99 ProblemsThe daily struggles of urban living as a quadriplegic explained one by one. It's so much more than not being able to find a parking space.
99 Problems — #9 I’m Having An Identity Crisis
Recently at a party in Los Angeles, a wined enhanced woman-child trapped me in the corner of the room to preach about name changing and its terrible traditions. It was in her opinion that a woman should not take her husband’s last name simply because of marriage, and that doing so displayed weakness. Listening, it was difficult for me to contain my excitement about the news I recently was a newlywed and had just visited the god-awful Social Security office located in downtown Los Angeles just days prior, like literally was in the process of changing my name. But I did. I let her finish her rant first before making her feel awfully uncomfortable.
“Well… I mean… it’s okay if…” she started. God bless drunk people at parties. They’ll tell you anything you want to hear… but only after they tell you things you don’t care to hear about.
I probably should have told her that I was not offended by her statement and that i can understand why a woman would not change her name, but I was having too much fun watching her idle in her own awkwardness. The torture also seemed like fair punishment for trapping me in the corner against my will.
“I mean maybe I would do it if my boyfriend James really wanted me too.”
“Really?” I said, leaning in closer to her. “I don’t think you should. Not even for James.”
Her brown eyes opened wide with curiosity upon this statement.
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” she said.
It should be a rule that until someone becomes married, nothing he or she says about marriage should be taken seriously–especially when intoxicated. I told Cory on one of our first dates that I was “not the marrying kind.” And I now am four-months into marriage. Go figure. I imagine the woman from the party will not only take James’ last name (or some other brave soul’s name when he dumps her), I bet she quits her job to stay at home and raise the kids. After all, love makes you do crazy things.
As soon as I knew I wanted to marry Cory I knew I wanted to be a Mrs. Helms. There were no qualms about it.
As non-traditional as I can be at times, like having a wedding with no bridal party and no bridal bouquet tosses and no first dances, the idea of becoming a Helms seemed romantic and special to me. Although, Cory felt differently.
“You know, you don’t have to change your name if you don’t want,” he said one day out of the blue.
His comment had surprised me. I had assumed, he would have assumed, the name-changing was a must. Then again, he is a pretty modern guy for being raised in the suburbs of Florida. I should never assume anything (this is something learned after marriage).
“But I want to,” I replied with no hesitation.
And I did want to. I had already thought long and hard about it after the proposal. Immediately, I ruled out hyphenated our names for the sake of future children. Besides having to write out a long last name over and over again, I had concerns about testing. In the case that school systems still use scantrons, like I had to use back in the day, I wanted to be proactive. I personally hated circling in so many bubbles before each test, and that was when my first and last name only contained ten letters. So to tack on a hyphen and an extra five letters? No thanks. I decided I’d never want that burden (or confusion) for our children. There would be no hyphens.
I was committing to change but I wasn’t necessarily ready to rid myself of Waring either. I had thought long and hard about that, too. The name Waring is special to me in that it’s the only connection I ever had or will have with my father, who sadly passed away from a car accident when I was two months old. And then there’s the small fact that I based my entire writing career on the last name Waring, including this blog, three published books and numerous magazine articles. So instead of dropping Waring completely I came up with the idea to move it. My middle name Marie would be replaced. And I wasn’t that upset by it. Marie was a name I had no attachments to and also a name that was only used by my Mom when I was in trouble as a young child. It’s also every other woman from the late 70’s middle name.
So that’s how I came up with the name Jana Waring Helms. I found a way to change my last name, and yet still save my maiden name–a compromise and the best of both worlds. And I mentally committed myself to this new identity eagerly and freely until it was time for the actual name-changing process.
Then I went for it and discovered the name-changing process wasn’t as romantic as I had first imagined.
I was made to feel dumb at the Social Security office by a man who clearly hated his job. I barely passed my California Driving test. I became scared to go any amount of time without credit cards. So I waited–and am still waiting–to inform any financial institutions of my new alias, as well as some other billing formalities. I was told I should probably locate my living will and update its information, which was hard enough to complete the first time. I became confused by having two names so I created a new ‘Helms’ Gmail thinking it would help, and then had to reload all contacts. Right now, I still am like 60% Helms and %40 Waring and sometimes feel like I’m smack in the middle of an identity crisis, which is why I was so proud to sign as a Helms for the first time yesterday but mostly still sign Waring. To be technical, my signature is more like a scribble. So does it really matter? I’m not sure. I feel like it should matter to me. In the past four months, I have quickly learned that the physical act of changing one’s name is a gruesome process with a whole set of different emotions. But even still, I say it’s worth it.
In the midst of all the name-changing madness, Cory surprised me with an unexpected conversation one day. I was sitting at my desk.
“I really appreciate you changing your name to Helms,” he announced suddenly. “It really means a lot to me.”
“But I thought you said it didn’t matter…”
“I know what I said. But now that it’s done it seems special. And I appreciate all the effort you put in to make it happen. So thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I replied, smiling.
And it does feel special to be Mrs. Helms. He is right. With this new name I am the person I’ve always wanted to be–all grown up.
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Missing one problem? At ease waringis.com soldier. They’re here.
99 Problems #1 The Attack of the Flying Pens
99 Problems #2 My Kitty Has Super Powers
99 Problems #3 Los Angeles Sidewalks Are Cracked Out
99 Problems #4 Strangers Touch Me
99 Problems #5 I Once Offended a Woman With Lupus.
99 Problems #6 I Hate Parking Garage Ticket Dispensers
99 Problems #7 House Wars
99 Problem #8 I’m Having An Identity Crisis