A big thanks to Alison for having me back. I’m so excited. In fact, I’m still reeling from the excitement of my last visit. I had no idea that so many of you would relate to my pre-wedding stomach bug and leave such sweet comments. Alison is right about you guys. You’re all rad.
Today I have another story for you. This time it does not involve any bodily malfunctions, but instead takes place at the ever-so-efficient Department of Motor Vehicles. So if you’re reading this on your lunch break—or maybe during dinner if you’re that hard core—read on.
When it came to taking my husband’s last name, I never thought twice. While we were engaged, people asked all the time if I would and I was always caught off guard. For one, I was generally surprised that they weren’t asking me what colors I had settled on or how many bridesmaids I was having. Many of these women told me that they were not planning to change their names. For some, their reasons were professional and others just liked their names. Like I said before, I had never thought twice about changing my name, but I suddenly became very aware that the switch wasn’t for everyone.
My reason for changing my name is simple: I just can’t imagine having a different last name than the rest of my family. I was proud to unite with my husband, and taking his last name made me feel like I was letting the whole world know how I felt. Plus, I really liked his last name. Short aside: His last name is the same as my grandmother’s maiden name. (I know what you’re thinking—we’re not related.) I felt proud to connect our two families through this one name.
I was eager to begin the process and when an envelope from Social Security arrived I was exhilarated—it was the first time I saw my new name officially. But as I waited in line at the DMV a few days later, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I felt the same amount of pride towards my maiden name that I did towards my husband’s and I got a sinking feeling that I was leaving my old self behind.
I was also sad that I was giving up an entire Friday afternoon to stand around in a smelly old building, but that’s neither here nor there. As I walked out of the office (hours later) I felt like I had left Libby behind and was starting a new path. “I really liked Libby,” I thought as I drove away. “I don’t want to be someone else.” Then I started thinking irrational thoughts: I was afraid people would forget me, or be unable to find me in a Google search, a phone book or Facebook. And would anyone know me at my high school reunion? I started to worry about how my life would play out if no one was able to correctly identify me. I didn’t even know myself anymore? Who was this girl with split ends and blue eyes in my new driver’s license photo? She’s an organ donor. But why can’t the new me at least blow dry her hair?
The obsessing continued. Changing my name was going to complicate my online correspondence big time. My next thought, “Will I stop being invited to parties because no one has my new address?” Then, “What about my work e-mail? I use my name A LOT at work. Will people think they hired someone new?”
Yes, I was over-thinking this name change. I over-think most things, so it is only natural that I stress over an e-mail address. But I realized soon enough that it was also a complete waste of my time and it was a good thing I was only saying those things inside my head because I was starting to sound a little crazy. A few months into the hysteria I spoke with a friend who had gone through the process already. She kindly confirmed that the confusion is normal, and that in a year I’d be used to my new name. I thanked her, figured out how to link my old e-mail address to a new account and notified my employer. Everyone remembered me at my high school reunion.
And that was that. I re-embraced my new name all over again. Excuse me for sounding like a youth soccer coach but all good things come with a little work, right? After some deep breathing I realized that the person I am is still here. (She, too, has split ends and should look into fixing that.) And I’m not losing the family history I’m so proud of. By changing my name I’m not leaving my old self behind, I’m just enhancing it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are you planning to take your husband’s name?
xoxo! - Libby, Follow the Wife
Images from The Notebook