WHEN my parents married in 1977, women’s liberation was in full swing and my mother was a consciousness-raiser. She was about as likely to take my father’s name as she was to sport a veil at the wedding. She would remain Ms. Tuhus. Nine months later, the surname for their new baby (me) was self-evident. My parents yoked their names into a new one: Tuhus-Dubrow....
But this Wave of the Future has washed out to sea:
According to a 2009 study analyzing data from 2004, only 6 percent of native-born American married women had unconventional surnames (meaning they kept their birth names, hyphenated with their husbands’ names, or pulled a Hillary Rodham Clinton).
I know lots of women, including myself, who kept their birth names at marriage. But according to my anecdotal observations, which others seconded, rates of hyphenation seem to have fallen since my brother and I were born.
As Ms. Segal-Reichlin said, “At the time I think they thought they were going to be the wave of the future,” but it has not panned out that way. Still, hyphenated names are not entirely a relic of the ’70s, like sideburns and lava lamps: witness the Jolie-Pitts.
Based on my conversations, the verdict on hyphenation was mixed.
“When I was young I hated it,” said Sarah Schindler-Williams, a 32-year-old lawyer in Philadelphia. “It was long, it never fit in anything. I was always Sarah Schindler-Willi.”
But most, including Ms. Schindler-Williams, eventually grew to appreciate their cumbersome monikers. Names frequently convey information about their bearers: Weinberg or O’Malley gives you a hint about the person attached to it. But conjoined names, several people mentioned, also say something extra about your parents’ egalitarian values. (Unless you are British; then it means you’re posh.)