The name game

By the time you read this, it will all be over. The ceremony, the cake, the dancing…I am now a married woman. March 25, when Justin proposed to me in front of the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, was just last week, right? Regardless of the fact that time moved at warp speed these past eight months, here I am now. No longer a Miss but a Mrs.

But what should follow that salutation?

Last year, before I met Justin, I told a friend that if I ever got married, I didn’t think I would change my last name. Dunder just sounds cool, I told him. Plus, I had friends at my last job who just called me “Dunder” (one insisted I’d always be “Dunder” even after I got married).

To be honest, I never actually thought I’d get married, so I put very little thought into the name change issue. I figured I’d be Shaunna Dunder forever, and I was just fine with that. After all, that name seems forever linked to my identity, and by changing it, maybe I’d be losing a part of what makes me who I am. People know me by my last name. They know my parents, my relatives, and the journey my life has taken me on. Nobody, not even me, knows Shaunna Hershberger.

The Dunder name will end with me and my sister-we’re the only ones left. My sister is not married, so it’s not like I’d be ending the legacy by changing my last name. However, I feel like my last name is a knot that ties me forever to my family. I don’t want to untie it.

On the other hand, there’s something special about taking the last name of your new husband. As I don’t wish to be untied from my family, I can’t wait to officially unite myself with Justin’s family. And what better way to do that than by taking his last name? And let’s face it, pretty much every person on the planet who knows I’m married is going to address me as Mrs. Hershberger, so why should I complicate things? I’ve spent my entire life correcting people on the spelling of my first name, so I see no need to correct people on my last name too.

After Justin and I were engaged, I attempted to suggest that he take my last name, but he shot it down before I even got the words out of my mouth. Oh come on. Dunder just has a kick-some oomph!-to it. Who wouldn’t want to have this awesome last name?

“Let’s just smoosh our names together,” I suggested next. “We can be Dunderberger.” I envisioned us on the covers of gossip magazines like “Bennifer” and “Brangelina” but decidedly much cooler.

He laughed. I don’t think I was ever serious about doing that, but I’ve read that couples can, in fact, combine their last names into a new one. That seems odd to me. I suppose if you both weren’t close to your families then maybe you could think about it, but I think doing something like that disrespects your heritage. Unless of course, your last names are Goober and Dorkus, then changing it to Dorber would probably do you a world of good (and your children will certainly thank you).

I also considered hyphenating. But Shaunna Marie Dunder-Hershberger doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Can you imagine the telemarketer who gets that name on their call sheet? “Can I speak with…(long pause)…Sha-noon-a…?” and that’s about when I’d hang up.

Really, there were only two reasonable alternatives: keep my name or change it to his. I guess I can’t really go wrong either way, going from one strong German name to another equally impressive one.

This decision was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I just kept thinking about how I’ve always been Shaunna Dunder and that’s how people know me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’ve had a pretty good run as a Dunder. I learned a lot of life lessons both as a child and more so as an adult. After my fight with cancer, my true personality finally came out, and I found myself focusing on the important things in life. I’m quite certain I still have much more to learn about life and about myself, but perhaps the best way to do that is to close out this phase and start the next chapter.

The name Dunder means so much to me that I don’t want to lose it. But Justin means the world to me and I want to honor him by taking his last name. Therefore, I’ve come up with the only reasonable solution that will make me the happiest-a new middle name.

Are you ready, world? It’s me-Shaunna Dunder Hershberger-and I’m ready to rock!