Some married couples are inventing new last names to do away with 'patriarchal custom'
Finding the right name 'very much on the minds of millennials getting married,' professor says
It might be a week until Christmas, but if you pass by the Miraculas' Toronto home you'd think Halloween was right around the corner.
Zuzu Miracula, a nurse, wrangles her two sons, Jupiter, 4, and 18-month-old Zephyr — her neon pink bob almost as bright as the lights of the pinball machine inside their small rowhouse in the trendy Queen West neighbourhood.
Their personal style is not the only thing that sets them apart from most young families — Zuzu Miracula and her husband Geoff have opted to invent a new last name for themselves.
"Miracula means in Latin, loosely, 'miraculous, wonderful, strange,'" she told CBC Toronto.
"It can also refer to 'a miraculously ugly woman,' which we found out after — which I'm fine with!"
A 'feminist experimental practice'
CBC Toronto tried to find out just how many people are doing the same thing, but a statement from the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services said there is no way to track couples because an individual's name change application is not connected to a partner's.
Judith Taylor, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, says there's no way to prove this "feminist experimental practice" is a trend yet, but she confirms that "the subject is very much on the minds of millennials getting married."
Everything changes when you have kids
Although Zuzu Miracula assumed Geoff's last name, Harvey, when they got married in 2009, the couple, who identify as feminists, say the "patriarchal custom" didn't sit right.
But keeping her own name also felt wrong for Miracula when she thought about her future kids.
"I needed to have the same name as my children," she said.
For years, the couple auditioned names on Facebook. Front runners were Hallow, for their love of Halloween, and Marvey, a mashup of their original names. But in the end the strange and wondrous won out.
"It was so special picking a name together. I know it sounds so cheesy but I really feel like more magical of a family together," Zuzu Miracula said.
What's in a name?
Both of their families were supportive of the change, but a pang of guilt hits Geoff when he thinks about his father, who died right after he was born.
"I look a lot like my dad," Geoff said.
"But a name is just kind of a paper thin thing, and I think genetics is a much stronger connection," he counters.
"When I look at a photo of him I see myself ... I don't see a name."
Taylor, the sociology professor at U of T, says feminist groups in the latter part of the last century grappled with the name-change dilemma.
"They really thought, in their consciousness raising groups ... about how to change that pattern," she told CBC Toronto.
And so the hyphenate was born — both names, fully intact, but combined with a hyphen between. While popular for a time, that trend has since fallen out of fashion.
"It can be really hard to write down on a form. And then it's hard to know what to do once [the child] gets married. Will they have four last names at that time? It never seemed to be a long-term solution, but it was a short-term equity signal," Taylor explained.
'Goodtimes is totally our brand'
Many last names tell the story of the family you came from. Baker, Smith, Cooper and Professor Taylor's own name, offer a clear path back to a picture of an ancestor hard at work.
So, what if a person could choose a name that describes their own life's work and not that of a medieval cousin?
Meet professional entertainers Lindsay and Ian Goodtimes.
"Goodtimes is totally our brand. It's our last name, and it is also our business," Lindsay told CBC Toronto.
They have all their entertainment services under the "umbrella" of the Goodtimes, including several bands, a variety show, and dance and circus classes.
The Goodtimes say the change came about organically. Ian was born into the Goodhue family, and when he and Lindsay started dating, friends would jokingly call them the Goodtimes — an apt description of a couple who repeatedly paused for belly laughs throughout the interview.
"We didn't sit down one day and say what's our new name going to be? It feels like a real last name," said Lindsay.
Although Ian officially changed his name, for convenience and cost-effectiveness, Lindsay only assumed it. The couple's two children were born with the new name.
Lindsay admits that she still feels nostalgic for her old last name, Milakovic, and insists she wouldn't have agreed to just anything.
"I felt no connection to [Goodhue]. It had to be a name that was for both of us," said Lindsay.
Albert Lee and Natalie Borg just got married. They plan to file for a legal name change and become the Leeborgs. To them, it was a practical decision.
"We're definitely not about trend," Borg told CBC Toronto.
They describe themselves as soulmates and say this was the best way to honour both of their families.
"[We] wanted to take the best of both families and merge them together," said Natalie.
Lee's family is Chinese, and Borg is Italian and Scottish. Lee said the change will be proof that they belong to the same family.
"Sometimes [people] think we're not together, but having that last name brings us together," said Lee. "We're not this Chinese guy and this white girl dating or something, we're one couple."
The generation gap
Borg's mother, Pamela Borg, said she was surprised when she heard the new name announced at the wedding, but trusted that the couple knew what they were doing.
"We're think of our heritage, but really they're just [thinking], 'This is who we are and we're moving forward and starting a new life,'" she said.
She lets on that there was some concern from older relatives about the decision, but she has a philosophical take on it.
"There's young people maybe not fully understanding the older people's view, and the older people having a hard time with the younger people's view ... no big news there, eh?"