Officially and Legally

May 7, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Posted in Marriage, Miscellaneous | 15 Comments

I officially and legally changed my name yesterday.

It was bunches of fun a nightmare at the social security office.  I should have expected that this wouldn’t be a particularly cheery or fast-moving office, based on the fact that it was only 1 block off of a particular corner in which drug dealing and shootings are a regular occurrence (and by regular occurrence, I mean regular for a medium-sized midwestern city, not Camden, New Jersey regular).  The full body and purse search that I received upon entrance to the social security office was not thrilling, nor were the two cell phone-less hours that I waited before giving in and secretly turning it on to text Jason about how he owes me a whole lotta ice cream for this.

Thank goodness I had a book in my purse.  Even if it made me stick out like a sore thumb amongst the large group of people waiting.  I was definitely the only one in there reading.

A particularly thrilling moment occurred when a man named Frank was called up to one of the windows.  The woman sitting next to me started yelling,  “He’s collecting TWO checks!  His name is Elmer!  I know because I met him at my AA meetings and he says I owe him $10, but that’s my money and I am not going to give it to him!  His name is Elmer!  I met him at AA and if he thinks he is getting my money, he is wrong.  I am not giving him my money!”  And this went on for the next 10 minutes.  Craziness at the social security office.

Certainly, I would have been much better off mailing in my name change application.  But, I guess attendance at the social security office is the burden I must bear for being completely and totally unwilling to surrender all paper records of my identity to the government for an undisclosed period of time.

Anyways.  The reason I mention this is that it’s kind of a big deal.

I always thought that I would just change my name when I got married – you know, take my husband’s name and all of that.  In fact, until I reached graduate school, I hadn’t ever met a woman who didn’t take her husband’s last name after marriage.  But, it’s totally easier said than done.  I’m pretty attached to my name – probably because it’s been used to describe me for all of my 28 years of life, and also because it’s a nice name, it sounds nice, and my (immediate) family all has my last name.

But, on the other hand, Jason’s name is also a good easy-to-read/spell/pronounce name – and hey! we’re supposed to be a family now, so a family-unifying name seems appropriate.  (Yes, Jason could have taken my last name, but that didn’t feel natural to either of us).

I’ve been planning to change my name since before we got married (7 months ago), but have been procrastinating on the issue.  Even though I had already decided to change my name, actually going and doing it was tough.  Not quite as tough as getting used to trusting and listening to my husband above everyone else, but tough nonetheless (maybe that is a topic for another post?).

For months, keeping my name wasn’t a big deal.  Changing it seemed like a hassle, so I put it off, always too busy to deal with it.  Everyone who was important to us knew who we were and that we were married, and if someone didn’t know, it wasn’t a big deal.  And Jason was only referred to as Jason my-last-name once (which made me giggle).

Anyways, it wasn’t until we started all of this moving nonsense that I really confirmed my desire to change my name.  All of the moving documents/emails/contacts/etc were under Jason’s name and calling someone up and introducing myself as Jennifer my-last-name, wife of Jason Jason’s-last-name got really old.  But, it was necessary for them to make the connection about who I was and why I was calling.  Eventually, I just started referring to myself as Jennifer Jason’s-last-name, and I’ve slowly gotten used to it.  I can only imagine that, as our lives become more and more entangled, that it will just be simpler to identify ourselves as a family unit with the same last name.

The thing that I’ve come to realize is that changing my name does not change who I am.

I am not any less of my parent’s daughter than I was on Tuesday.  After all, my mom took my dad’s name after marriage, and she is certainly no less of her parent’s daughter or her siblings’ sister.  And really, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree anyways.  That is to say, I am still completely, totally, and undeniably my parents’ daughter.  For better or for worse.

I am also not any less of a feminist.  After all, what is my last name, but a name handed down to me by my father and grandfather?  Certainly it doesn’t describe my entire lineage, nor does it represent my entire past, present, and future.  Right?

I should also note that I’m not any more of my husband’s wife than I was, either.  In fact, (to use 50s housewife stereotypes) I am no better of a wife, a cook, a homemaker, or anything else, having added my husband’s last name (no matter how much I wish I was better at some of those things).

I’ve really only changed how people identify me.  And that’s okay with me.

Disclaimer:  I think that its incredibly important that all individuals choose for themselves whether to change a name after an event such as marriage.  I followed a more traditional route, but I know that’s not the best solution for everyone.  Before making my final decision about this, I talked to a lot of different people to find out their approach to this conundrum.  I would encourage anyone facing a similar situation to do the same, and base your decision on what feels right to you.

For those of you that have gotten married or faced a similar situation, I’d love to hear what you decided to do re: name change…



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  1. Oh man, it was totally a laziness issue with me. Kevin keeps tossing around the idea we all go D-R, but again, laziness.

    • It seems like an amazing amount of work… Of course, since we’re moving, I’ll have to get a new driver’s license, new title for the car, new mortgage and home title, new bank accounts, etc, etc anyways, so it seemed like a convenient time. I probably would have continued to procrastinate, had it not been for this move.

  2. I changed my name.. and I got unusually lucky. I went to the SS office at noon on Christmas Eve and it was EMPTY. Took me all of 15-20 min! Turned out being the best time to go! Oh, and about the topic for another post, I’m pretty sure I know how you feel.. (

    • You did get lucky – and I read that post – you know exactly what I mean! 🙂

  3. Hi, I found you through 🙂 It was extremely hard for me to change my name when I got married. I have publications under my maiden name…so I compromised and did what most women in my family have done going back generations…I moved my maiden name to my middle name and added his at the end.

    • I did the same thing. The publications issue complicates things, doesn’t it? I think that my professional colleagues will still know me by my birthname, but that’s fine with me!

  4. I like the SS story…. I was at the DMV yesterday and I really got the bug to waste an afternoon with really happy and enthusiastic people. I may have to go and change my name and have some REAL fun!


    • What will you change it to? Clark Griswold?

  5. I totally remember that trip to the SS office…took forever! I knew I would change my name…just for the sake of our kids having parents with the same last name. I thought it’d be easier and didn’t want to hyphenate. My sister changed her name too, and now it’s kinda bittersweet bc we were the last of the Schraders. My dad and his brother both had 2 daughters. One of them kept her name, but if they had kids, they’d get her hubs’ last name anyway. It’s kinda sad.

    I have less spelling and pronunciation issues with his name, to boot! And my initials didn’t change, which doesn’t really mean much because I don’t have anything monogrammed! :>

    • Oh, that’s true – Andy’s name is pretty easy to pronounce. I didn’t want to hyphenate, either. Fortunately, I have 2 brothers, to my last name will live on! 🙂

  6. so who are you now? I took my maiden name as a second name. Didn’t like the ELLA anyway! That is the way women signed documents years ago. My Mother was Verna Voigt P==== Guess she didn’t care for Edna either!

    • Oh. I like the name Ella! 🙂

      I kept my whole name and just added Jason’s last name to the end. So now I have 4 names instead of 3!

      • How do you sign your name? 3 names? First and last with or w/o middle initials?

  7. I use my maiden name as my middle name. Now, the middle name I was given at birth and my Confirmation name have kind of disappeared. I didn’t need 5 names anyway!

  8. I waited over a year before I changed my name. I chose the hyphenated method. I am forever spelling my name. People don’t understand when you say hyphen, they think they need to spell hyphen. Plus I have a last name that has a Y in the middle of it and most people refuse to use a Y in the middle of a word.

    I made the mistake of going to the SS office last summer on a very hot day. I sat between 2 people for 2 hours that did not use soap or deodorant.

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