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A Woman's Right to Choose (Her Surname, at the Very Least)

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It arrived on my desk at work yesterday. A shiny red envelope addressed to 'Carla Buzuki'. And so it begins, a lifetime of people misspelling, mispronouncing and generally misunderstanding my surname. It could be worse; my new husband has had 31 years of it.

I have held off writing about my decision to change my surname despite weeks of discussion with friends, annoying snipes in magazine articles (The Sunday Times Style mag last week decried the use of 'née' as being beyond irritating, which - yes - I had grudgingly added to my email signatures) but then Zara Phillips got married this weekend and popped the debate lid wide open.

If, distracted by all the discussions about her dress (it didn't wow nor offend me, since you ask), you missed it, she's keeping her maiden name for her eventing work, but will be going as Mrs Tindall the rest of the time. I am not going to comment on whether this is a good idea or not. Still licking my argument-fresh wounds from the debate with friends, I've decided changing your name must rank up there with the working-Vs-non-working-mums debate (just with slightly less emphasis on lack of sleep and the cost of childcare). Essentially, let's wish every woman well no matter what she chooses and stop berating her for not making the same decision we did. Or would.

Changing my surname was something I thought long and hard about, although long and hard about it some years ago. Around about the time my then-new-boyfriend, now husband, said - only half-joking - he wouldn't entertain the idea of marrying someone if they wouldn't take his name.

Mind you, he also said he'd never marry a vegetarian, which I tested by giving up meat two months before the wedding. He still turned up at the church.

Friends, especially journalist ones who know how hard the slog is to get your byline recognised, were incredulous. The timing certainly could have been better: change your name and launch brand new website in the space of a couple of weeks? PR experts would suggest rethinking the whole thing.

But it was important to him and, in the grand scheme of things, not so important to me. I quite liked being a Bevan, am likely still to count myself a Bevan when it comes to the important things, like card-playing, BBQing (halloumi rather than hamburgers these days) and celebrating Christmas (this is a family where my 50-something parents still get stockings, a tradition the Buzasis will be adopting or I'm having my old name back permanently), but being a Buzasi has its benefits, too.

It sounds, I'm told, exotically Italian, although it's actually Hungarian and while Bevans make up a proportionally large amount of the phone book the nearer you get to Wales, there's very few Buzasis in the UK (I've Googled my new self; I'm pretty sure I'm the only one).

The history is slightly more complex. The only survivor of his family in Auschwitz, my husband's grandfather chose to change his then-surname Breiner, for one which sounded less German and more traditionally Hungarian when he returned home. Turns out that was of no benefit to the Russians, who promptly threw him in a hard-labour camp for a number of years. He survived that (would go on, in fact, to live to the grand age of 97) and fled for Britain, with his wife and young son, my husband's father, in tow). I place high value on this story. A man who came to this country with nothing, founded a successful family business, now into its third generation, and chose a name he believed would represent him best. Well, I agree, I choose it too and challenge every other affianced female to make their own choice. (And if there are any other Carla Buzasis out there, I've nabbed the Twitter account, but not yet the Hotmail one, I'll leave that for you.)

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