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.


I Never Believed in Santa. So What?

I’m going to air some grievances here. While reading my digest of newlywed blogs this morning, I came across one that I will respectfully not name, that for the first time, offended me. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and beliefs, but what I don’t like is when it feels like someone is telling me that mine are not as good.

Here’s the deal: I never believed in Santa. As a child, my mom told me that Santa wasn’t real, but that lots of my friends and other kids believe in him, so I shouldn’t ruin anything for them, but it was important to her that I knew the truth. It was nothing against the jolly fake man. I think it was mostly because she just didn’t want to build this guy up so much then leave me crushed when I found out the truth later. It also may have had something to do with knowing that the presents I received were from my family members and friends, not some dude from the North Pole. I don’t really know her real reasons though, but that’s my guess. I should ask her some day.

The thing is, I don’t feel like it affected my childhood in any way. I still got photos at the mall on Santa’s lap, watched Christmas movies, we still did plenty of other Christmas traditions like making cookies, singing and decorating the tree. So I had plenty of other magical, fun things to believe in and give the holiday some spirit. Santa did not take anything away from my childhood.

So I did take offense to this blog post today that ranted and raved about how awful it is for parents to ruin Christmas by telling their kids Santa wasn’t real. She went on and on and was so worked up over it. To each their own I say. You belived in him, a lot of people did, but that doesn’t give reason to place your judgments on others who had a different experience. Maybe I think it’s weird that you DO believe in him, but I’m not going to make a big deal out of it.

A comment the author made later on another comment explained that she wrote in a heat-of-the-moment emotion fest, but that she still stuck to her feelings that she thinks it’s sad that kids wouldn’t believe in Santa and that she thinks it’s out of our society’s trying to be politically correct. I think that it has nothing to do with that. It just wasn’t a big deal. And it’s certainly not sad.

I’m not sure if I will tell my own kids about Santa. I don’t think there’s much harm either way, so we’ll see I guess. But Santa aside, isn’t the most important part of Christmas spending time with those you love, making memories and remembering the true meaning of Christmas? I think so. Whatever your beliefs are.