As a woman, changing my name was something that I looked forward to doing at one time in my life (ok, two times, but who’s counting?). Ladies, if you’re married and you took your husband’s name when you tied the knot, you’ll know what I mean. *See also individuals entering into witness protection programs.
Changing your name is like the final bit of icing on the wedding cake. You’ve already partied at the wedding, you’re back from your honeymoon (because plane tickets and drivers licenses must match, you can’t change the last name before jet setting), you’re starting to settle into your new role as wife, spouse, partner. You’re still pumped up on the romance, all the love, the thank you notes you have to write, maybe even filling in the gaps left open in your wedding registry (Oh come on! Did you really think someone was going to buy you the $350 Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer in designer aqua?! Go buy that thing your own dang self!). The point is, you’re happy, you’re over the moon.
Take all of that and flip it around to the exact negative. Instead of a party, a mourning. Instead of exuberance and joy, embarrassment and sadness. Sure, you probably feel relieved, but having to change your name back after a divorce is LAME. Ask me how I know.
If you’re like me, you don’t want to keep anything from that son-of-a-biscuit you just divorced that you don’t have to - including his name.
This week, I finally changed my name on my PayPal account back to my maiden name, so I can invoice people and they won’t be wondering who the hell the uber-German chick invoicing them is (my most recent married name was Winkler-Schmitt), and it was a hassle. I suppose I could blame my reluctance to ever change my name again on the hassle and the paperwork.
I could use the excuse that I’m graduating with the Masters in a few weeks and that I’ll be graduating under the last name Winkler and I have all of this writing coming out under my current surname, and geez, y’ know – it would just be a headache to juggle the professional name and the legal name, and all that (assuming I get married again… What? You’ve never heard the third time’s the charm?).
But really, that’s not why I’ll never change my name again. I’m not going to blame it on feminism or modernity, or even on the little dark place inside my soul that says, “It’s damn depressing to change that name back when it goes to hell,” because sadly, experience has taught me that men have a tendency to…well, to flake out. Well, maybe not men in general, just the ones I marry.
I jest, of course, but wow. Having to pull that divorce decree out every time I have to show legal proof of my name change is like a punch in the gut. Seriously. Have you seen a more depressing piece of paper?
Anyway, I know that I’ll never change my name ever again. A friend once joked that she’s known me under three different names and has to sing that John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt song to remember it all, and it’s pretty true. As far as the name goes, though, the third time really is the charm for me. I’m just not doing it again. If I remarry, it’s gonna be to a man who is man enough to deal with a wife who keeps her last name. And possibly makes him sign a pre-nup. KIDDING!
The decision not to change my name is bigger than the little black corner of my consciousness who sneers in the shadows, tempting me to fall into the I’ve-been-cheated-on-and-lied-to-and-dumped-by-some-men-so-all-men-must-be-sleaze trap. It’s bigger even than the headache of all. the. paperwork. It’s because it has taken me almost ten years of being with someone else to figure out who I am, independent of any other person. I didn’t like who I was as those men’s wives, identified as a Mrs. So-and-so who didn’t know who the real Meg was. Keeping my name is representative of that. I like the new and improved me; the real me.
Juliet asked, “What’s in a name?” And as it turns out, quite a lot. For me, it’s my identity. I am my own rock. This doesn’t mean that I won’t let someone else take care of me, or that I don’t want to be taken care of from time to time, but it does mean that I have a fairly high amount of self-reliance.
I realize a bunch of this is just stream of consciousness stuff, but it just kinda feels good to get it out there. I think part of the healing process is being able to talk about things. I’m not bragging, mind you. Trust me: receiving the “I survived my divorce with a miniscule shred of dignity award” is NOT one of the merit badges I want pinned on my sash (let alone twice), but being able to talk about it without being ashamed of it shows real progress. Isaiah 61:7 says, “Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their ingeritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.” (NIV) It’s good to be able to put aside that shame, that disgrace and move on to your blessings and happiness. For me, part of that is owning who I am.
So, I will not be changing my name. Even if I happen to hook up with and marry someone like Justin Timberlake, I’m not changing my name. Because, seriously, the DMV is such a hassle.