by Margarita Mooney Clayton on October 11, 2022
Who knew that at the very same time I’d write about adding a second last name to my identity to acknowledge my mother and my Cuban heritage in July 2021, I’d meet the man I was going to marry, David Clayton.
Although I had used Margarita Mooney Suarez when I was in my 20s and living in Latin America, it was hard to walk around the US with two last names. Who is Suarez? Your husband? I was often asked. I was often alphabetized by Suarez rather than Mooney on event registrations or plane reservations. Often, Mooney was just dropped and I was just Margarita Suarez (that’s my aunt, but not me).
So, I dropped Suarez to avoid confusion. I never dropped my loyalty to my Cuban heritage, but I thought I’d soon be married and wanted to keep room for my husband’s last name. Who knew that it would take two decades to find a man I loved enough to marry and take his last name?
If I lived in Latin America, I’d be Margarita Mooney Suarez de Clayton, and no one would be confused. Everyone would know that Margarita Mooney, Margarita Mooney Suarez, and Margarita Mooney Suarez de Clayton or just Margarita de Clayton are the same person.
My English husband David is confused by the fact that I have 8 nicknames in my family. No one else seems to be confused. Everyone knows that Maggy, Margarita, Margaret, Tia Maggy, Tia Margarita, Titi, Mamita, and Mami are all the same person—me.
But, in the US, I’ve decided to follow the American custom and legally become Mrs. Clayton. As David and I launch into some professional projects together, we want people to know we are man and wife, as signified by the same last name. Getting married year a year shy of turning 50, it always tempting to see marriage as negotiating 50-50 compromises. But I want name to signify that in my marriage, I’m going all in–100%.
So I’m keeping Mooney—my father’s last name, the name I’ve always used for publications, as part of legal last name, although I’ve had a different second last name (first Suarez and now Clayton).
The 100% me is now legally Margarita Mooney Clayton. But, as we do in my family, you can call me whatever name you feel is most affectionate.