I've been grappling with the idea of taking Mr. Octopus' last name ever since we got married this past summer. On the one hand, I think Mr. Octopus' name would sound pretty good with my first name. On the other hand, forsaking my last name means that there won't be anything definitively Vietnamese left about my name (unless I make it into my middle name). Then, there's the whole issue of leaving my family behind to become part of his (figuratively and literally). (Note to self: It is not a Vietnamese tradition for a wife to take her husband's name.)
Frankly, I think this last one is the hardest to resolve. It's about leaving my identity behind because, let's face it, your name is a big part of who you are. Men don't have to deal with it. Moreover, they aren't expected to deal with it. Imagine the confusion when you ask a guy if he plans to take his wife's name (what a stupid question!). Their name is their name, and that's who they are and who they'll stay. It's expected that his children will take his name, too. Women, on the other hand, get their father's name at birth and take their husband's name upon marriage. Our names flow from the two most important men in our lives, period. (Note: I prefer not to use the antiquated term "maiden name," which implies that women before marriage are/should be virgins.)
Then there was Lucy Stone (1818-1893) who took issue with this tradition. She was a leading suffragette and was married to an abolitionist named Henry Brown Blackwell. In addition to her views on the women's vote, she caused controversy by refusing to be known by her married name. She viewed keeping her name as an assertion of her own rights, her own (pre-marriage) identity. She had many followers, who became known as "Lucy Stoners." She continues to inspire women today, and there is even a Lucy Stone League that is dedicated to (among other things): "equal rights for women and men to retain, modify and create their names, because a person's name is fundamental to her/his existence" and "equal actual frequency of name retention, modification and creation between men and women at marriage and throughout life."
Most of my married girlfriends haven't changed their names. I suspect it might be because they (1) don't like their husband's name, (2) can't be bothered to endure the logistical pain necessary to legally change their name, (3) don't have kids yet so they don't have to decide and/or (4) simply aren't willing to give up their names and their identity. I'd be interested in hearing what you all think about this. Don't be shy!