Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Name Schmame

When I got married I was still the young, idealistic mamma who thought she was going to save the world. I was working for a reproductive rights advocacy organization and therefore with a number of women who were shocked by my decision to take my husband's last name upon marriage. I explained that changing my name wasn't a big hang-up for me.

My husband never assumed I'd take his name. I don't know that we ever discussed it really. Maybe because I didn't feel pressured I was happy to do it. I knew it meant something to his older relatives and frankly, I just didn't care. Our last name is a good strong name. It's pretty common and it put me right up at the beginning of the alphabet, which makes it easy to find my nametag at big conferences.

After our wedding, I changed my name on all my credit cards (in all honesty Shakey took care of that as I'm not really the best with those kinds of details), my business cards, my insurance cards and my driver's license. I never really got around to changing it on my Social Security card, because really who has time to wait at the Social Security office?? The IRS didn't seem to mind. The forms had this great little check box for people like me who filed under a different name than their Social Security card. Obviously the DMV didn't care as they were happy to issue my license and even retake my photo to ensure the best shot on that little card (oh how I miss that old license).

Years go by. I've completely adapted to my new last name. I got over the momentary hesitation that takes place when having to interrupt your signature with a new set of letters half way through. We bought a house. We had children. And, oh yeah, September 11 occurred.

Meanwhile, my license expired.

So I haul myself down to the DMV with a toddler and infant in tow and all the appropriate documents. I take a number, fill out some forms and wait for my number to be called. Hand the papers to the woman, I'm shuttled to another line and wait for my turn in front of the camera. Photo taken, move to another line to await my new license. Toddler running circles around me, infant getting ansty in his stroller and I continue to wait. Finally, I'm called up to a special desk where I am informed that I cannot renew my license because the name on my license is different than the one on my Social Security card. *#&$)(@@*! Patriot Act!

Now I was a big talker up above, "I didn't care about my last name" blah, blah, blah. I was irate!! Everything was just fine as it was. I was using my married name in day to day life, but at the heart of it I was still the old mamma because my one last official document had my pre-married name. I didn't want to change, but those beasts at the DMV (sorry any precious DMV working readers) are a tough bunch and they weren't going to budge. Poor mamma was not going to get a new driver's license that day.

Stubborn woman that I am, I stormed out of the office vowing not to give in. But then there was that whole driving on an expired license thing that no matter of my brother-in-law being a police officer was going to help. A few days later, I admitted defeat and resigned myself to an afternoon of waiting in the Social Security office.

Yada, yada, yada, I find an afternoon to leave work early, spend three hours waiting to have my number called and finally get my turn at the desk. Having accepted the fact that I am going to have to change my last name on my SS card, I proudly hand my marriage license over to the woman behind the counter. She takes one look at it and says, "I'm sorry. We can't accept this."

Wha?? Huh?? I didn't get married in Cuba or China or even Las Vegas. I have an official document from the state of Massachusetts. "Whadda you mean you can't accept it?" I am then informed that my document is too old (five years by this time) to be accepted. "Sorry, new rules since September 11." "Do you have your driver's license?" she asks. Knowing it contains my new name, I quickly hand it over. "Well we can't accept this either since it's expired." At this point, I being looking around for hidden cameras. "So let me get this straight," I say. "I can't renew my driver's license because my Social Security card has a different name and I can't get a new Social Security card because my my driver's license is expired?" "Yes," she says with a straight face, and I'm told to sit back down to wait for someone behind the opaque door to come out and get me.

Let's just say that by this time I was pissed and my ass was sore from sitting in those hard plastic chairs for three hours. I finally get called back and the woman lists off all of the possible documents I could use change my name: a marriage license--nope mine's too old; a driver's license--nope mine is expired; a court order changing my name--funny I don't have one of those handy.

At this point, I've rummaged through my bag pulling out every credit card, library card, insurance card and random piece of mail I have with my married name on it. Nothing is acceptable. To each document I proffer, she calmly states that she can't do anything about the law. You know, national security and all.

At our apparent stalemate, she consults her list of acceptable documents one last time and says I could use a medical document with my new name on it. I'm now envisioning a visit to my doctor's office to get a copy of my charts and coming back to the SS office another afternoon to go through this all over again.

And then I remember an old prescription I never filled in the zip pocket of my bag!

I unfold the paper, hand it over to her and she examines it. Understand this is a basically a Word document printed on a generic laser printer with an incomprehensible signature on the bottom authorizing a pharmacy to dispense me the mini-pill (I didn't want to worry about the spotting). She gets up, asks me to wait there and takes my paper back to some higher authority to determine it's validity. After a few minutes she comes back and tells me they'll accept it, but they can only use the name for my new SS card as it appears on this document, which just so happens to be my first name, the initial of my maiden name (with no period) and my married last name. I've been defeated. This is not my name--not the name I wanted--except the government has now said it is.

I'd like to pause for a second. In case you missed it, I could not renew my license originally because of the Patriot Act. Then I couldn't use my valid marriage license as proof of my new last name because of the tightened security procedures, but I was allowed to get a brand new social security card with a Word document! Do you feel safe??

Anyway, my original plan had been to have my first, middle, maiden and married name (yes all four) listed on my SS card. I would never use all of them on a day to day basis, but I wanted to keep them all, because you see I'm currently on my second first name, my first middle name and my third last name.

I was given a first name at birth. When I was adopted ten days later, I was given a different first name. After my mom got remarried many years later, my last name was changed to my step-father's and now I've taken on my husband's. In a way, you can see how I really didn't have a problem changing my name as it had been changed so many times already, but I didn't want to lose that middle name. It's the one name I've had that hasn't ever changed. Alas, I still consider it part of my name, but as far anything official is concerned, it's gone.

Yes, this entirely too long, drawn out story was just my way of telling you that I'm adopted. Remember? I promised I was going to start revealing more personal details.

25 Deserve Mamma's Love:

Jazz said...

All I can say is that I'm proud of you for staying so calm. I think I would've punched someone. No, I know that I would've!

Funny that I've had similar name change issues but mine were with the IRS. Now, that's an organization that has it's head up you know where.

P.S. My sister is adopted and she's more my sister than my half siblings that share the same genes. Go figure.

Cathy, Amy and Kristina said...

An old prescription? Printed off a computer?

Amazing. And yet ... given the bizarreness of the last several years, maybe not so much.


I can understand wanting to keep a part of yourself on one document. Figures that Homeland Security would manage to squelch those plans. Because of, you know, a doctor's prescription.

The mind reels.

J. A. Blackburn said...

oh for the love of all that's hairy... can it GET any more ridiculous? what a joke.

This thing you're doing, though, where you tell more stuff about yourself? Loving it!

Nancy said...

I concur, a Word Doc. printed 'script ... all ya need to be an American !

Adoption? Isn't that where God allows one woman's womb to safely take care of you until your mother and father come to pick you up?

PunditMom said...

That is the scariest story about "national security." A marriage certificate is "too old?" Who came up with THAT stupid rule!!

Nell said...

That's crazy! What a mess - and the woman at the social security office saying "yes," with a straight face. LOL! I can picture her so clearly.

I wonder if there's some other kind of official document you can get with you full name on it.

Lumpyheadsmom said...

Wow. Amazing.

Julie Pippert said...


That is just one more piece of ridiculousness in a string of ridiculous called the Patriot Act.

I am so aggravating was that! UGH!

But well told because I felt it all with you!

Using My Words

OhTheJoys said...

What a story! What's your middle name?

Jennifer said...

I love learning more about you! Hate that the Patriot Act is such a joke. Amazing they took an expired prescription. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I feel safe now.

Stacey said...

Good gravy Marie (uh thats a crazy phrase my mom uses and now has my 4 year olds using) thats crazy!

I get the need for additional security but good lord that was a bit ridiculous

Stacey said...

Oooh I gotta ask too - if you don't mind- do you ever want to search or have you searced for your biological parents.
Hubby's best friend was adopted at birth and while very close to his adoptive parents is now on a search for his biological. He says he's quite curious but scared at the same time.

Terri@SteelMagnolia said...

That sounds like one mell of a hess!!

Geez, what a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

Love this post. My hubs has a similar history of changing his name. Part of the reason I stayed with my name.

And, trust me, just 'cause the go'ment doesn't say you don't have a middle name doesn't make it so!

Genie said...

Having just changed my name to be First Middle Maiden Married at the Social Security office, I feel your pain and I'm truly sorry for your losing your middle name. But you'll know it's you. Think of it like having a secret identity or alias.

Paige Jennifer said...

This has Curb Your Enthusiasm written all over it. Except you aren't Jewish. Or a balding man. Or annoying. Well, you know what I mean.

Peg said...

Wow...beaurocratic BS at it's finest. To think the printed out script was the key--and the marriage license wasn't good enough. Totally ridiculous...

justmylife said...

Isn't the government a fun thing to deal with. I went through a lot of that crap when my hubby was trying to get S.S.disability. And when we were trying to get it stopped. Go figure a country in debt and they don't want to stop giving you money!

QT said...

I, too, am surprised you didn't punch someone!

If this is really very important, you can go to another state, apply for a marriage license there with the names you want, get married in the courthouse, and then use that marriage license. Crap, wrap it all up in a trip to Vegas! This is total legal - you can actually get married in every state if you wanted to. I hope you saved the old Social Security card.

ummmhello said...

Oh. My. Gawd. I'm feeling ever so safe about national secutiry now. This is enough to make me want to move to Canada.
Thanks for sharing - yours seems like it's going to be one hell of an interesting story. I look forward to finding out more :)

Lawyer Mama said...

Holy CRAP!

You're scaring me too, babe. I just realized my licensed expired on 10/18. My last name on my driver's license & my SS card are not the same. Crap, crap, crap, crap, CRAP! Guess I'll be dropping by my doctor's office first....

Lawyer Mama said...

And oh yeah, I was slightly surprised to see that you're adopted, but then also not so much. I'm not sure why that is... Maybe because I think it explains a lot about why you're so accepting of everyone in a way that most aren't.

Bronie said...

I have never in my life heard of a marriage certificate being "too old." I've heard that you have to have a 'certified' copy or whatever, but never "too old." So, what, only newlyweds can use this document? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! Kudos to you for not snatchin' somebody bald! Maybe you could just print off a 'new' marriage certificate in Word and everyone would be happy. :)

Marty, a.k.a. canape said...

I lost my license while traveling this summer. The airport in Houston let me through security with a Sam's Club card. I was glad and very afraid at the same time.