I just read this post at Traversing the Midlife Minefield. It struck a chord. She decided to revert to her maiden name after divorce and her sister laughs, “What does it mean to you?” It seems to me that the only person a name should mean anything to is the one who bears it.
I’ve had my own problems with names. After almost five years of living together, my husband and I decided to go down to the sub-courthouse and make our partnership official. It seemed the thing to do for legal reasons, insurance coverage, etc. There were no children. I didn’t change my name. It didn’t seem necessary after all that time and hubby didn’t care one wit. Then, about a year and a half later, we moved 1,000 miles away to a very, very small town in bfn. Suddenly total strangers felt the need to voice their opinions regarding how I signed my name. I might add that the largely Hispanic population had their own unique naming customs but it didn’t seem to matter.
I quickly caved in the interest of keeping things *simple*. When I went down to get a new driver’s license, I put my name down followed by a hyphen and my husband’s surname. For example, Jane Marie Doe became Jane Marie Doe-Smith, wife of John Thomas Smith. I thought it would clarify things. Ha! People couldn’t deal with the hyphen and my name ended up recorded a dozen different ways.
When I got my driver’s license it read Jane D. Smith. When we went to buy a car, I specifically told the salesman that I was putting my name down exactly as it reads on my driver’s license and I wanted the title to read the same. It didn’t matter, he wanted my legal name, Jane Marie Doe-Smith. Finally, I thought, someone cares about getting it right. The car ended up titled to John T. Smith and Jane M. Smith. Now I was driving around in a car titled to Jane M. Smith, insured by Jane M. Doe and carrying a driver’s license for Jane D. Smith. That was just the beginning.
Of course all these permutations of my name were similar enough but it made my credit report look like a felon’s with a bunch of aliases. Furthermore, there were people who felt the need to lecture me about the need for consistency, for legal reasons you know.
My attempts at achieving consistency were thwarted by different rules for “name changes” at different places. One place might take your word for it and just make the change. At another place, the computer system wouldn’t accept characters, like hyphens, in the name field and one name per field please. Some places had two name fields but most had three. You are lucky to get three name fields, four is out of the question. Many times the second field only accepted one letter. Other places required that you send original documents to prove the name change. You want me to put my marriage license and my driver’s license in the mail to you? And it will take 6 to 8 weeks for processing? I was frustrated and decided to keep the name with which I was born but suddenly, hubby cared. He thought we should have the same last name. I told him that I was going to change my name to Nasturtium (one name like Cher) and be done with it. He wasn’t amused.
After almost two years in that small town, we moved to a large city in the same state. No one seemed to care which name I used. I happily continued using the name I had used for twenty-eight years before moving to bfn. The mailman might have been a little confused. I received mail in different names for years. They lingered on my credit report. Just call me Mrs. Jim Doesmith. When questioned about it I sweetly, slowly launched into a long, involved explanation that quickly bored the listener. They decided that they really didn’t want to know and were sorry they asked.
The name thing, as it came to be known, later became an issue in my marriage despite the fact that for years he never thought twice about it and he knew what a hassle it caused me when I tried to change it. I suspect that as he got older, Mr. I Am Not A Joiner succumbed to some sort of good ol’ boy peer pressure. We divorced after thirteen years of marriage and…you got it…he used the name thing as proof that I was never fully committed to our marriage (after eighteen years together?). I laughed hysterically.
Of course the lesson is, do what you wish and others be damned. You can’t please anyone but yourself.
I recently moved and experienced deja vu for the first time in a long time. Apparently my city is known for its odd street names. I had no idea. When I tried to get the utilities turned on at 123 N. 18 1/2 St., I was advised that my address is not in their database and therefore not in their service area. I live in the center of a large city, how can that be? Until I can give them a “good” address, they can’t help me. What?
It took me two or three days to figure out what the problem was and get it straightened out. It seems that some address fields don’t take special characters, like forward slashes. My address is different in different computer systems: 123 N. 18 1 2 St., 123 N. 18.5 St., 123 N. 18th half St., 123 N. 18 and one half St….
My life strangely loops back upon itself.