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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ladies: Do not change your name

Rose Sanderson trumpets independence on February 10, 1913/Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress

Eight years! Eight years it took to get my birth name back. Today is a red-letter day!

It was harder for me to get my name back than to get a divorce (amicable) or get married (amicable).
Bring on the champagne. I could have drunk a bottle and danced on the counter top at the DMV, I was so happy.
Hours and hours it took; papers and papers, but the DMV supervisor approved everything at last, after my near meltdown when my birth certificate, my new Social Security card, the court papers, were almost rejected because they were not "official" enough.

Not "official enough"?
What's wrong with this picture? It took lots of time to assemble all those documents, return to the court in another state, write for an official copy of my birth certificate in another state, and put them all together.
But there was the official stamp on the back of the court document which saved me, and I was good to dance.
Ms. Thompson, the wonderful DMV agent, never married (we talked), never knowing what it's like not to have your own name, never knowing the time and headache of trying to get your name restored, looked shocked when I suggested a toast and a jig to independence on her counter top.
For my new driver's license picture, I could not mask my constant smiles which required about 15 shots before one finally popped up with a blank stare and eyes open wide. (The mental light from the prospect that I was mere seconds away from becoming officially ME was dazzling.)
The whole scenario reminded me of my hours-long trip to the Social Security office, and the waiting, waiting, waiting, worrying, worrying, worrying, that all my paperwork would be insufficient to convince that office that my name change was sanctioned by the court, and I could officially get my birth name back on my Social Security card. The young SS woman did not hesitate a second before she stamped "approved," and I beamed joy and wanted to leap across the desk and kiss her on her cheek.
I used to tell my daughter: "Do not ever change your name." (She didn't listen.)
I used to tell my daughter: "Do not ever get married until you are 30." (She listened.)
On the campaign trail in West Virginia in 2004 when I was an organizer for John Kerry, I worked with a young woman, Caroline Rose. Have you ever heard a more beautiful name? I used to tell her: "Caroline, don't ever change your name."
Bring on the champagne! Celebrate and drink a toast to us. I am free to be.
Free at last, free at last
I thank God I’m free at last
Free at last, free at last
I thank God I’m free at last


Anonymous said...

You can't have your cake and eat it too. Women can stop changing their name and men can stop buying dinner on dates, holding doors, giving up their seat, etc.

Anonymous said...

Men don't do much of the above anyway. And what we really need are actions that help women network or move out of poverty. So congratulations!! Now if we just looked at and learn from rights women have in cultures where they DON'T change their names upon marriage...