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Why Did You Change Your Name to Clooney, Amal?

Photograph by Getty Images

Last month, Business Woman Media made a splash with its cheeky headline “Internationally Acclaimed Barrister Amal Alamuddin Marries an Actor.” Their point being, here is a woman whose impressive accomplishments should not be overshadowed by her union with a celebrity.

The polar opposite of a Hollywood starlet (no offense to the Stacy Keiblers of the world), Amal is an Oxford-educated human rights lawyer who speaks three languages. After wedding the world’s most eligible bachelor, did she start redecorating a Beverly Hills mansion? Wax rhapsodic about her pilates regimen to Us Weekly? No, she went back to work.

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Amal Alamuddin had all of our respect, and then what did she do? She changed her name to Clooney, like some 1950s housewife.

Say it ain’t so, Amal! I can’t help but be disappointed.

Back in the day when a woman moved from her parents’ home straight into her husband’s, taking his name made sense. It signified her new “career” as a wife and mother. And with husbands supporting wives financially, it was practical. But none of this applies to Amal, a wildly accomplished and independent woman who does not require Clooney’s status or wealth to secure her place in the world.

I would have liked to see Amal hang onto her identity, offering a progressive example to young women everywhere.

I’m no international barrister, but when I got married this summer, it never even occurred to me to change my name. As a writer, I’ve worked too hard for my byline to mess with it now. (Google my name and find every article I’ve ever written. Go ahead, I’ll wait.) And at 44, I’ve lived too long as Amy Wruble to ever consider being somebody else. My surname is as much a part of me as my face, and I’m not changing that, unless they start giving out free Botox at the drive-thru.

At a time when the practice of brides taking their husbands’ names is inexplicably on the rise, I would have liked to see Amal hang onto her identity, offering a progressive example to young women everywhere. So it’s kind of a bummer. And yet, it’s understandable.

We can’t know exactly why Amal chose to make the switch, but I can think of at least five reasons she might have decided to change her name:

1. Clooney is lot easier to spell than Alamuddin. Never again will she have to worry about her clothes being misfiled at the dry cleaner. Nor will her surname be egregiously mispronounced when she’s waiting for a table at her favorite restaurant: “Aladdin, party of two?”

2. It’s convenient to have the same name as your kids. Since it seems unlikely that a 53-year-old A-list movie star would change his name, Clooney is her best option for family cohesion.

3. They’re going to call her Mrs. Clooney anyway. While I don't like it, famous or not, people tend to assume a bride has taken her husband’s name. Certainly, her children’s friends and teachers will automatically default to Mrs. Clooney (unless she lets everyone call her Amal?).

4. Hyphenating is a mouthful. While sharing a name can be an equitable solution, Alamuddin-Clooney is already six syllables long. What happens if their future daughter marries Knox Jolie-Pitt? One can dream.

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5. He’s George Effing Clooney. If ever there was a name to practice scrawling in your notebook while daydreaming into your princess phone, it’s his.

Did you think Amal was right to change her name? Did you change yours?

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