The Name Change Shuffle
By CeceK on March 19, 2011
I changed my last name at the Social Security office and the DMV and it wasn't until after that I felt an unexpected twinge of loss, sadness even-and I can't quite seem to put my finger on why. After my first marriage I changed my name and never questioned it at any point. Maybe it's because I'm older now? After the divorce I didn't want to go through the trouble of changing it back so I never requested that as part of the divorce decree. I didn't think it would be a big deal to do it later but was shocked and angry to find out that the court wanted to charge me $300 dollars to change it back! I didn't want the hassle at first but it wasn't long before I felt sort of icky having the ex's last name. I needed a fresh start. Fortunately, they eliminated that fee and I felt such sheer relief at getting my own name back that I hardly minded all the phone calls to switch everything out. Again. I vowed never to change it again. It's just too much work and I truly believed I would never marry again anyways. That icky feeling and need to reclaim my maiden name alone tells me that there's something in a name....even though I don't quite know what that something is.
I didn't consider not changing anything. We are married now. I want my name merged with his. Now, if I didn't like his last name I might feel differently. I have a Bachelor's degree in my maiden name but I haven't done anything awesome like write a book or win a Pulitzer prize with it, unless you count winning the Sectional gymnastics championships in high school. Which you don't. Nor have I established any kind of "career reputation" with it. You'd actually have to have a career in order to do that. I don't feel attached to my maiden name for feminist reasons. The basically chauvinistic concept that it is women who are expected to change their names and not men is not lost on me but I accept it. It's certainly not about the principal of it for me. I considered hyphenating but I couldn't really come up with a real reason why I wanted that other then that I felt it would make the transition easier. If I kept both last names then I could interchange between the two seamlessly as needed. I started reading up about how the hyphen can be a problem during name searches and how no matter what you need to use only one official name anyways to prevent any issues down the road. I guess just don't feel adamant enough about retaining my maiden name to go the hyphenated route.
It's hard being two people at once. I don't know who anyone has me on file as. I carried both drivers licenses just in case because all my credit cards didn't match the new license yet and they punched a hole through the expiration date on the old one. The last step was putting in the paperwork at my job-which I still don't think has gone through. Now that I have officially made the change I am actually three people. There are certain things that I don't want to bother with and/or don't even know how to go about switching. What do you do about real estate and property titles? My condo and timeshare are in my old married name. My car title is in my maiden name. I will need to change my passport which will then have a 3rd name amendment added to it. Unfortunately, I don't have any international trips planned so I suppose I can take my time on that one.
Verbally identifying myself as myself with my new last name still feels strange. When they called my name at the doctor's office it was almost like they were calling someone else and when I see it in print it almost takes me by surprise for a second. So what's in a name? I'm still not sure. My maiden name is me. I like it. It's who I have always been. It sounds natural to say it and it's what I am used to. On the other hand, I am honored to take Mj's last name. It feels special for us to share that and it's new but I already like it. I'm sure that I will come to own my new last name and take comfort in it as I do our relationship itself. The reality is that I don't even think I want to be the person I was before I met him. He changed my life for the better and there is no me without him so despite any conflicting feelings and brief sense of identity crisis I might feel as a result I know that it's the right choice for me.
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