Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Some Things Are Just Plain Hard

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was engaged.  She (kind of) jokingly said to her fiance that he should take HER name when they got married.  Her name was, after all, easier for people to pronounce.  And it didn't consist of a part of a female cow's anatomy.  The fiance stared at her silently.  She pled her case -- again (kind of) jokingly, they laughed about the idea and moved on.

Three days later, the fiance came to her and said, quite seriously and totally out of the blue, "I just want you to know that if you don't want to take my name, then we aren't going to get married.  A man waits his whole life to give his name to a woman, and if my name's not good enough for you, then we aren't getting married."  Whoa, Dude.  JOKING.  (Kind of.)  She took his name, forever banishing their children to a life of harassment about dairy cows and women's reproductive organs.

Over time, she found that the name was somewhat useful.  When you have a name that starts with M, you always have to figure out what line you get in, or where in the seating chart you are, or where to look on the list of names up on the wall, because you're smack in the middle.  But when your last name starts with U, it's all pretty simple -- you're always at the end.  Your film (back in the day) or your prescriptions are easy to find, because there aren't many things in the U bin.  Having a U name can be rather useful, she found.

That girl was me, and I eventually made piece with the name.  The kids, except the Bratty Gurl, basically did, after putting up with the harassment from time to time.  It fit well into our life of Utter Chaos, so it was ok.  And the Bratty Gurl would get married one day and lose the name that she hates so much.

Fast forward to the part where I divorced his lying, cheating ass.  I thought seriously of taking back the maiden name but didn't, because Bratty was so anxious to change HER name that the only way to chill her out was to say "hey, NO ONE gets to change their name till I do."  She agreed, and I didn't change my name.  Moms have a way of winning, always.  It's a gift that is delivered before the first placenta, I think.

And so it was, that after a heartfelt New Year's Eve proposal a couple of years ago, and many settings and changings of dates, we took the plunge last month and got married in a private, very personal ceremony in Florida, complete with Scottish tartan, a quiach, and some Scotch whiskey, to boot.  It was lovely and simple and perfect.  We had a great honeymoon, full of relaxation, margaritas, sand, and not a care in the world.  And then everything got complicated.

Men will never understand what a pain in the butt it is to change your name.  Jim was really sweet in asking if I was going to change it at all, or if I perhaps wanted to go back to my maiden name.  I asked him -- as I've asked a number of male friends over the years -- if a man does indeed live his whole life waiting to give a woman his name, because the thought intrigued me.  He, like every other man I have ever asked, looked at me crazy and said an emphatic "NO.  Why would it matter?"  Just as I thought.  But I told him that I planned to take his name, which seemed to please him, nonetheless.  Plus, the commonality of his name means going into the Witness Protection Program is all that much easier, should the need ever arise.

And so it was that I found myself in Anderson, Indiana last week, clutching all the documentation proving my names over the course of the past half century or so.  I spoke with a very nice gentleman who told me that my new card would appear in about 2 weeks, and I set out to wait.  You know, you can't change anything till that Social Security card arrives. It's very annoying, because in the meantime, what IS your name?  Everyone congratulates you with one name, but you sign everything with the old name.  It's all a bit confusing.
Lucky for me that the new card arrived on Friday, a mere five days after I applied for it.  Yippee!  Me being me, and last week being as nutty as it was (cleaning up from the great flood, unpacking from the trip, painting the closet where the flood started, and work was off the chain busy, so little sleep was had), I opened the envelope and then put it aside to deal with it later.  When I went into my office, I decided to go ahead and scan it for Human Resources, then just sat and looked at it.  Lack of sleep meant my rheumatoid arthritis was pretty bad, and my hands were extremely painful.  And cold.  And stiff.  Last week was chilly, and my hands are always really cold when the temperature dips.  So the card just sat there next to me while I started my workday.

It turned into a bit of a process.  I decided to let my hands warm up, because once you sign that card, you have to look at that signature forever.  It needs to be a good signature, not one like what you sign on the credit card machine at the grocery.  It needs to be neat and legible, and one to be proud of, not unlike how you'd write it for your kids' teacher when they send home a permission slip.  Yes, the hands needed to warm up, because when they warm up, they aren't as stiff.  Or painful.  Limber fingers make pretty handwriting.  By the by, the fingers felt better, and I decided it was time to take the plunge.  I picked out the pen.  Nope, not that one.  Got another one that flowed freely.  Tested it to make sure it was working -- I didn't want to have to trace over part of the signature and make it look tacky.  Yep, pen was working great.  I took a big breath and wrote my name.  Sat back and looked at it, thinking to myself "wow, that looks really  GOOD."

Then I realized that I had signed my old last name.

I am pretty sure that life came to a standstill for about two minutes while I regained my composure.  I mean seriously, NOW what?  I couldn't turn it in as ID to get my driver's license if it had two different names on it.  Heck, if I tried to use it at the bank, I might get up close and personal with the security guard.  All thoughts of name-changing came to a screeching halt.  All I could think was "DAMMIT."

Jim got home, and I started to tell him the story. He interrupted me midstream and said "you signed the wrong name, didn't you" before I could even finish.  He may or may not have laughed to the point of tears.  He informed me that I should've waited till he got home, cause he had wanted to have a little ceremonious signing of the card, and HE would've made sure that I didn't sign the wrong name.  ::sigh:: I mean, really.  I've been signing that name since 1987.  This name change thing is HARD.  Men just don't get it.

And so it was that the dog and I popped into the convertible, put the top down, and drove to the Social Security office again this week.  I waited.  They called my name.  The girl asked how she could help me.  I just handed her my card and yes, she burst out laughing.  Now, I don't know for certain, but I'm fairly certain that federal government employees are not supposed to laugh at people, much less people in the Social Security office.  I mean, most of the people there are either senior citizens or people on disability.  It would seem unkind, and perhaps a bit confusing to the customer, for clerks to spontaneously guffaw.  But then again, I was in Anderson -- home of the only restaurant sign that hawks "Pastries, Barbecue, and Bail Bonds."  Political correctness may not be their forte. But I digress...........

So here I am again, back to square one, waiting for the new card.  Fortunately, I had already scanned the first one before I signed it, so I was able to change my name at work -- but to add to the confusion, I can't change my nursing license yet, so I still have to use the old name when I'm working.  I walk around confused most of the time.  Hopefully, by next week, I will be able to start the name changing process in earnest, and put the old name to rest, once and for all.  And trust me, if anything happens to my dear husband sometime in the distant future, and some man tries to say that he's waited his whole life to give me his name, I'm gonna tell him where he can shove it.


Lisa Laree said...

I noticed the reference to 'husband' recently and wondered if you had gotten married...congratulations!!

Old habits do die hard, don't they?


Lisa said...

Thank you! And yes, old habits die hard, but I'm happy to kill that one soon!