every third girl I met was named Aliya. Still love it. I like the way it sounds and I think it suits me. And I love my middle name too. Although I only use my initial, it’s still a special part of my name. And my last name? King. How could you not love that?!

It’s regal. And of course, I’ve always wondered if I’m in anyway related to the Reverend Doctor.

So, my birthname: Aliya S. King. I love it.

It’s the butchering that happened a few years ago that I HATE.

Here’s the thing. I got married at 32. And by then, I had been Aliya S. King for so long, I couldn’t imagine being anything else. I never discussed with TheHusband beforehand whether or not I would change my last name. I actually didn’t give it much thought at all.

When we got back from our honeymoon, I looked at my post-wedding checklist. Get added to his health insurance: Check. Send out thank-you notes. Check. Go to DMV and get name change…

I went down to the DMV with my marriage license in hand. But the entire time I waited my turn, I wanted to run out kicking and screaming.

I didn’t want to change my name.

My husband’s last name, let’s call it HisLastName, is perfectly fine. It suits him and his family, all lovely people.

But I’ve never felt like Mrs. Aliya HisLastName. It’s just not me. I’m Aliya S. King.

I think this pull is felt by writers in particular. We see our names in print and become attached. Even the intense emotion of joining forces with someone you love in a legally binding act doesn’t necessarily change how you feel.

I’m Aliya S. King. Not Mrs. Aliya HisLastName.

But still…I stepped up to the counter and handed over my documents.

“I just got married,” I said. “So…I guess I’m changing my name.”

She shuffled my papers, stamped some stuff and then asked me to sign a form. I looked down and then shook my head.

“Wait. No, this is not right. I want my name to be Aliya King HisLastName.” I said. “No hyphens please. Just Aliya King HisLastName, you know, like Sarah Jessica Parker.”

“You can’t do that,” the woman said. “You have to be either Aliya S. HisLastName. Or you can hyphenate it and be Aliya S. King-HisLastName.”

“Hyphens are whack!” I said. “I can’t have a hyphenated name. I want to use King as my middle name.”

The woman rolled her eyes at me.

“That would require a true legal name change through the courts. Are you gonna submit this paperwork or not?”

For some reason, I have no clue why, I submitted. And I got my license back a few minutes later.

There, in print. Laminated forever and ever:



My name was now Aliya King-HisLastName.

It doesn’t have a ring to it. And as a writer, I’m very particular about names. Zora Neale Hurston wasn’t hyphenated! Cheo Hodari Coker isn’t hyphenated. It just didn’t feel right. And looking at it made me unhappy.

In the years since, it’s only gotten worse. The hyphenated name is complicated and confusing. I go to the pharmacy and there’s always drama. My insurance card says that my last name is King-HisLastName. And sometimes they use King and sometimes they use HisLastName. I’ve been in doctor’s offices, schools, banks and countless other places, waiting my turn to be served. They call out “Mrs. King-HisLastName” and I just sit there waiting for them to call my name. Until I remember, that IS my name. Ugh.

When we bought a house this summer, I was ticked off to see that the official deed to the house was made out to Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName. That’s not me! I wanted to yell out. I’m Aliya S. King!

Why does it bother me so? Is it really a big deal?

Professionally, I will always be Aliya S. King. I worked hard to establish that byline for ten years before I got married. So changing my byline was never an option. And TheHusband agreed that I should keep my name for work.

And then, I had a kid. And I labored over what her surname should be. I knew I didn’t want her to have the hyphenated drama I was going through.

But on this, TheHusband wasn’t budging:

“Her last name will be HisLastName,” he said. “And that’s final.”


I was expecting a boy and had a first name already picked out. And then, she decided to be a girl instead. So we were stumped for a first name during my entire stay in the hospital.  But I knew, no matter what, that her middle name would be the last name I’d always known.

So she’s now known as TheOtherGirl King HisLastName.

It worked out for her in the way I wish it had worked out for me. In fact, I often think of going to the DMV and changing my name back to just plain old Aliya S. King. TheHusband teases me and says I’ll never do it. And he’s right, I probably won’t. But I’m still bummed every time I pull out my license or credit card and someone calls me Mrs. King-HisLastName.

In many cultures, including Korea and Chile, the woman does not change her surname after marriage. In some Latin cultures, it’s common to combine your surname with your spouse’s last name to create an entirely new surname. (Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, was born Antonio Villar. When he married Corina Raigosa, they combined their surnames. But now they’re getting divorced. How’s that for complicated…Will he go back to Villar? Or will he combine Villaraigosa with a new wife’s last name? I just gave myself a headache.)

My literary agent’s name was Ryan Harbage when we first met. After marrying, he hyphenated his surname with his wife’s and now they’re the Fischer-Harbage family. A word from Ryan on how he decided to merge names with his wife:

I suggested we take each others’ names because it seemed like the right thing to do. It just never made sense to me that women have to take their husband’s name while the husband doesn’t have to change his own. When I went to the DMV in Brooklyn to get a new license,  the women working there showered me with praise–the woman behind the counter processing my paperwork called all her colleagues over and they made a big show of whooping it up and telling me how sweet I was. It was the closest I’ve ever come to feeling heroic. And probably the most pleasant visit to the DMV that I’ll ever have.
But I guess now I understand why men don’t change their names. Aside from ten minutes (ok five) of adoration at the DMV, its a lifelong pain in the ass.

Ryan’s a sweetie. But I definitely think it would be even more complicated to have me and TheHusband share a hyphenated name. It’s all so confusing. And while I think I’d prefer my name to just be King, the truth is more complex.

When I take TheOtherGirl to daycare, I don’t mind at all that I’m referred to as Mrs. HisLastName. For better or for worse, I appreciate the respect that title affords me. And I appreciate that I have the same last name as my daughter. We’re the HisLastName family. And I’m okay with that.

If I do it make it to the DMV, I will change my name. But I’ll change it in a way I think TheHusband wouldn’t expect. I won’t change my name back to King. I’ll just kill the hyphen and be Aliya HisLastName. So much simpler that way. I’ll be King in the world. And HisLastName at home. No hyphens.

But on this blog, in my work, wherever I am a writer first, I’ll always be Aliya S. King.

I’d love to hear from my Dear Readers on this one. Ladies, if you’re married, how did you handle this? If you’re not married but planning to be, how will you handle this? Did your profession affect your decision? I see my girl Shani is now Shani Parrish. But Thembia Mshaka, married to the awesome T-Mor Morris, is still Ms. Mshaka. Mimi Valdez, editor-in-chief of Latina, added Ryan to her name but with NO hyphen. (Lucky girl.) Serena Kim is still Serena Kim. But is she Mrs. HisLastName at home? I have no idea. And fellas, I need you to weigh on this too. Does it matter to you if your wife changes her last name? Let me know your thoughts…

43 Responses to “The Guilty Admission: I Hate My Name”

  1. Clove Says:

    I’m definitely keeping my professional name if/when I get married, should I see the day. Clover Hope has a ring to it that any other last name would mangle but I respect those women who do decide to change. I’ve always wondered if it’s a hassle legally and in everyday life. I figured I’d just keep my last name throughout all my documents…thanks for enlightening me on what I have to look forward to lol

  2. Tremaya Says:

    When I got married I did the whole hyphenated thing mainly because my Dad doesn’t have any sons, so I thought I’d carry on his name as long as I could. However, after about three months of writing a first and hyphenated last name that consisted of 22 letters, I dropped my maiden name real quick except on official business. Besides, people struggle enough with the pronunciation of my first name, so why add to the fray?:)

  3. Aliya S. King Says:

    @clover: keep your name! to hell with the patrilineal establishment! lol.

  4. jay1 Says:

    my kids last names are hyphenated and it drives me crazy. i’m changing them next month though, enough is enough. i don’t even know why i agreed to it to begin with.

  5. Aliya S. King Says:

    @jay1: changing them to what? The mom’s last name. or yours? And are you married to the mom? Is her last name hyphenated too?

  6. Aliya S. King Says:

    @and isn’t changing the kids name going to be a huge pain in the arse?

  7. jay1 Says:

    it’s gonna be a huge pain, yes. and we’re not married yet. i figured we could either have a $30,000 party (wedding, whatever) or just travel, and she picked travel.

    i want to change thier name to my name. the tipping point was baby momma finding out that the dude she got her last name from wasn’t even really her dad. like, on some soap opera ish. so the name she fought to keep on the kids birth certificate isn’t even really hers!

    so when we get married, which should be sometime this year, we’re all gonna spend a weekend getting everyone’s name changed.

  8. Aliya S. King Says:

    @jay1: travel always trumps 30K wedding. always. And yes, the soap opera drama does change the game a bit. But believe me, it’s gonna be more than a weekend getting those names changed. There will be a court date involved. and money.

  9. yes Says:

    Your driver’s license photo is cute! My last name begins with a B so I’m used to being called closer to first whenever I’m in an alphabetical situation. Soooo hopefully his name will be something at the beginning of the alphabet. I can’t change my name to Williams. I really don’t know, I just tell myself these things. lol I guess it just depends on the name and how it sounds with mine.

    As for writers and celebs, I think it’s okay to change your name, but go ahead and keep your maiden name for work purposes. You just have to remember which one to sign at what time.

  10. Aliya S. King Says:

    @yes: are you really wavering on changing your name because of being called later in line? Lol. You know you have jinxed yourself. You will marry someone who’s last name is Xavier…

  11. Paul Says:

    This has nothing to do with anything.

    A. You put your license on the net. Woah. (so what you blotted out the numbers) I dont know why, but isn’t that taboo in some taboo book somewhere that lays in the dark with dust on it like the book in The Never Ending Story. Atraaaaaiooooooo!)

    B. Uhhhh Try living with the last name Chinnery. Everytime I introduce myself in full name form, I know that I am 99.9999% of the time gonna hear, “Chim Chimmery Chim Chimmery Chim Chim Cherooo.” To the point where I start mouthing the words before they even start singing it… Try that, Buddy.

    So shut up with your trivial last name tantrums. Portia and I don’t wanna hear it. Or anyone with the name Cox, Hymen, Gay or Booty. Just knock it off already!

  12. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Paul: yeah, I thought about that. But what’s gonna happen? Someone’s gonna write me a letter? The Killer might come and get me. But um, I don’t live at that address anymore. So he or she would only be able to get to my parents. And my sister. And my nephew… Hmmm.

  13. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Paul: and I never even thought about that song when I heard your last name. But I did wonder why some people pronounce it with an S-H sound.

  14. Hanif Says: will take care of all the paper work and time it takes to get your maiden name to officially be your last name.

    I fell for the okey-doke and allowed my daughter’s last name to be hyphenated. Her mom made me feel guilty that we had the baby out of wed-lock. She promised we will all share the S0-WELL name once I make it official. 3-years later and finally engaged, I find her practicing her signature with a hyphenated last name.

    Why do I want her to have it? Uh, I really don’t have a profound answer. Just bare bones male-chauvinist-I- am-King. (no pun) I bare my mother’s maiden name and rightfully so. I am; let’s say, one of those immaculately conceived children. No dad to speak of. I’m here and holding it down. She takes my last name, and we all live S0-WELL.

    P.S. She’s peeping over my shoulder now. Still a hot button topic, I will keep you posted.

  15. Paul Says:

    I see the quick adjustment of the license.

    Yeah I love the fam. We need to keep them around for awhile.

    And if nephew wasnt around, who would give my Last Dragon DVD some rotation?

    So now you put it out there that you have Pac’s chains and bandana and you put your real license online for god knows how long. Real smart… I DONT HAVE RANSOM MONEY.
    Oh wait. I dont really know you like that.

    Talk to Mr. HisLastName…

  16. yourdreamsfirst Says:

    The name thing is funny in our house. As a junior, it’s not my last name that I detest…it’s my first, which is really Anthony (don’t tell anyone). The only name I dislike more than Anthony is Tony. Whenever someone takes the liberty of calling me Tony I throw up a little in my mouth. Tmor is what I’ve chosen to go by. It was given to me by one of my homeboys in my gang (yes, I used to gangbang…just a little) when I was 13 and it’s all I’ve known ever since, which brings me to my point. One should be able to choose how they’re known. My wife chose to hyphenate in private and use her given name publicly and that’s cool with me. What’s important is that she call herself mywife and act accordingly. Unfortunately, whether Thembisa uses my last name or not, Thembisa Shalewa Mshaka will most likely get butcherd in pronunciation.

    We won’t even get into my middle name.

  17. slb Says:

    in april, i will have been dating the same man for eight years. we have the same last name. same spelling and everything. i’m not gon’ lie and say that this is a small thread in the tie that binds.

    if i were ever to marry someone else whose last name (*gasp!*) wasn’t Brown, i’d weigh the cadence of his last name with my first and middle and see if i find it amenable. if not, i keep my name. lol

    frankly, though i know a few other Stacias with different last names, i can’t really think of many last names i like better with my first than Brown.

  18. slb Says:

    *isn’t a small thread in the tie that binds. (typo)

  19. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Hanif: please keep me posted. something tells me the future wife may not be pressed to drop her maiden name…
    @yourdreamsfirst:An unasked for “Tony” should be against the law. So wait, your wife hypehnates in private: That would make her Thembisa Shalewa Mshaka-Morris. I am sure folks have a FIELD day with that one. Yikes! Oh. And can you please explain to me how a wife acts accordingly. (*one hand on hip and ready to start neck swiveling*)
    @slb: so wait. if you marry Mr. Brown, you won’t change your name to Mrs. Brown-Brown? It’s been done ya know…

    Oh. and I am going to have to do a whole new post on my driver’s license photo. Y’all know I’m not photogenic. We’ve talked about this. So when I had to go in for a new photo, I was not playing. I am not ashamed to say that I got my makeup professionally done, adjusted my angles for maximum light and made homeboy take that joint six times. I refused to go through life with a whack license picture. Too many of my other pictures are just awful. That license picture now causes me other drama. I got pulled over recently and the cop said: huh. is this YOU? Usually, people look worse in their license picture. Not in real life. I swear to God he said this to my face. I wanted to smack him. And then I wanted to cry. I think I did cry actually.

  20. yourdreamsfirst Says:

    @Aliya: Ironically, as I was writing my post, Thembisa was the one who interjected “act accordingly”, which probably helps to explain why we’ll be married 12 years in April. Of course, I believe “act accordingly” also applies to husbands. There’s definitely a way to be successfully married. In our marriage, the list called “act accordingly” includes mutual respect, open and honest communication, sharing of joy as well as responsibility, nurturing each others needs, maintaining a sense of one’s self identity among other things. Each couple must work together to create what “act accordingly” looks like. The Obamas are an amazing example of how to “act accordingly” as HusbandAndWife. The Obamas are an amazing example of how to “act accordingly” as HusbandAndWife, at least from a distance…

  21. yourdreamsfirst Says:

    Didn’t mean to double up on that last line.

  22. Aliya S. King Says:

    @yourdreamsfirst: i totally feel you on “act accordingly.” I was just starting trouble. Although my husband will tell anyone who will listen that I need some lessons on acting accordingly sometimes. either that or an open-hand slap in the mouth…

  23. yourdreamsfirst Says:

    Yo, It’s not like I haven’t wanted to deliver one of those open hands on occasion. But, you know…your husband and I, we’re gentlemen. So…

  24. slb Says:

    i cannot hyphenate the same last name. that’s just… way too extra. lol (the only case i know of is one of the singers in the dandy warhols, courtney taylor-taylor. he took his now-ex-wife’s last name… but i mean, he’s a musician. heh.)

    Sir Brown and i have already gleefully agreed that no one has to do anything name-change related if we marry. :-)

    on your license photo: whatever your methods, you won. that is the prettiest driver’s license picture ever. that cop was an uber-jerk, though.

  25. Aliya S. King Says:

    @slb: I don’t know, Brown-Brown could be kind of hot. lol. Re: license photo. the key is to NOT look at the camera straight on. you have to turn your head at just a touch of an angle. Look at the camera like, I see you! You can’t trick me into looking like a criminal. My girl told me to act like I’m *just* about to wink. I know, I put way too much thought into it.

  26. Hanif Says:

    Honestly, I don’t think it’s much to it either way. (even though, i’m going to fight tooth and nail to make sure we share my last name). There’s no real rhyme or reason, but for the sake of uniformity and organization. (the whole idea behind the instution of marriage. Becoming 1 mind, body, and soul) One Family, One Name. Flip a Coin!

    These hyphenated last names reminds me of those crazy starbucks orders.

  27. Aliya S. King Says:

    @hanif: i feel you on the one family/one name thing. it makes sense…And of course I have a crazy starbucks order too. I’m complex!

  28. Tremaya Says:

    “I got pulled over recently and the cop said: huh. is this YOU? Usually, people look worse in their license picture.” OMG! What a jerk!

  29. Jovi Says:

    Someone please marry me so I can chime in. Since that is not happening anytime soon I will say I hate my last name, but for other reasons.

    My biological father gave up his parental rights and let some *sshole adopt me and now I have Saunders. Have not seen him in over 20+ years, he does not even know that my mom passed away. Have not thought about changing it since people know me only by it, unless you knew me when I was born a Sturgis. I never even gave it a second thought when I had my two girlz to give his name. Sorry to be off topic, sore subject :-(

  30. Jovi Says:

    Forgot to mention, CUTE photo.

  31. Paul Says:

    I cant believe this got more coverage than the Biggie belt.
    What is this god forsaken world coming to!
    Find the damn belt!!!!

  32. kendra Says:

    not married, but have been writing–professionally–under my birth name for more than 20 years. plus i LOVE LOVE LOVE that my first and last initials (kl) are smack-dab together in the middle of the alphabet (how’s that for shallow and superficial?). i’ve never planned to take my hubby’s (whoever he ends up being) last name. i agree: i don’t like the hyphen thing. but i’m also from the south, and if i just add his name, people will think my maiden name is one of those two first name things southern folks do. ick. i’ll be fine if the daycare folks call me mrs. hislastname, though.

  33. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Jovi: thanks. I worked hard for it. see comments.
    @Paul: check the post. it’s getting coverage!
    @kendra: …because K and L are next to each other? That’s a new one. I love it.

  34. kaia zawadi Says:

    aliya, omg i feel ur pain!! ok so i have an african name. i remember my mom telling my dad that she wouldnt be surprised if my brother and i changed our names when we got older. hmph, not!! anyway, i found out that my name is a little more common than i thought. while posting a comment on fb i found another chick with my name. then i met c. zawadi morris who has my last name as her first name lol. but the kicker was when cindy crawford named her daughter kaia, i was like ok, stop the madness. and if one more person asks me if my name is asian, imma scream! but with a name like aliya, it seems like no matter which way it’s spelled you know that there is a chance that every 25th chick’s name is. many females now have that name. especially since aaliyah passed-rip.

  35. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Kaia: yup. you feel me. And I think the special-ness of my name is why I wish I had kept it all intact. Including the last name. I’ve lived with spelling out A-L-I-Y-A, no-H all my life. And after Aaliyah, I’ve lived with people asking me if I was named after her, although she was ten years younger. Hell, I’ve got a baby sister named Ashanti. Seriously! So you can imagine. What are the odds that two sisters, born years before the singers, could end up having the same names as two popular R&B singers? Oh, and I know two little girls named Kaia, both adorable.

  36. Portia Says:

    I love the name Kaia…would name my baby girl that if the good lord blesses me with one! When and if I get married I will take my husbands name…just because I’m traditional like that. I thought of hyphenating my name but Chinnery is already so long…it just would be ridiculous. Portia Chinnery-Huston….uh uh.

    For the record Aliya, Chinnery is SUPPOSED to be pronounced with an SH.

  37. Shani Says:

    Hey Aliya!

    I never felt terribly attached to my family name. Maybe that’s because my father made it a point to always remind me that it was a slave name. Or maybe because, although I was very close to my father, I had a bitter falling out with his family. I dunno. I never wanted to keep that name. As a child I would dream about growing up, getting married and choosing an entirely new name with my husband. When the time finally came for me to get married, I knew I didn’t want the weight of TWO slave names. So I took his. I didn’t even have to think about it. Besides, I wanted to have the same name as my children.

    Anyway, hope you, TheHusband, TheGirl and TheOtherGirl are doing well :-)

    I LOVE, LOVE your blog!!!

  38. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Shani: right, there’s that whole thing too. I grew up in the Nation. So you know I know about that. But for some reason, over time, the last name King came to symbolize the King family. It came to symbolize my dad and his dad and his dad. Y’know? But I feel you on that for sure. Thanks for the LOVE and the input! My love to all the chirren and hubby too.

  39. Retha Says:

    Hey Aliya! I’ve missed a couple of posts…shame on me…..but wanted to comment on this. My husband and I BRIEFLY discussed the hyphenating thing. It went like this
    Me: So when we get married should I hyphe…
    Him: Hell no!
    And that was that! But I haven’t legally changed my name yet…who has time for paperwork. And at work I am keeping my maiden name, its just easier. On FB I use my married name, go figure.
    Loving your blog, I gotta catch up.

  40. Aliya S. King Says:

    @retha: hilarious. and that was that!!

  41. abdul Says:

    aliya i realy like the way u don”t want to change ur name.
    but i wld like to ask u are u still married with ur husband.
    cause i want to no weahter he does not complain abt anything at all.
    i wish u are my wife,i wld like to make u feel the way u want ur name
    should be so far as u love as an the way,i am not married.
    so i wld like to talk to u later,have a nice day see yah.

  42. Keisha Says:

    Wow, so much has been said here already. I made it clear to my husband to be that I would be my last name then his last name, no hypen. DMV crushed that dream for me too. I hated the hyphen. I liked my name, but I also liked his name. As as we approach our one year anniversay I strutted back in there and dropped the maiden and the hyphen. The woman made it very clear to me before finalizing the paperwork that I cannot take the maiden name back nor can I drop his last name without a divorce decree. I asked if I could produce a death certificate and she said – probably. He’s doing well and I don’t forsee having either of those documents for decades so I’m stuck with just his last name. But it’s a cool name, and I have used my time with the hyphen to transition those around me. They now know that the maiden name was not who I was and the married name isn’t someone I am becoming, I am who I am regardless. (I think I took this time to convince myself of that too.) And I’m getting used to just being Mrs. Him instead of Mrs. Me-Him. Keep the King though professionally. It’s way too cool to let go of. And when you become huge like Zora Neale Hurston, you will still be able to keep some privacy at the grocery store because they won’t know the husbands name, just King. You know?

  43. aliyah Says:

    aliyah is a cute name,because my name is aliyah.AND YOU BETTER NOT BE MAKIN’ FUN OF MY NAME!just kidding, but plz don’t make fun of my name,OK?

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