the story behind my name

By Andrea Michelle

I went from Sydney to New York and I met Sydney. Sydney Stone has been reading Fox in Flats for about three years now – pretty much since it started – and over the years we’ve had loads of chats online about red lipstick, her vast collection of shoes, and our strong views that all women are beautiful regardless of size or shape.

We met up in a cocktail bar in the Fashion District on an unseasonably warm Wednesday night, and despite never having breathed the same air before, it was as though we’d known each other all our lives. Instead of talking about our websites (she runs a successful fashion and beauty blog Stylaphile) two sips into our Margaritas and we were sharing details about our relationships, our families, where we came from, and our hopes for the future.

Alexis Bittar fox ring Fox in Flats

With Sydney Stone in New York.

Check out the AMAZING Alexis Bittar Fox ring she gave me for my birthday – swoon!



I realised there’s so much about me that I’d not shared here – indeed some basic stuff. Part of the reason for that is because this is a fashion and beauty blog, not a personal one. Another part is that the minutia of my life ain’t all that interesting. And another part is that it hadn’t really occurred to me that anyone would give a damn.

But one of the questions Sydney floated was about my surname, as she’d noticed I’d changed it over the last year from Zanetich to Michelle.”Why the name change?” she asked.

So here’s the deal: Zanetich was my married name for 12 years. I remember when this very cute guy that I’d met first told me his last name and I thought it was so cool as it sounded a bit like Xanadu (a big thing for a long-time Olivia Newton-John fan). When we got hitched a year or so later I was more than happy to take on his name – yes because I liked it, but also because it was a traditional part of marriage that I was happy to subscribe to.

Yet after we separated very amicably early last year it just felt kinda strange to keep it tacked onto mine. Going back to my maiden name felt wrong as I’d not used it for so long. And besides, I no longer wanted to be identified as someone’s wife or someone’s daughter. So I eschewed those surname options and have been running with my middle name, Michelle, ever since. After all, it’s the name I’ve carried with me since birth.

Like no longer having someone to take out the bins or replace the light-bulbs, this change has taken some getting used to. And at first I felt like I was wearing someone else’s underwear with that new name – it felt kinda weird and chafed a bit in spots I didn’t recognise. Yet now, a year down the track – like that favourite comfy bra – I don’t even notice I’m wearing it.


And back to Sydney – it never ceases to amaze me the connection that can be made online with people, whether they live on the other side of the world, or in the next suburb over. She made me pause and reflect about how much (or how little) I’ve opened up about my private life here, and also made me realise that it’s ok to do a bit more of that. So if there are things you think you’d want to ask me over a Margarita in a bar in New York, I’m open to it. But don’t ask me the colour of my favourite comfy bra, ok? Because that would be creepy. 😉



What’s the story behind your last name?

Have you/would you take someone else’s? And what do you think you’d do with your surname if you were in my shoes?

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  • I love that you decided to use your middle name, I also think it’s okay to open up more on your blog (I knew from FB the story behind your name) but it’s a nice touch to open up on your blog, because it makes you more human (well, at least more normal and approachable)

  • I love the middle-name-for-a-surname too. I’ve gone by the same from time to time (Anna Michal).

    My surname is both of my parents’ names mashed together. I have been explaining it since I was in kindergarten and it never, ever, ever, ever, ever* gets old.

    * always

  • I changed my name from Duffield to my husband’s surname of Hausler when I got married. A few people questioned me and asked whether I’d considered going the double-barrelled option – but I’m pretty sure Duffield-Hausler is the ugliest name ever! Plus I didn’t want to have to spell both names every time I gave someone my name!

  • I love the middle name surname thing too.
    My mum changed her surname after her second divorce as she just couldn’t go back to her maiden name after 30 odd years. She went with Taylor (after Elizabeth Taylor). It was quite funny when she updated everything, people thought she had gotten hitched again.
    Id love to hear more about your life too! Xx

  • Interestingly, I considered the exact same strategy, but remarried and the kids [somehow] cottoned on that I could now use their name, so they decided I should. I loved the idea, still do- I also considered taking my mother’s maiden name, because I really loved it, it meant something special to me, and there were no boys to carry that name, so it is no longer ‘on’ anyone. But as tradition caught me out, I rather find I like sharing the name in the house, it makes us a ‘pack’? 🙂 I say your name, your rules!

    • Oh yes, I considered my mum’s maiden name too. And yeah get the ‘pack’ thing. I wondered what my boys would think for that reason, but tried to explain that family isnt defined by matching last names. I suspect they dont really get it though.. 🙂 xA

      • I think they will get used to it… I remember when my girls were little and asking about their names (first, middle and last) and the stories about them. . They had lots of questions about why I wasn’t the same as dad and them. Talking, being honest and knowing grandparents helped. Sometimes I was mummy mitchell though! I love the idea of using last names for middle but mine too is naff. What a shame…

      • I bet they do get it- you seem to be a pretty close little pack of your own! It was just interesting to me that Mr.5 [then] found it so important that he asked me to use his name- kids are so interesting! 😉

  • Love the middle-name surname!
    After my separation it felt wrong using his last name so I went straight back to my maiden name, which I always loved. Haven’t yet changed it back legally but will so in due time. Thanks for sharing with us xx

    • Thanks Steph, yes I’m yet to do so legally too – can be a bit confusing with banking and passports etc. Sometimes I feel like I have an alias. 😉 xxxA

  • When you changed your name it made me smile (not because you had separated but because I thought the way you stamped out your own identity was classy…I figured it was most likely your middle name). Some of the best women I’ve had the pleasure to call friends have had it either as their first or middle name. Through every stage of my life I have always had one or more around me. It’s one of those things I’ve always found a bit kinda spooky because it’s my middle name too. T xx

    • Thankyou darling Tatum. Yeah I did think that people would kinda put two and two together. And wow that’s so amazing – so many Michelles! Was a popular name in the early 70s – ha ha ha! xA

  • Good on you, Andrea! I kept my name when I got married, because I just thought “It’s me. It’s who I am, it’s who my family is, and it represents so much history.” I don’t see why the woman always has to give up that part of her identity. As proud as I am to be my husband’s wife, I wanted to keep that part of me. It’s hard to explain to some people, and I never mind if I’m referred to as “Mrs. Husband’s last name”, but I was just something I knew I had to stick to my guns about!

    • I totally get that Julia – and it seems so archaic to me in so many ways to change names in the first place – good on you! I actually surprised myself by taking his name back then, but I guess I’m a traditionalist at heart (on some things!!!) 😉 xA

  • There’s something very powerful about changing and choosing your own name. I changed my entire name a few years ago, and then a while after that when I got married my husband and I chose our own new family name rather than taking mine or his or having different names.

    • I love your last name – so cool! And what a great idea! I’d never thought of it as a powerful thing to to, but you are right, it is. xA

  • Thanks for sharing part of your life Andrea ,I did take make husbands name over 29 years ago and I’m happy I did I don’t think if anything happens I would change it back as I have been a Mckenzie for longer than my maiden name .I love how you are using your middle name as a surname it’s a very good,idea and I hope your happy now Xx

    • Yes its true, when you have a name for so long the thought of changing it ever is so strange. I think that’s also why I didnt go back to my maiden name. And thankyou darling Lisa, it’s been a HUGE challenge but I am. xA

  • I’m a bastard. I’m also the only one of my maternal grandfather’s grandchildren, who carry his name. So for the past 30 years I’ve been Fenner. We are getting married in April and it’s expected that I’ll become Steward. My older kids are both Baker like their dad. So the Fenner, who is meant to be a Hankinson, then a Baker will become a Steward. It all feels weird to me. For work reasons, I’ll remain Fenner. I’m a published journalist, so that’s will always be my professional name. But in my personal life, I think I’m happy being Mrs Steward.

    • Yeah, it’s a funny one when you use your name for work – that was one of the challenges I faced when I changed mine recently. If you google Andrea Zanetich a bunch of stuff comes up. If you google Andrea Michelle we have a LOT of images of a female body builder. LOL LOL LOL.

  • I separated last year and I am looking at a blog name change. Of course I considered my christian name + surname but that doesn’t sit well. It is my married name. So now I’m in a quandry! I’m not ready to change my surname just yet, but I also don’t want to tie myself/my blog to it! What to do Andrea, what to do?

    • Hi! Leah here 🙂 Definitely wouldn’t recommend tying blog/business to any married or previous married names. I know a lady that got divorced and rather than going back to her maiden name in public she just made a surname up! I think she’s a clever little cocky!

    • Am sorry to hear you separated too. Hope you are ok. How about using a ‘brand’ name for your blog like I have?

  • I was in your shoes early last year and changed it back to my maiden name. I will never change it again – it’s just not worth the fiss-fussing about..

  • PS I did consider being “Leah Sparkles” for a while there, but I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously 😉 Ah, a girl can dream…

  • In Brazil, at the time I got married, I wasn’t allowed to drop any names, but only add to it. So I kept my full name and added on my husband’s. I have a long name now, but I don’t care. I love that I’m still a Cardoso. But I also love that as a family, we are all “the Smiths”. Best luck to you and your awesome new name, xoxo.

  • Love the middle name. Mine is Maree, so it would sound kinda weird. My married name is McCurdy but I’m still using my maiden name… Hubby and I split for three years and are now back together, so I’m known as both lol. Yes, it’s confusing! xx

    • Wow you split and got back together?! Amazing. My Mum’s middle name was Marie – it’s really pretty I think. xA

  • LOVE THIS Andrea! Great story and great reasons! Oooh and fab name!
    I don’t have a story about my last name – I went from maiden to married and there’s no fascinating story there…BUT….when I was born {in Africa in the early 80’s, and was the only ‘white’ baby in the hospital}, my dad was given the job of registering my birth at the court house. He got there and realised he had forgotton which middle name him and my mum had agreed on for me – so he left that blank on the birth certificate. When I was 9yrs old I cracked the shits that I had no middle name and everyone else did – so I made a list of my fave names and took a family ballot. Louise won and ever since I have been known as Claire Louise. It has caused some problems over the years, as it’s not officially my name {not on birth cert} but totally worth it. My name feels complete now haaaa.
    C x

  • Argh, the surname quandry! I got married and didn’t change my name for a while (modern girl that I was!) then thought how lucky i was to be part of this gorgeous new extended family and changed my name. Separation and felt a bit between two worlds as maiden name felt like going backwards but also I have 2 daughters so wanted to keep same name as them…. Years later and I still can’t decide! Maybe when they turn 18 and school is over. Wish the convention was kids took their Mum’s name and it would all be easier!
    Hope all good with you. Thanks for sharing. Go the single mummas!

    • I agree, maybe the kids should all have the mother’s name! Makes it all less complex. But I took his name for the same reasons and have no regrets about that. In the end, names mean nothing. It’s the family – how you are with each other and make each other feel that’s important. xA

  • Love th name change. My partner of over 20 years and I separated nearly 3 years ago. Yes it is hard to get used to and takes a whole lot of getting used to. We were never married so I have had no need for the name change. Good on you Andrea and th k you for sharing a little about yourself gorgeous lady. V x

  • I thought about changing back to my surname when my marriage split up. I was concerned about having a different last name to my kids – must have had a reason although now I have no idea why! After all these years it still irks me when people ask me if I’m related to someone with the last surname, or call me Mrs. — or even worse call my now partner Mr. —-. Great idea Andrea, moving on is the way to go.

  • Well I never wanted to change my name (which has been useful in two marriages), it just wasn’t me, plus my kids all get my name either as a middle, second middle or last name so they share both parents names. The hyphanated didn’t work. I love the thought using your middle name. Thanks for sharing. The reality is divorce or separation can occur and I love that my kids can have both surnames. But love the middle name 🙂

    • I love the idea of using your name as their names – a lovely link. We used our parents names as middle names instead. Am not sure that my maiden name (Gladigau) would have made a good middle name? 😉

  • Oh I also wonder, if you separate, and have changed your name to his, do most people go back to their maiden name? I could imagine it would feel weird to change as then your not the same as your kids? Hmmm

    • I’m not sure?! Who speaks about this stuff?! I worried about how my kids would react, but explained to them that we are of course still the same family. They’ll probably need therapy when they’re older over it. 😉 xA

  • I love your take on the name switcheroo! I didn’t change mine when we got married, not for any great ideological beliefs, it’s just who I am. I was and am happy to be married, and certainly not offended to be mrs …. Our kids have both our names, mine as the second name so they each have a bit of both of us and where we come from. My eldest daughter loves choosing additional middle names to throw in there as she feels a bit ripped off not having another pretty name so for years now she has adopted rose as a second middle name, even writing it as her official name when asked ;). Recently she decided she liked my middle name – Catherine – and has thrown that in there too. I love that she expressing herself by choosing names for herself and in years to come if any stick I will happily help her formally do it if that’s what she would like to do.

  • Andrea, I love this post! And I love the fact that I finally got to meet you in person. What a fun, incredible night. I may have inspired you to write the post on your name change, but you inspired me on so many different levels. Especially in the way you connect with your readers. As I said in our conversation in that bar, your authenticity is what speaks to be your audience. That’s why they relate to you and love you so much. It’s also why I love you so much! Well done, you! xoxo

  • My surname is my husbands name, which I sort of started using before we were married anyway. Oops! If we were to separate, I would probably keep on using it because it’s also my children’s last name and I like us having the same surname.

    The best name is the one you feel most comfortable using and I think you look wonderfully happy as Andrea Michelle xx

    • LOL how did you get away with that?! That’s awesome!
      Yes I think you’re right regarding comfort. And I’m comfortable and happy now. xA

  • I double-barrelled my surname when I got married. It was my name for over 30 years, so it seemed odd to change it. When our son “Pickle” was born , we only gave him his father’s surname. So when we separated, it was Pickle’s surname that got changed to the double-barrelled format to match mine.

  • I was always okay with my maiden name, Palmer, but was pretty sure I’d take my husband’s when the time came. I was given a challenge to work with – Ruge (pronounced Roo-ghee with a hard g as in gate) which made me stop and reassess whether I wanted to spell and correct pronunciation for the rest of my life. Tossed up the idea of hyphenating but eventually just went with it. The kicker was because we were married overseas, my wedding certificate was not considered sufficient evidence to change my name for my driver’s licence etc. So I had to pay $140 to change it by deed poll! I briefly considered changing my first name to Elizabeth which I had always wanted to do as a child and get two for the price of one but I held back. And yes I have to spell and correct pronounciation every day. Also, most people call me Ruth.

      • It’s a mystery for the ages. At work, it’s probably because our email shows up as Ruge, Beth and people just run that together. But strangers do it verbally as well. The most annoying part of it all is my sister’s name is Ruth and she thinks it’s HILAIRE.

  • I changed my name when I got married, although I wasn’t thrilled about it, and it actually made me feel a bit sad as I had a really strong connection with my dads side of the family and it felt like I was letting a part of that go (bit silly), and now I am getting unmarried, and have changed my name back and couldn’t be happier. And I don’t know if I will/would ever get married again, but I do know that my name is not changing again for anyone (plus it’s such a bloody hassle to have to change it on everything!!!)… but love the Middle name as a last name idea… if I HAD a bloody middle name I’d probably totally copy cat on you (although knowing my family it would have been another highly unoriginal name like Jane or Sarah… so maybe not)

    • Am with you, in the unlikely event I’d ever get married again I wouldnt either. Besides, I’d need to at least get a date with someone first for that to happen! LOL! 😉

    • Wow, awesome Kate!!! I remember when I changed it on FB I was really nervous. Turns out noone said anything at all. ha! x

  • When you explained this to me at Coolangatta airport over a glass of red, it made perfect sense to me as it is a perfect fit for you.
    I took on my husband’s last name – and was very glad to – as I don’t have anything to do with my family. I didn’t feel attached to that old name and it certainly didn’t define who I was, so it made me incredibly happy to take on the same last name as the man I’ve created my very own family with. x

  • You are amazing! Thanks for opening up here, as much as you want to.
    I’ve admired your friendship and respect you have for your former husband – it makes me smile.
    And yes, aren’t online friendships amazing. I met a few online friends overseas and it was like we knew each other in person forever when we met.

    • Thankyou darling Carly. And yes he and I have a very deep friendship and respect and he will always be my family, regardless of our marital status – after all he’s the Father of my children. When we decided to separate we also decided we’d aim for The World’s Best Divorce, and while it has certainly not been without it’s challenges, so far, so good. Maintaining a happy family unit for the sake of our children is paramount, regardless of whether we live together or not. And as an added bonus, I now have a truly platonic male BFF. 🙂

  • How empowering! Love that idea and totally get it. I took my hubbys name and feel I left my maiden name and family behind, first thing I said day 1 of marriage , was ‘I’m a Wakely now whatever, can do what I want” in one way it felt free! If I was ever not to have my huibbys name I dont think I could go back either but Anne just isnt going to cut it… maybe I could do Best 😉 PS GO YOU! x

  • The whole name thing is so complicated. When I left my ex hub I toyed with what name to have … I have no connection with my maiden name which I didn’t want, I had a previous surname when I was born, then adopted … I’ve since remarried, which we did overseas and forgot to get a form signed so can’t change my name legally … soooooooo unofficially my last name is Pappalardo, but for tax and official things I’m still Reuss. Working at the ABC this is nuts because on air I’m Pappalardo but behind the scenes I’m Reuss. I have no idea who the hell I am and neither does anyone I work with. It’s like I’m in witness protection with many aliases!

    • Wow – that’s complex! Yes it does feel funny when you’ve got a couple of names for different reasons – I felt like that recently when I travelled overseas and my passport is still in my married name. xA

  • I’ve used an abbreviated “stage name” of my hard-to-spell legal surname, professionally and socially since college. So much-so that it’s weird now when I have to say my real name out loud! (feels very “secret squirrel’, huh?!) Whilst I’m not crazy about having a different name to my kids, I’m glad I kept my name.. reminds me of a world without vegemite handprints!
    Thanks for sharing your name story, and well done on amicably “de-coupling”; neither is easy.
    Love your new name, it fits you perfectly! xx

  • Ah, I kept my name, I never had any desire to change it and he wasn’t going to change his. The kids have two surnames, un-hyphenated, Spanish style! They also have two middle names each, so they’re officially The Names That Will Never Fit on the Form. Indeed we refer to our daughter as Genevieve “The Alphabet”! I don’t care if people call me Mrs (Him) and I suppose on occasion he gets Mr (Me). Taking your middle name as surname is great!

    • Oh I think you are my new BFF! The other thing I’ve not shared about freestyling on names is that – similar to you – we chose Names That WIll Never Fit on the Form for our kids.

  • Ok So I have had a number of name changes, my maiden name was Marland however I learnt my dads father changed his surname on arrival to Australia from the UK for some reason unknown to his family here in Oz so technically my real maiden name would of been Cowsill.
    Married way too young first time, surname changed to Fleer, ended in an extremely long drawn out divorce so I changed my name through de poll to Andrews. Couldn’t even wait for my divorce to go thru I changed it beforehand.
    Finally happily married and settle down and my surname is now Wood.

    I think it’s lovely to be traditional and the your husbands name, never thought of doing otherwise.

    • Wow. Kim, having known you for about 5 year now I never knew this. Thing is about you? I reckon with any last name you would have ever had you would have still been KIM. Just Kim. Just you. Anyway, that’s how you are to me. Happy birthday by the way sweet friend. xA

  • My husband and I separated 2.5 years ago and are now divorced, yet I still use my married surname. My maiden name was always difficult to spell and I like having the same name as my two children. However I am now living with my partner of two years, we won’t get married, but I wonder if it’s strange that I’m living with him but still using my exs name?? This is something I have been struggling with for a while now…what to do? (My middle name is not suitable unfortunately!) great idea though!

    • Hmmm this is an interesting one Lorna, but I dont think it’s strange. It’s your name, and you’ve made a conscious decision for it to be that way for your children. x

  • I love your name change!
    Despite my partner and I being together over 8 years, and having a 5 year old, we are not married. Part of the reason is because I don’t want to change my name. And he wants me to.
    (The other part, I guess the large part, is because we can’t really be bothered now.)
    Our daughter has his surname, but if she were a boy, she would have had mine.
    Aaah the great name debate.

    • Ah indeed the great name debate! Did you read about people going hard over George Clooney’s wife taking his name today? C’mon – live and let live people! xA

  • I love your ‘new’ name! Where I come from you can’t really choose new names. But you can of course when you get married. My now husband and I had our son first and got married 2 years later. In Switzerland the child automatically gets the mothers name when she’s not married. So when we actually got married it felt weird to change our sons last name. And by the way. I never really liked my husband’s name anyway, plus his sister is called Andrea too ;o) So we decided that my last name will be our family name. He kept his name but added mine to it. Which I thought is beautiful and quite unusual ..

    Thanks for sharing your story! A x

  • I took my husband’s name – a matter of tradition as you say. However, professionally I continued to use my maiden name (I was a family lawyer so it protected my hubby from the cranks). If I was to divorce, I’d go back to my maiden name completely – I love it and I have a strong connection with my family – plus I think “Jayde” is a bit weird for a surname for me. 😉

  • So so so late to respond to this but I read it a while ago and it resonated with me. When my partner and I separated a number of years ago I returned to my maiden name. It wasn’t difficult for me at work as I never took my husband’s name. I was 23 when I married and wanted to retain some independence 🙂 My bambinos don’t seem to mind that I use my name but it is often a pain trying to explain to someone that I’m their mother if I don’t have the same surname!! 1960s much?! I had a battle in the post office yesterday collecting their passports because how could I be their mother if I didn’t share their name! But I love the idea of creating something all of your own too. I’d never change mine if I was to marry again (though I don’t see that happening either)!!

    • Wow I’m surprised that you’d need to explain the different surnames – these days it is not so unusual for them to be different – the comments on this post are a testament to that! And yes agree on the last sentence – in both aspects!!! xA

  • My mother-in-law is divorced. She has chosen to keep her married name, despite awful and terribly humiliating circumstances of her separation and divorce, because it was under this family name that she developed her entity as a woman and a mother, and she is not prepared to surrender it with her other losses. She has kept her boat afloat by owning her achievements, and considering her ex as having been expelled from them. Her name is an inherent part of that status.
    The very personal stories and reasons behind keeping or changing your name are as individual as snowflakes, and all together they create a beautiful vista. Thank you so much for sharing !! I’m sure most of your readers would agree with me – it’s a privilege to gain in empathy and insight from other people’s experiences, and it takes courage for them to have exposed that vulnerability. Bravo !!

  • I took my husband’s name- we toyed with hyphenation but my maiden name sounded like a porn star stage persona when combined with his last name!

  • I really agonised over what to do. I didn’t want to have a different surname than my children, so for the first year of our separation I remained Ellerman. However, my children were so small (only 2 and 4) at the time, that when I decided to change back to my maiden name, we had a discussion about it and I explained that I was no longer Mrs Ellerman, and needed to leave that name open so that their daddy could hopefully remarry sometime down the track. My kids are totally comfortable with my name now and it reminds me that we often make things a bigger issue than they are. If I ever re-marry, I will keep my maiden name.I love that you chose your middle name. 🙂 🙂

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