Relationships

Introducing the “Taylors Lautner”

The actor and his future wife aren’t the first couple to share a full name. Science—and the couples themselves—have answers for why.

He Taylor in a dark suit sans tie, She Taylor in a sparkly strapless dress, posing together on a red carpet
Double the Taylor Lautner, double the fun.  Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

Erstwhile Twilight star Taylor Lautner has been dating a woman whose first name is also Taylor since 2018. Not content to merely share one name with his partner, Lautner recently confirmed that his now-fiancée, registered nurse Taylor Dome, will take his last name when the two marry (date TBD). This will, yes, make her also Taylor Lautner—and effectively double the world’s population of Taylor Lautners.

Understandably, this news has broken many brains as it’s spread online, and (the original) Taylor Lautner has talked about it in venues like The Kelly Clarkson Show and the Today Show’s website this month. It sent Clarkson herself into a laughing fit midshow as the realization that they would share a name dawned on her. In the days since, the great Lautner doubling has inspired countless headlines and social media posts. Keke Palmer has claimed to be “obsessed.” Dictionary.com has speculated about the proper pluralization of “Taylor Lautner,” settling on the Latinate Taylors Lautner. Many have been quick to note that Lautner is actually a repeat offender in the same-name relationship space: He dated pop star Taylor Swift in 2009.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

The Taylors Lautner also present a magnified example of the feminist conundrum of whether women should change their names when they marry, an issue that’s been very topical in this summer of “Jennifer Affleck.” Jennifer Lopez may have symbolically sacrificed her megafamous name, but the second Taylor Lautner is subsuming her whole identity. The first Lautner seems at least somewhat self-aware about the strangeness of his bride taking his entire name: “We’re literally going to be the same person,” he acknowledged to Clarkson, and followed that up by calling it “narcissistic.” But that didn’t actually stop him from proposing in front of a neon sign that read Lautner in November. (There are pictures.) “I left it up to her. I was like you, you do whatever you want to do,” Lautner told Today. “But she wants to take my name. So, it’s going to be very confusing, for sure.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

If not quite narcissism, there is actually a term for what’s going on here: implicit egotism. “We are strongly attracted, for reasons we’re not typically aware of, to anything that resembles really any aspect of the self, from our name, to our birthday number, to our street address growing up, to the names of loved ones like siblings and parents,” said Brett Pelham, a psychology professor at Montgomery College in Maryland who studies our unconscious biases.

Advertisement

“I was not aware of that particular celebrity marriage, but based on working for something like 15 years on implicit egotism, I have definitely collected anecdotes like that one,” Pelham said. Though implicit egotism doesn’t have a huge effect on who people marry, it can have a meaningful one, particularly among people who really like their names. Taylor Lautner 1 may be such a person. “One of the ways a person can have a ‘type’ is they like their own names,” Pelham said. “This is a little stack of evidence if he’s done this twice now.”

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Pelham said that this is probably also an indicator of high self-esteem. But he also said that the effect increases when people feel rejected or threatened, raising the question of what could have made Lautner feel fragile enough in 2009 and 2018 to drive him into the arms of another Taylor for ego-rescue purposes.

Same-first-name couples are likely increasing with the rise of androgynous names and same-name same-sex couples. Same-full-name couples are harder to come by. Pelham cited one of his favorite examples, Kelly Hildebrandt and Kelly Hildebrandt, who each had that name before they met, and actually met through sharing a name: The female Kelly Hildebrandt found the male one by searching her name on Facebook. They married in 2009 (and many jokes about monograms ensued), but divorced a few years later. Baseball player Madison Bumgarner reportedly dated a woman with the same name as him, but the relationship didn’t last.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

The Social Security Administration doesn’t keep data on such pairings, so most of what we know is anecdotal. “It’s not common, but we occasionally do see married couples who share the same first and last names,” said Colie Christensen, the founder and CEO of NewlyNamed, a company that sells “name change kits” to help newlyweds navigate the process of changing their names. “We think it’s really cool if the couple is able to make it work!”

One couple who has been through it are Sam MacDonald-Wright and Sam MacDonald-Wright, of Leeds, a city in England, who are technically Samuel and Samantha but both go by Sam. They decided to double-barrel their last names when they got married in 2018.

Advertisement

“Because we’ve been together for so long and we’ve always been referred to as ‘the Sams,’ it just seemed like the continuation of a joke,” the male half of the couple told me.

Advertisement

“I think it’s a great idea,” Mr. MacDonald-Wright said of the Lautners, before conceding, “People are going to think he’s insane for a while.” His advice to them was as follows: “Explain up front before people think you’re talking about yourself in the third person. And the second thing is never get anything confidential sent to you by post.”

Advertisement

In practice, MacDonald-Wright said that others usually refer to his wife and him as Girl Sam and Boy Sam (Lautner said he and his fiancée do something similar, going by Girl Tay and Boy Tay), or in the case of his family, Dr. Sam (her) and Ugly Sam (him). When the couple got a dog, and again when they had a kid, there were campaigns to use the name Sam, but they failed both times. Another practical matter: “Sam is in my phone as ‘Sam, not me,’ ” MacDonald-Wright said.

MacDonald-Wright said there were advantages of changing his name that most people don’t consider. “For me, it was just an opportunity to get myself up the register. I’ve always been W and at the bottom of things.” The future Mrs. Taylor Lautner will be going from D to L, so the satisfaction of marrying a former teen heartthrob will have to suffice.

Advertisement