Taking my husband's last name doesn't make me less of a feminist

For about the last decade or so, my sister and close friends have taken to calling me by my initials, which are LT. Over time, it grew from a fun nickname into an actual brand — much like Lauren Conrad, just without all the money.

After moving from Baltimore to Chicago in July 2013, I changed my social media handles from lorealkt to LTintheCity. I’d just started my dream job as a magazine editor, and it was the first time I’d moved away from my hometown. A former colleague joked that my life would be like Sex and the City, and the idea stuck.

I was starting a new chapter and embracing all the awesomeness that came along with it. Thus, I underwent a bit of rebranding, and LT in the City was born.

Later that year, I got engaged.

Once the initial excitement of planning nuptials had faded and we’d secured the venue, the dress, the flowers, etc., I began to panic about changing my last name.

Who am I if I’m no longer LT? I mean, I’d won awards for stories I’d written under my maiden name. My byline was my brand!

Growing up, I was definitely one of those girls who doodled their first name with their crush’s last name surrounded by little hearts (L’Oreal Timberlake, if you must know, but we’re all aware of how that turned out. Le sigh). I’d fantasize about my wedding day and the moment when I would become Mrs. So-and-so for as long as I could remember.

Kathleen Hertel Photography

But now, I wasn’t so sure. And then came the opinions.

Suddenly, everyone had something to say about whether I should change my name — from well-meaning co-workers who insisted I should keep my maiden name, to more traditional friends who couldn’t fathom having a different last name than their husbands.

According to a recent study, half of U.S. adults believe women should be required by law to change their last names after marriage. Allow me to repeat, this is a recent study…as in conducted in 2017, not 1957.

It simply boggles my mind that there are people who, as researcher and sociology professor Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer stated, truly believe that “a woman should prioritize her marriage and family ahead of herself.”

Hard pass.

On the other hand, there are other people who seem to think that if you do decide to take your husband’s last name, then you’re not a “real” feminist. Like, who died and put them in charge of feminism?

Let’s be clear, folks.

A woman’s choice to change or not change her name is just that, a choice — and a personal one at that (similar to what she decides to do with her body, but that’s a different post for a different day).

Of course, I had a conversation with my then-fiancé about the decision because I value his opinion and, quite simply, we’re a team. And to be honest, our wedding hashtag, #PaytonPartyof2, had a nice ring to it.

Kathleen Hertel Photography

After months of agonizing and trying out different name variations (L’Oreal Payton? L’Oreal Thompson-Payton? L’Oreal Payton-Thompson?), I decided to legally change my last name to Payton — while keeping my last name as my pen name. It was the best of both worlds. While my brand is important to me, building a family and a legacy with my husband is more important, and I want to do it as a united front with the same name.

Two years later, I’m still adjusting to my new name, and there’s often a brief moment of hesitation before I respond to “Mrs. Payton.” But I’m still the same ol’ LT from the block. That’s never going to change.

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