From Ms. to Mrs: The Story of Changing My Name

I was pretty certain my whole life that when I got married, I’d change my last name. Being a sociology minor though, I did have a period of doubting that. I actually met a few people who broke the societal norm – the chair of the department took his wife’s last name, and a classmate who got married made up a new last name that both she and her husband took. I thought it was super cool, and I totally got it. Why should the woman have to make the sacrifice? It’s essentially like a new identity, especially if you’re well into your career and have established yourself with your maiden name. My own mom has some regrets about changing hers for various reasons.

For me, in the end, I still wanted to take my husband’s last name. In several ways, I consider myself modern and sometimes even a feminist. But another part of me is very traditional. I liked the idea of being unified with my husband by name. It shows the world we belong together. It showed his family that I was proud to join them. If and when we have children, we’ll all share one last name. The idea of saying “the Hoflands” was really appealing to me.

At the same time, I spent 27 years of my life with one name, and parting with it made me a little sad. It became my identity. I was attached to it. My nickname in high school was my last name. Few people actually called me Amanda. Plus, I had many published stories from my time at the magazine and other endeavors in my maiden name. I didn’t have it in me to totally throw it away.

My compromise to please both the nostalgic part of me with the traditionalist was to make my maiden name a second middle name. In the eyes of the law, I’m a Hofland. That’s what I scribble on my checks now. But knowing that my maiden name is still legally a part of me, now as a middle name, is comforting. It’s just tucked in there whether I want to use it or not. For my professional writing post-marriage, I did decide to use both so my articles could be linked.

I gotta tell you though: Holy cow, I was not prepared for the process of changing it. It was for more involved than I ever could have imagined. If you’ve ever moved, you know how many places you have to change your address. But for changing your name? Double it. Or more.

To do it, I took a few name-change checklists from the Internet and combined them into what applied to me, adding and deleting till I had a complete list of every single place I could think of that had my name somewhere. Of course there’s the social security office, DMV, banks, credit card companies, TV and Internet service, etc., but so many other forgotten places like the library, magazine subscriptions, dentist, even your Amazon registration.

I printed out my massive list and carried it around with me for months. During breaks at work, I’d go through a few each day. What no one told me about this process was how many copies of my certified marriage certificate I’d need. Not just any old photocopy. A CERTIFIED copy. With some kind of “seal” from the courthouse. Which cost $10 for each copy. And most places wanted to keep that one copy that cost me $10. Awesome.

Thankfully not every entry on the list needed a certified copy, but probably at least 5 or more did. Some wanted that certified copy mailed to them with an application for a name change, some wanted a regular copy faxed to them with a hand-written cover sheet, some allowed me to just email them a scanned file of it, and a select few needed no evidence and took my word for it (God bless those ones).

Every single one required an initial phone call to find out what the procedure was, and that meant lots of time on hard-to-navigate automated systems that takes you in circles, talking to foreign people with such thick accents I couldn’t understand a thing, being transferred around multiple departments, multiple times, and playing many rounds of phone tag. I was on the phone so much over those few months changing my name that I went over on my voice usage. Which I’ve never done before.

It was a GIANT pain. That’s one of the things no one warned me about, how dang time-consuming it would be. The best part: Some still haven’t gotten it right. Many months later, Wells Fargo is still struggling to get it changed (three emails, many phone calls and two in-person branch visits later). DirecTV was the next worst. Because my old roommate was still listed on my account, they had to have her permission first, which in itself was a pain. She and I were both on the phone with them about three or more times each, each time getting a different story from each person we talked to. I wanted to scream. Actually, I did. I screamed a lot. I didn’t see why it was so hard and was taking so long.

But was it worth it? Absolutely. I love being a Hofland. One night I told my husband that I’m glad I have his name. His reply: “No, it’s our name now.” I melted.

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16 thoughts on “From Ms. to Mrs: The Story of Changing My Name

  1. Here here! I have been married for a year and a half now, and I just ran into an issue buying Mucinex at a store, because somehow their system didn’t have my name change! Boooo.

  2. Oh my gosh… his reply… “our name”… I melt. Seriously… so stinking cute!
    I plan on hyphenating my last name and Pete’s last name when we get married. I like your idea of having it as a middle name though!

  3. That’s a great idea. I think it varies from state-to-state, though. I don’t remember getting any certified documents, and in Texas, you can’t legally change from one middle name to two (BS, right?). I always wanted to change my name until it was time and I had second thoughts. My husband said it was important to him and since I didn’t feel tied to the maiden, I did it. Now I’m glad I did and hearing my maiden name sounds wrong!

  4. Yea, I’m not excited about that part. But I know it will get done eventually and I will take his last name.

    I am actually dropping my maiden name. I have no need for it anymore and don’t really want to carry it on. I’m keeping my middle name instead.

  5. Oh wow I would have melted, too! That’s really sweet!

    Thanks for the warning about the name changes. I’ve heard it’s tough but reading about the specifics is both helpful and dreadful haha! Oh well, it will be worth it in the end.

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