He wanted, in no uncertain terms for me to change my name when we married. I should have known better. It was un-spellable (especially for customer service people who were serving me from God knows where) unpronounceable (I introduced him by first name only the first three weeks we dated; afraid I’d mangle it) and my birth name was much less confusing on both counts. I was established professionally but I wanted him to be happy. So I changed my middle name to my maiden name and stuck his sir-name on the end of my moniker, like an unwieldy caboose.
But there was another reason I chose to become Mrs. Him; I was over 40 and about to become a member of the married woman’s club for the first time. And so, having my last name followed by a new last name, having, in effect, two last names made it obvious to the world that I was no longer single and doomed to die alone in an apartment where I had choked to death on a ham sandwich. I was married!
Now that I have announced my plans to separate and divorce, it astounds me how many of my friends are relieved I’m changing my name. Again. “You never should have changed your name in the first place,” they confide. “Why did you do it? Such an awful name!” How can I make them understand when I don’t even understand it? I was wrapped up in the fantasy that a new name would insure my becoming a new, improved version of myself. A wife. At last! The new identity I had longed for all my life! Somewhere deep inside, the Donna Reed I didn’t even know was there was itching to get out. I was such a romantic. Or was I an idiot?
Putting a Mrs. before my name proved to be a time consuming project but the heady feeling of being a newlywed made it fun. Unfortunately, when the time came to return to my maiden name, the same amount of paperwork was just a chore and one that I slogged through. And as if the hours of talking to Bob, Steve or Rick in Sri Lanka were not enough to make me want to scream, they informed me in broken, mangled English that my husband had to call them and give his permission to put my new/old name back on everything like the utilities, TV, telephone and mortgage, just to name a few. “Can’t you be reasonable and take my word for it?” I would plead. “He’s moved out and I still live here!” Not a chance.
I hate saying words like “Maiden name” and “Divorce” and I’m tired of reassuring the operators in Sri Lanka that it’s really all for the best. But I can’t very well tell them the truth: I will miss being a Mrs. more than I care to admit and that confuses me. I tried to change my identity once and that went over like the maiden voyage of the Titanic. So I think I’ll stay “me” the next time around, if there ever is one, and save myself a lot of paperwork.