Why I Should Have Taken My Wife's Last Name

A growing number of men are doing it, and I wish that I had too.

Before we get into this week’s Mandate Letter, I wanted to share a recent interview I did with Christian Lopez, a former pro athlete, kind soul, and host of the Behind the Mask-ulinity podcast. Our conversation dove into the many overlapping aspects of our past and our shared vision to see more men comfortable with vulnerability. Have a listen! 

Before our wedding in 2018, I asked my wife, Martina, if she planned to take my last name. She said something to the effect of “Ew, no.”

There’s a lot to unpack there. So let’s start with the fact that she’s from Sweden, a country that’s perfected the art of flipping the patriarchy the bird. And while she does consider herself a staunch feminist, her reasoning had more to do with culture than politics.

She describes her perspective (as well as the Swede’s general view) on matrimonial nomenclature as “the coolest name wins.” And in that department, I am woefully outgunned.

To put it charitably, my Swedish isn’t great. Which is why I didn’t know until that point that my last name—Rogers—is actually pronounced “Rog-esh,” a tangle of phonemes that conjures some musical history that the Swedes might prefer to forget.

Before it had ABBA, Sweden had the "Dansbands," traveling groups of male musicians that performed a strange blend of rock, swing, and "schlager" (whatever the hell that is).

These groups generally took their name from the lead singer and simply added an “S” or a “Z” to the end. “Roger” was a common male name in the 60s and 70s, and so you see where I’m going with this.

Some of the more popular dansband musicians still travel and perform. So, I joked that perhaps the genre would make a comeback, and we would be perfectly poised for superstar greatness.

But wouldn’t you know, she wasn’t too keen. Plus she insightfully pointed out that this implied that I would be the lead singer. And let me just pause and say that my singing voice sounds something like a vacuum cleaner swallowing a cat.

You’d think that would be rationale enough. But she proceeded to inform me that, in Swedish, her name—Borg—means “fortress.” Some alternate definitions also include “stronghold",” “citadel,” and my personal favorite, “knight’s castle.”

Regarding our debate, that was the knockout punch. And so we shifted gears in search of new solutions.

Some couples (especially LGBT+) choose to take a hyphenated name. However, ours would be a serious mouthful (Rogers-Borg) and would still give off an overall dansband vibe.

A growing number of newlyweds now choose to take a combined name. But we couldn’t think of anything (Bogers? Rorg?) that didn’t sound like a brand of kitchen appliances.

At that point, I began to consider an option I hadn’t thought of before: ditching my own surname in favor of hers.

A recent survey of 877 heterosexual American men reported that only 25 of them (3%) took their wives’ last names. But there are signals that suggest this trend is on the rise.

San Francisco-based designer, Ryan Miyoshi, explained on Twitter how history and legacy impacted his hot-off-the-press decision to take his wife’s name.

Long story short, my grandpa was a priest, wasn't allowed to get married, and had a secret family. As a way to help keep this all hidden, the kids were all given the last name Morrison — as the story goes — chosen by opening a phonebook and pointing at random. On the other hand, my wife's last name comes from her Japanese father, and can be traced back for hundreds and hundreds of years. Since my father-in-law doesn't have siblings, and my wife only has a sister, there's not a whole lot of people to carry on the Miyoshi name.

Across the pond, the BBC recently interviewed three men who had chosen to do the same. “The stuff children see at school they accept as normal” Rory Dearlove (né Cook) told the author, “changing my surname was a good chance to give them new ideas.”

Back then, I didn’t dive deep into the data. However, even without understanding the broader context, I realized that the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I felt proud of the statement it would make: screw this silly masculine tradition, let’s just do what we want.

However, I also admit that I thought my potential new name was just better—because what says “international man of mystery” better than, Jason Borg?

I went about the next few months referring to myself (in my head) by my new alias. But, as the wedding approached, two new realities arose that led to reconsideration.

The first was purely logistical. At that time, we had just moved from London to Los Angeles, a process that would soon require Martina to apply for a spousal green card.

It only took one conversation with a lawyer to learn that Trump’s erratic rhetoric and policy had elongated green card processing times from 3-6 months to well over a year. With that in mind, the idea of the additional legal complexity of a name change went from annoying to potentially untenable.

However, the more important factor was my own personal history. I was just on the precipice of sharing the story that would become the crux of my current work: My past battles with sexual performance anxiety.

Because such disclosures are rare in the sports world, I understood my narrative was enhanced by the fact that I’m a former Olympian. And taking a new name would make it difficult for the men I intended to reach to easily verify that connection, therefore lessening its impact.

So, we scrapped the idea and decided that we would remain Jason Rogers and Martina Borg. If kids come into the picture, we agreed that they would take Martina’s name.

I, on the other hand, remain in limbo. Someday, I might become a knight in a castle. Until then, I’m just a man in a band.

About The Mandate Letter

I use this newsletter as a journal to work through my ideas and collect examples of broader trends that reflect how masculinity is evolving in culture. I would very much appreciate your input. If you come across interesting examples of this trend or others, please email me tips at Jason [@] jasonrogers.co. If you're reading this in your inbox, just hit reply, and your response will go directly to me. Also, keep up with me on Twitter & Instagram or text me at 310-299-9363.