December 16, 2016

"Why My Son Has My Wife's Last Name/I did what few men do, and my own father flipped out."

Writes a man whose last name is — of all names — Garner.
It was a personal decision because my wife's family name, LeFavour, was dying out. While I have a brother who has two sons, she and her sister were the last of an old line, one that stretches back to colonial times; her ancestors fought in the Revolutionary and Civil wars. We debated giving our children, Penn and Harriet, one of those double-barreled, hinged-at-the-middle last names: Garner-LeFavour. But it sounded ungainly, affected, and like the name of a forgotten Canadian trade bill.

At the time, our decision didn't feel like an act of defiance or cultural daring. It felt like us. We were young and living in a tiny (600-square-foot) apartment on Jane Street in Manhattan's West Village when we had our children....
Ah! Sounds like they lived in our old apartment!


David said...

My first apartment in NY was 12 feet by 16 feet. 192 square feel. $130/month, heat included. No ac.

David said...


I must love typos. I do so many.

David said...

Jane Street used to be called Dick Street.

See Dick.
See Dick run.

Can't use those books today because the first graders all start telling dick jokes.

Bay Area Guy said...

The First World problems of NYC Village dwellers should garner much derision.

David said...

My wife kept her first husband's name. For the children.

I love her so I don't mind calling her Fred.

MayBee said...

Why didn't he take his wife's last name as well?

The thing I don't like about all the not-taking the married name thing is the children end up with the name of one parent or the other. Then it looks like one of the parents isn't the child's parent.

rhhardin said...

He took her father's name instead of his father's name.

MacMacConnell said...

The Beta males that read Esquire will love this article.

Gahrie said...

I approve of what he did, while understanding why his father was upset.

On my father's side my grandfather came from a family of ten children. His wife was an only child. They had five children, four who lived to be adults. Those four produced five children in my generation, one who died young. The remaining four grandchildren are three single, childless men, and one married man with two children, a boy and a girl. So the existence of our family name now depends on a single male, who has already expressed reservations about having children.

On my mother's side my grandfather had five brothers and sisters, and his wife had nine brothers and sisters who survived to adulthoood. All of them had at least four kids. there are a couple of dozen cousins in my Mom's generation, over 100 cousins in my generation, and several hundred in the most recent two generations.

madAsHell said...


Hilarious!! Perhaps you're being trolled by Esquire magazine!!

Carol said...

I don't get this. Why don't they just use Penn Garner LeFavour?
People used to know how to do this to keep a family name alive.
You know, like John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Richard Milhous Nixon, Franklin Delano Roosevelt..Hillary Rodham etc. You can even add a 4th name if want.

Why make it so hard?

Laslo Spatula said...

"It was a personal decision because my wife's family name, LeFavour, was dying out."

The child will ask questions, and will be told the reason why.

He is now the ONLY HOPE to continue the LeFavour Name.


The Parents want Grandchildren, boy.

Male Grandchildren.

You best not be Gay.

And -- if you ARE gay -- none of this trendy adopting a cleft-lip Chinese kid and then giving him our name.

Although, it might be funny to watch a young Chinese-speaking child with a cleft lip try to pronounce 'LeFavour,'. An 'F' AND a 'V' -- fuck, that's rough.

Okay: it wouldn't be funny.


Have the kid say it while trying to sip from a straw.

I am a bad man.

I am Laslo.

khesanh0802 said...

@Carol So the guy can tell us all what a cool modern beta male he is. He got Esquire to pay for his preening after all.

Paco Wové said...

"Why don't they just use Penn Garner LeFavour?"

Because then the author wouldn't be Doing What Few Men Do, and antagonizing his close relatives, perhaps.

I did something not entirely dissimilar, except it did not occur to me to stand forth, balled fists firmly on hips, chin jutting forward in defiance, and announce to the world and my parents "I'm Doing What Few Men Do! F. U., Dad!" and none of my close relatives said anything. At least not to me, might have been some rolled eyes in private.

eric said...

Blogger rhhardin said...
He took her father's name instead of his father's name.


Bob said...

The story of the Massachusetts immigrant Thomas Kendall (d. 1681) is well known to genealogists. He had eight surviving daughters and no sons, and to preserve the family name, all of the daughters agreed to name one of their sons Kendall (as a first name). This tradition branched out and survived for a number of generations, so for well over 100 years there were dozens of Kendalls in different families, all inheriting the name from Thomas #1.

Gospace said...
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buwaya said...

Laslo is correct, every little baby is born with a huge load of duty on its tiny shoulders.
Its a delusion to imagine ourselves as individuals; we are social animals in the parallel temporal space, and likewise in the vertical, owing obligations to our ancestors.

Balfegor said...

I thought the usual hyphenation order was mother-father, like Hapsburg-Lorraine (Hapsburg-Lothringen). Is it actually father-mother?

Gospace said...

From the single ancestor with my last name who came to the States there are currently 2 male children, my grand-kids, and 6 male children of child bearing age, mine and 2 from 1 of my 3 first cousins. (Actually, I'm still of child bearing age, but my wife would kill me....) If the name dies out here- there's a few hundred distant cousins in Great Britain carrying it on, starting with 3rd cousins. There's a possibility that others with same last name in the states are distant cousins also, but the closest they'd be is 8th cousins.

On my mother's side, there are no male descendants of my grandfather or great-grandfather left with the name. But again, I've traced at least 200 distant cousins carrying the name. Chances are the LeFavour name isn't dead, just being carried out elsewhere.

Fernandinande said...

Is familism a subset or special case of racism?

Bob Loblaw said...

Her family name is not dying out. It's not that hard to find people named LeFavour.

This is just post hoc rationalization from a guy who feels gelded because he couldn't stand up to his wife.

MadisonMan said...

I really don't care how some guy named his kids.

My Dad had no brothers, and neither did his Dad, or his Dad's Dad, who came over from the old Country. My brothers have no kids. I want my son to be happy -- I don't give a flying fig what his kids -- if any -- are named, just that they're healthy and happy.

Priorities, people.

MadisonMan said...


But pronounced Throatwobbler-Mangrove.

Jamie said...

When my husband and I got married, I kept my last name. (I had hyphenated in a brief, youthful, and foolish first marriage, so I went through all the name-changing garbage twice, AND I like my last name, AND he does not like his, though he doesn't dislike it enough to go through all the name-changing garbage.) My husband, unwilling to have me be the only person in the family to have my last name (he seemed to think I could therefore cut and run more easily, or something), proposed this:

1. All boy children would have his last name.
2. All girl children would have my last name.

To my GREAT surprise, he followed through on it: we have 2 boys with his last name and one girl with mine. We confuse teachers and doctor's offices and so forth, but we've asked the kids and they're fine with explaining to whoever asks that we're not the Brady Bunch, we are actually an un-blended family.

Carol said...

Is familism a subset or special case of racism?

Yes. If you care more about your OWN FAMILY than you do about some family in Kuala Lampur or Oman or fucking Madagascar, then you are THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD.

Kate said...

Like @Jamie, my husband and I chose bi-lineal naming.

And then my poor daughter, the only girl, seemed like such an outcast that we went to the court and changed it. Whatever the choice, it's easiest if everyone in the family is the same.

traditionalguy said...

LeFavour Privilege meets Garner Lives Matter.

Nobody can call that much of a Patriarchy. Ancestors should be an important part of a life. Jesus got his listed twice, one coming from Adam and one coming from Abraham.

SteveR said...

We decided to go conventional starting with my wife taking my last name. No hyphens. My daughters know as much about their mom's family as mine. Staying together and giving the histories of both sides makes it work. People (children) learn what's modeled. Its not complicated.

mccullough said...

He should have kept his own last name and had his kids take his wife's last name. Compromise is one of the keys to a good marriage

Etienne said...
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Etienne said...
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PB said...

That's what middle names are for, and you don't have to have one.

Gospace said...

My family is very conventional. My wife took my name, and couldn't imagine doing it any other way. I jokingly suggested once if we had a daughter we should give our daughter her name with a "Jr." attached. The cold stare I received in return made sure I never repeated that suggestion.

Static Ping said...

I have no issue with however people want to name themselves. Naming conventions are just that: conventions. What I dislike from a practical matter is the hyphenated name. Taken to its logical extreme you end up with ridiculously long hyphenated names. Smith-Howell marries Johnson-Davis and their children are Smith-Howell-Johnson-Davis. I believe Voltaire parodied something similar in Candide with a Spanish noble with a name that ran for about a page in my copy.

BudBrown said...

I got a relative went with the hyphenated name for the kids. Thing is
30 years later kid marries liberated type and the hyphenations are
multiplying. They just made up a name. Sounds like the race car.

Sebastian said...

Garner doesn't get it.


mikee said...

My wife's family name is an odd misspelling of a common German name, making it very rare in the US. Something happened during the immigration and naturalization of her ancestors, and the odd spelling persisted to this generation.

She was glad to change to my name. I would have been happy to have her keep hers, odd as it was.

Paddy O said...

MM, you are a very silly man.

Paddy O said...

Every marriage should make up a new last name. Down with the past! Let's start over every generation so we don't get bogged down with illogical expectations.

Tari said...

Bob, a dear friend of mine from high school always planned on doing the same thing as the Kendall descendants, and she and her husband actually followed through. Their older son has always gone by his middle name, however. It's Birch, and I will always remember his birth announcement: it quoted the first lines of a Robert Frost poem ("When I see birches bend to left and right. Across the lines of straighter darker trees, I like to think some boy's been swinging them"). Perfect for a New England boy!

ceowens said...

I knew a fellow that took his second wife's first husband's name. His name was Swartzentruber and hers was Rock. He made some excuse about signing checks. (It was a while ago).

Ambrose said...

i am glad I read this because I was up all last night worried about what some guy named his kid, but now that i have his explanation, i will sleep like a baby tonight - a misnamed baby.

Laslo Spatula said...

Ingmar Bergman Unfinished Script “Wheat and Oranges” —Excerpt”

“Olaf, I am afraid. Afraid I will never have a family to continue my family name.”

“It is a bowl of soup, Sven. Lineage is a bowl of pitiful radish soup.”

“But Olaf, my name has been through countless generations, through wars and strife and birth and tears, only to come to me to die an unmourned death, in a grave none shall ever visit.”

“Sven, everything ends. Someone will always leave the orange orchard to wither and die, untended.”

That certainly is bleak, Olaf.”

The Universe is bleak, Sven: the only heat we ever truly feel is that of our own house consumed in fire, lit by our own match.”

“I like to think man can reach for more than that, Olaf.”

“Reach for what, Sven? Some thin feeble reed of immortality? We are wheat, Sven, and the scythe waits for us all.”

“So Olaf, there is only death? Do you not want someone to mourn your passing?”

“I mourn the loss of an orange, dear Sven, not a fellow man.”

“There is more to life than oranges, Olaf.”

“I can see how a foolish man might believe that, my dear Sven. The simple orange is my only evidence of the possible existence of God.”

“What about man himself? Do you not believe our very being is the handiwork of God?”

“If that is true, Sven, then He only created us to give reason to Death. And radishes.”

“You have given me much to think about, Olaf. Perhaps I shall wander out into the snowy forest and lose my way, beneath an uncaring sky.”

“Keep a radish in your pocket, Sven: it will delay the wolves…”

I am Laslo.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Good for them. Take my name, keep yours, name the kids whatever. But I absolutely loathe the pretentious hyphenation of surnames.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...
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The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...
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PianoLessons said...

True Story:

After marrying my college sweetheart on New Year's Eve in the 70's (we're still together :-) I wanted to keep my maiden name but - you know - the wedding flurry of events...we were ...young. And I seriously didn't know it had to be official.

First time we visited his folks after the wedding (like a month later) his father handed me my new Illinois Driver's License with my last name now....changed to his son's name.

He said "Thought you two were too caught up in the wedding and school, so I took care of this for you"

I was like...."Gee Thanks" but remember the thought cloud saying "What the freak? He had to forge something to make this happen"

And this was way - WAY - know....the internet.

Men and their names. Tribes. Biblical. Ugh.

Anyone who has ever taught Cambodian students know all about this power.

And everyone should read "The Handmaid's Tale" story from Offred to really get how disturbing this cultural dictate can be.

Phunctor said...

Buwaya Puti's observations on familial debt sparked this: Since the 19th Amendment and the Pill, we've been cashing out and winding up the family business. Apres nous, who cares? We are the Mayans. Archaeologists will be intrigued.

Craig said...

I had a family history blog for five years and haven't posted on it since 2009 when the ultrasound showed that my youngest brother's third wife was having a boy who is now a first grader. Until then my second cousin in Santa Barbara and I were competing to see who would be the last male descendant carrying the surname of my great great grandfather, who immigrated from Germany in 1856 and died in the Civil War, leaving behind a widow, a daughter and three sons. The torch was passed to my youngest nephew five years before my dad passed last year at age 87. My dad was five when his father died at age 48. My grandfather was 14 and the oldest son when his father died at age 41. My Civil War ancestor died at age 38. I'm fairly certain that four generations of my dad's family attended and/or taught at the Weiseschule or Orphan School at Halle during the 18th century. Orphan schools were a product of the Thirty Years War which eliminated nearly 80% of the population of much of what we used to call East Germany. World War II was a church picnic compared to the Thirty Years War. Public education in America is directly descended from the German Orphan Schools.

Unknown said...

I got into genealogy a couple of years ago and uncovered a surprising amount of information tgat wed previously thought was lost to history- yay Internet (I'm just sorry Dad didn't live to see it, though I thnk he's been smiling down at us and perhaps even directing some of the discoveries.)

One particularly tricky part of our tree involved my great grandfather who was illegitimate (unbeknownst to any of our living relatives, and discovered through the translation of his Polish birth record.) The twists and turns of how he ended up with the last name that he had were so complex it took about a year to unravel it. It makes me thnk of how difficult it will be for future generations to trace genealogies filled with multiple divorces, out of wedlock births, unconventional naming, and same sex marriages.

RMc said...

Penn Garner LeFavour

I watched the Penn-Garner-LeFavour line play for the Montreal Canadiens back in the 70s.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I occasionally used my dad's last name in combination with my husband's, HRC style, for a while. Then my parents finally got around to telling me at age 35 that my dad was not my dad and I'd actually been conceived via anonymous sperm donation. So my dad's not my dad and his name is not my name and fuck it anyway.

tim in vermont said...

Tudor - Mountbatten had a similar issue.

Johanna Lapp said...

Before the wedding, we briefly considered hyphenating our last names, but decided that Lapp-Dance created more problems than it solved.