If Hamlet hadn’t gotten himself killed, that probably would have been his follow-up question.
We are asked to change who we are all the time – as a coworker, a parent, a renter, a homeowner, a landlord, a friend, a new lover. We are malleable beings, but I think most of us try to stay true to our values, even when we’re dressed in a pantsuit and saying words such as “conversations,” “monetizing,” and “metrics.” (If you’ve never used these words before, I salute you. Let me know how that 401(k)’s looking.)
The particular kind of change I’ve been contemplating lately is whether or not someone should change their name when they get married. I’m wondering this mostly because I just spent three hours updating my primary email address on every site I have had an account with ever. THREE HOURS. There must be an app for this. Can anyone tell me what it is?
When a women gets married – even in 2014 – there is always this awkward non-discussion of will she change her name or not. In the plus column, it immediately makes newlyweds feel like a family unit and makes writing thank you notes less complicated.
On the minus side, the woman (yes, usually the woman!) has to change EVERY thing. And if this woman is like me, she has: two Drugstore.com accounts; accounts on every English-language travel website; accounts on almost every shoe website (including a coveted Zappos VIP account); accounts with five separate banking institutions; accounts with at least ten different clothing websites; something called upromise.com that her dad asked her to sign up for; avantguild.com; worldoffroud.com; Shutterfly; PayPal; two PhotoBucket accounts (does anyone still use that?); and a bunch of other random sites. That’s before we get into paper stuff, like passports, drivers’ licenses, checkbooks, community ed catalogs, and sweepstakes entries. Were I to miss a communication from one of these companies, the world as I know it would rupture, leaving great chaos in its fervid wake, a ding to my credit score, and several annoyed friends. That just will not do.
In the abstract, based on my experiences today and also on logic, I think it’s silly for a person to change their surname just because they’re getting married. In the abstract, I also think access to abortion is a fundamental right. But what you think intellectually versus how you feel when faced with a real situation are two different things. A name change sounds simple until you have to decide whether or not to do it yourself. (And no, I am not comparing name changing to having an abortion. See the forest, not the trees.)
I made a lot of newbie mistakes with my first marriage. I kept my last name (though I didn’t really have a choice, husband #1 had no last name, for real). We said, “I do” without moving in together first. We got married in a Chipotle. At least we didn’t fornicate on its roof. Also, I was 23 and he was 35. See my post about Lana del Rey saying and doing stupid things. People in their twenties literally know nothing, except I didn’t know that then. So I got married.
Very occasionally, the anti-feminist in me thinks something like, “For marriage #2, I should change my name and be beautiful and despondent and angry all the time like Betty Draper. That will ensure success.” Success in this instance is defined as “not getting divorced again.” But actually, Betty did get divorced, so this isn’t a good parallel to draw. What I’m really saying is, I think January Jones is pretty.
This is what I learned from marriage #1: nothing ensures success. Not in marriage, not in life, not in buying a car. Life is a confounding, fragile, fun, and desperate circus. When you finally think you know who you are and have everything figured out, somebody you know dies or moves to Florida or you adopt a baby or go back to school. There is always something that keeps you from being the person you are in your head. There is always change, whether you invite it or not, whether you embrace it or not.
I would like to propose (ha ha!) that, instead of always trying to be the “real me,” we should accept that most of what we get worked up about is ultimately inconsequential, and it’s probably best to try to let most things slide and see how it goes from there. Time doesn’t heal all wounds – it anesthetizes them. We march on regardless.
In a former job, my boss and I were very similar. She was loud and stubborn and afraid of authority. She spent a lot of time telling me I was resistant to change because she didn’t support the changes management was making and didn’t have the will to speak up, which I totally understand. I didn’t appreciate being called inflexible, though, so I got a new job. I CHANGED jobs. You see what I did there?
Yet, changing one’s name isn’t as easy psychologically as changing one’s job. Unless you’re my ex-husband. There are outliers in every experiment, I guess.
As for how I feel personally, my name has completely attached itself to how I identify in the world. Google me and you’ll see press photos, articles I’ve written, reviews of shows I’ve acted in. If I change my name, I’ll feel groundless. It would feel scary. I would feel blank, I think, and I’m not sure I like that image. I’ve spent 34 years becoming the person I am, the person with my name, my voice. It’s not that I’m resistant to change – it’s that I like who I am.
Additionally, I’m wondering how email changes work when someone goes into Witness Protection. Does the government convert all your accounts for you or delete them from the InterWebs or is your former name out there in zeros and ones, forever and ever, like when someone dies on Facebook and no one knows their password so everyone just posts eulogies on the deceased person’s wall until a new photo of Grumpy Cat is posted, thus ending the requisite mourning period?
What do you think about name changes and how they confer identity? Have you or would you change yours?