Hello Duana,

I'm writing to you out desperation as the naming of our only son has degenerated into a full-fledged crisis and huge argument with my partner. Enzo (we decided his first name) is our first baby. My boyfriend has 2 kids from a previous marriage carrying his last name. We've been together for 10 years but won't get married and even if we do, I will keep my last name. 

My last name is Bessette and his is Urmeo. At first we had agreed on using the middle name to fit my last name. Enzo Bessette (middle) Urmeo (last). Then my family expressed disappointment and surprise our son wouldn't have our 2 last names. I started feeling left out as everyone in the family would have same last name except me. My partner will only agree to option above, or have 2 last names with his first: Enzo Urmeo (last) Bessette (last). I don't think it flows as well. 

I just can't decide and need an expert opinion.

I do like the traditional and also original middle name option, and if it's good enough for JFK it's good for us, however I feel it's a compromise and not officially carrying my name forward.

Please help! Our son is 1 month today and we still haven't confirmed the birth certificate because of this.

PS – I forgot to add that my brother won't have children, hence the burden I feel to have my family name printed on official docs. Also, my partner is of Latin origin and has had 2 last names his entire life and hates it for the admin issues, so he has to be convinced on 2 last names to begin with!


Okay! First things first – you probably know this if you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, but I LOVE the name Enzo. Very, very much. So you’re already out in front of the game, because his first name is amazing. 


Which means you should feel great, and ready to do some of the inevitable therapy work that comes with names and especially a complex issue like this one. Sometimes when people write in saying their partner is taking a hard line on something or other I feel a bit nervous, because all the suggestions in the world to the letter writer don’t do much good if the other person in the scenario is like “this or nothing”, but let’s see what we can do. 

The first thing I’ll ask is whether you were kind of fine with this middle, last, JFK-style situation until your family expressed displeasure about it. That is, is this a situation where their approval (or lack thereof) makes you suddenly unhappy with the choice you made? Or, alternately, is it one of those things where you didn’t think about it one way or another, and then their disappointment made you think about the fact that nobody else is going to have this surname,  etc etc, and you realized you weren’t really okay with it either?  

To be clear, either of these is entirely valid, but they come from different places. Parental disappointment is inevitable, and if this is your first kid and your family’s first collective grandchild/next generation, there are going to be lots of things you’ll choose to do that will, at best, make them scratch their heads, and at worst that they’ll flat-out disagree with (just wait ‘til you get into the discussions of sleep!) so if it’s only that they hoped because the name would be carried on, I would point out that, you know, YOU are carrying it, and that your kid has all the potential to carry it in that aforementioned JFK way.

Then there’s the part where you say you’d feel left out if nobody has the same last name as you – but that’s going to be the case no matter what, right? If Enzo’s last name is Urmeo, it will be different than yours, but if it’s Urmeo Bessette (with or without the hyphen) it’s also different than yours… because those two names will become his whole surname. Do you know what I mean? 

This can be hard to envision because you’re talking about ‘your’ surname vs. ‘his’ surname, but we all think of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s last name as, you know, Louis-Dreyfus. One name. One word, almost. And while I’m up about Julia… 

I kind of don’t agree with you that Urmeo-Bessette doesn’t flow. Look at the similarity between JLD’s name and Enzo’s potential one. First name ends with a vowel, first surname ends with a vowel, second name ends with a consonant. It flows! Enzo Urmeo Bessette really works for me.  Plus, here’s a secret – in situations where people choose one name or another to shorthand his surname (which does happen, I’ll admit, though less often with a hyphenated name) I think they’re slightly more likely to go with the second surname than the first, so he may wind up being Enzo Bessette after all. Also, if you go that way, there will be people who think he has two first names, “Enzo Urmeo”, like people who write articles about “Evan Rachel” or “Chad Michael” … which is less likely if Bessette is in the front spot. 

Mostly, though, I want you to think about what you want to accomplish. I hear your partner’s concern about two surnames, but I strongly believe it’s our culture that’s gonna change as this becomes more and more of a concern with parents who aren’t changing their names in marriage, or in the case of same sex parents where it’s not a foregone conclusion that one person’s name will necessarily take that ‘prime’ spot. Your kid is very, very likely not to be the only one who has this situation going on, and that’s also going to be true for his older siblings, so there’s no worry about confusing them. 

In short, if I were you, I’d compromise with the two surnames, Urmeo Bessette, in that order – because I like the name finishing on the downbeat, because I do think it flows, and, not a little bit, because it frees up a middle name spot for something else entirely! Squee! (But ignore this last point if it opens up a whole new debate, I know you need to get that birth certificate in soon!) 

At the risk of namesplaining to you, your family, and your partner, what you’re about to discover is what hundreds of people have written to me to confirm – there’s no world in which this child won’t be completely and obviously yours, regardless of their name, and the parts of you they’ll carry on will go much further and deeper than a surname ever could. 

Let us know what you choose – and again, may I doff my cap at the beauty of ‘Enzo’. It’s so great, it’s cheered up my whole day!