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Becoming Shushan
Posted: 29 Dec 2009

For years, I had pondered the "last name question."  Namely, what would I do with my last name when it came to getting married?  All of the possible options had considerable drawbacks in light of my criteria:

Egalitarianism: This rules out the "I'll take my husband's last name" option.  (If my husband would agree to flipping a coin with the winner's last name becoming the last name for both partners, that would satisfy my egalitarian principle.  But I think one partner taking the other's last name is suboptimal.  Who wants to feel that one's identity is being subsumed by one's partner?)

One last name for the family: Why nix the "we each keep our last name" option, so common among professional couples?  Kids.  If my husband and I did not want children, then keeping our own last names would be fine.  But I have always wanted kids, and I did not want to end up with the fate of so many professional women who have different last names than their children. 

Not overly cumbersome: This nixed the "let's hyphenate" possibility.  Beyond being onerous (unless both partners happen to have monosyllabic names), hyphenating seems to push the "last name question" onto the kids, who will one day have to figure out what to do with the three or four last names they and their spouses have collectively inherited.

So what to do?  I could think of one last option: a joint last name change/merger.  Warning: this option is not available for all women, as it requires an open-minded partner willing to make a name change.  Most men are not willing, but then, I did not marry most men.  I married the incredible Mike Rosenberg.  (You're welcome, Mike!)

Mike and I considered how we might combine our last names.  Rosenshul?  Shulberg?  Bergman?  We were not happy with the sound of any of these, but wanted to pick a last name for our new family that would contain links to the family identities with which we had grown up.  

Then, a week or so before our May 2009 wedding, I had a brainstorm.  Shushan!  Let me explain.

Rechov Shushan/Shara'a Shushan/Shushan Street

As I mentioned, Mike's last name was Rosenberg.  Rose in Hebrew is "shoshana." Shushan, the former seat of the Persian empire (famous in context of the Jewish holiday of Purim) could be construed as having the same three-consonant root as shoshana (SH-SH-N). Indeed, I have seen Shushan referred to as the Rose City. And of course, Shushan is similar to Shulman. When my paternal great-grandfather came to the US from Lithuania, his last name was Shub. So I decided the "Shu" was the important part to convey my own family's heritage.  Given my Middle Eastern predilections, I love that Shushan works both in Hebrew (שושן) and Arabic (شوشان), as well as Persian (written the same way as in Arabic).

So that is our answer to the "last name question."  What is yours?

There are 3 comments. View comments

Subject: Agree but can't do
Hey Debra, I had reached a similar solution to the 'last name after marriage' question and I am happy to see you were able to put it in practice. For me, this was more of a problem when Nasos and I were considering living in the US, so that our children would only have his last name and I would be left out from the 'family club'. Now that we live in Spain, where people use two last names (as in Mexico), the problem seems less pressing (although Greeks use only one last name, and our children would have a Greek passport so it is not completely solved). Coming up with a common last name makes sense, even if you could keep both and you are not legally compelled to change your last name once married. In Mexico, as in Spain, women pass only the first last name to their children (and it goes after the one from their husband's). I am personally more attached to my mom's side of the family (the Monzoy) but I know my dad would be hurt if I don't pass his family's last name. Giving my children a combined last name only from my side would lead to them not sharing even one last name with me! On the other hand, Nasos is not very attached to his father's last name. He has been raised by his mom's side of the family and I think he would like to pass on that last name. However, even if we could come up with a last name that could bring together both of our families' heritage (and one that could fly both in Spanish and Greek!),we would have to deal with two extremely inefficient bureaucracies. So, I have decided to move my battle from the last name to the name! Having married a Greek man, living in Europe, I am concerned with passing my Mexican/Spanish-speaking heritage and I think that if my children's first and most used last name will be Greek, I want their names to indicate they are also 'something else'. At the same time, their Greek relatives should be able to pronounce their names!! haha Anyway, I should stop now. Thank you for sharing your experience. Wish you the best for 2010.
Comment posted: 08 Jan 2010 by Andira
Subject: hasonlóság
hungary susán tamás
Comment posted: 10 Apr 2011 by susán
Subject: Maiden name
My maiden name is Shushan. My family comes from the Shetl of Slonim in Belarus. I have a first cousin, my father's brother's daughter who is Deborah Shushan.
Comment posted: 02 Oct 2013 by Andrea Shushan Burdick

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