The hell that is the hyphen
I have always been the person that does things my own way. I usually try to think of all of the consequences of my decisions before I dive right in but, obviously, that is not always the case. However, major life decisions get significant review and consideration before I bite the bullet.
So, when Matt and I got married five years ago, we discussed (at length) my desire to keep my last name. [I suggested the idea that we both change our names to something new and exciting. Matt was not amused.]
I never liked the idea that I was expected to change my name. Plus, I have always loved my name. It fits me. Matt, forever avoiding the uncomfortable and confrontational, never really said much else about it. It was never really an issue. After all, we had already been together for 10 years, owned a house together, and had shared bank accounts. The only time I ever really even remembered that we had different last names was when someone got it wrong.
However, when it came time to decide what last name our baby would have, sh*t got real. My amazingly sweet, funny, and laid back husband put up one hell of a fight. Since that doesn’t happen often, I really did entertain all of the possible options (my last name, his last name, combo last name, and hyphenated last name). We talked about it from top to bottom, inside and out.
Finally, when I was about 8 months pregnant, I waddled into my mentor’s office and sobbed. I had never had so much trouble making a decision before, I was giant and full of hormones, and I needed to make sure that I made the right choice.
I finally figured out the right choice when I thought about 10 years down the road, having to pick him up from school, and some random secretary thinking that I was his dad’s girlfriend or the step-mom. Decision made. Noah’s last name was getting hyphenated.
Matt assured me that he understood (although I knew he was lying) and, the day after Noah was born, we signed the paperwork with a hyphenated last name. Decision made; problem solved. [Boy, was I naïve.]
In the past three years, I cannot even begin to count the number of times people have screwed up his name, alphabetized him incorrectly, argued with me about what his name really should be, and/or looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I have had issues picking up his medicine at the pharmacy, registering him for activities, and getting the right information when I need to call the doctor about something for him. The first couple of years, it got on my nerves. In the last few months, as he is getting more involved in different things throughout the community, it is just down right driving me crazy.
So, as Matt is preparing to start a new job and Noah and I will need to rearrange our health insurance options, I decided that, enough is enough. It is time to change Noah’s last name (which also means changing my last name- the fear about the school secretary is burned into my brain).
Changing my name was, quite possibly, the easiest thing I have ever done. I walked in to the social security office, waited for less than 10 minutes (and there was a very nice police officer who really loved his job and was very helpful and pleasant). I met with one of the employees there, gave him my marriage license and, boom, name changed. I don’t even think I had to sign anything. It was just done.
[Side note: in talking with other women and friends, everyone seemed to be very nonchalant about changing a major piece of their identity. When it was so easy at the social security office, I had a moment where I wanted to yell at someone, “Seriously!? This is my name. This is a big deal to me! Why is this so easy?”
Well, I am glad I didn’t shout that because, as the universe loves to do so often, changing Noah’s name has been one of the hardest and most complicated things I have ever tried to do. After getting a different answer from each person I spoke with at the social security office, the vital records office, and the licensing office, I got a hold of someone at the clerk of courts. She informed me that I needed to hire an attorney and have them draft a petition to change my son’s name because my county doesn’t have any forms that I can fill out.
My first thought, “That’s just silly. I’m sure she’s wrong.” My second thought, “Dammit! She’s right. I need to find an attorney.” My last thought, “That’s stupid! I have the internet. I can write the petition my self.” So I did. And I thought it was pretty awesome. I found statutes and examples. Matt and I had the petition notarized and, off to the courthouse I went. I was so proud of myself.
Then, the lady at the clerk of courts office handed my petition back to me, and smirked.
“Ma’am. You’re missing a sworn statement that the applicant does not owe any back taxes or past due child support. You’ll have to resubmit.”
“Seriously?! He’s three!”
“I understand ma’am. But the legislative representatives did not take minors into account when they wrote the statute.”
“Seriously!? [expletive, expletive] Okay. I will do it again.”
So, I rewrote the petition, Matt and I had it re-notarized, I went back downtown to the courthouse, I paid the $120 it costs to change a birth certificate, and she sent me on my way and told me to wait for her call me.
In the meantime, I went to the DMV to get my new driver’s license. This shouldn’t be a big deal, right? People do this all of the time. Every woman that worked there had some little comment to say about why it took me so long to change my name.
For the first couple of comments, in typical “Callie” fashion, I made a joke about divorce rates and making sure he didn’t snore. But, after a little while, I started to get angry. I actually snapped at the lady who said, “I can’t believe your husband actually let you keep your name.” What the hell, lady?!?
I get back to work, all bitter and fired-up, pull out the temporary license they give you while you wait on the real one to be mailed. And, par for the course, they spelled my name wrong. [expletive, expletive] I call the DMV, they tell me I have to come back tomorrow so they can redo the data entry and retake my picture. He told me I would just get 2 IDs in the mail.
Finally, I get a call from the clerk of courts. Noah’s paperwork is ready. Now, I thought I would be able to take the paperwork to the vital records office, get a new birth certificate, and head over to the social security office. Obviously, it turns out to not be so simple. Now, I am waiting for the state capitol to legally recognize the name change and inform the vital records office.
Meanwhile, to make matters so much better, just guess how many times Matt has said, “I told you so.”