Name Changer

A Rose By Any Other Name . . . Amaryllis?

Dear Reader:

My name is a teeter-totter. Hyphenated. Maiden Name-Married Name. Teeter-totter.

Just prior to getting married, my husband and I drove up to the town office and asked for a marriage license. We began to fill in the paperwork, and I realized I would have to make a decision regarding my name.

I’d just finished college, earned my degree in education, and was about to start applying for teaching positions. My advisers, my supervising teachers, my college profs all knew me by my “maiden” name. Wouldn’t things become complicated if I started requesting letters of recommendation with a new last name? Would they remember who I was? Would I be giving up my new and fragile adult identity?

I decided to hyphenate.

I began applying for jobs. No offers. Instead I took a job in a different field. Eventually, as the years went by, I began leaving off the maiden name and the hyphen and I “became” Shelley Burbank. Medical records. Employment records. Who knows what else records. All have plain old Shelley Burbank on them.

My driver’s license, however, still has the fancy-dancy hyphenated name, and a few years back I worried that this might cause me problems. I checked into legally changing my name to Shelley (no hyphen) Burbank. This meant a trip to the county courthouse, paperwork, and a fee. And contacting any business, organization, or entity with which I had done business in the last fifteen years and announcing my intention to change my name.

Did I mention the fee?

I gave it about two seconds’ worth of thought and muttered, “Uh, no thanks” before tossing the paperwork in the trash.

So, here I am, of a certain age, well out of college, using a name that is, well, not really mine. Legally, I do not share my husbands nor my daughter’s last name. And I have this silly hyphen. Does any of this mean anything?

Probably not. I just look at my driver’s license and ponder the fact that I am no longer the person I was twenty years ago. I’m older. Maybe a bit wiser (debatable). I’m not a teacher. My degree may have helped me get a few jobs over the years, but I’ve never needed those recommendations I was once so worried about that I decided to hyphenate my name.

If I had it to do all over again I would have made a firmer choice: maiden name or married name. No hyphen. No straddling of the fence. One or the other.

I suppose one of these days I’ll go back to the courthouse and pick up those papers and make things official.


8 responses to “Name Changer

  1. I changed my name legally a few years ago, I live in the UK so things are probably a little bit different, and it was also my first two names that I was changing rather than my married name. Over here we do it by our solicitors and it cost me 50 pound. It was a little bit of work getting everything changed around and like you before i did it I had a lot of concerns about what it would take, however, everything went fine, all my friends adjusted to my new first name easily, and I was so glad that I went through with it, at the end of the day I think you should just do what makes you happy, if it bugs you change it if not don’t, but really once you do it, at least in my case, it just wasn’t as much work as I thought it would be.
    love and hugs and best of luck whatever you decide xxx

    • Thank you for the encouragement . . . one of these days I’ll go through with it! I think it is cool that you changed your name, especially if you love your new first name. Nice to hear from the UK here Outside the Box!

  2. You have been lying to me all these years. I only know you as Shelley Burbank. I don’t know what to think anymore!

    I chose to drop the middle name which I never liked and replace it with the maiden name. I can use both if feeling the need to identify as my earlier self, but use my married name and have the same name as my spouse and children most of the time. My maiden name was too long to also add a hyphen. It would have been a mouthful.

    See ya around, whoever you really are…

  3. For me , the hyphened name stands for more. I kept my identity and reputation while adding to it -with my husband’s name. While I do find casually I use just his last name, professionally I make sure to have both names. I guess I am still very proud of both after 16 years. It is different though. My maiden name is ending as my father did not have a boy. My husband does not think much of his step fathers name. We actually thought about changing it back to his first father, but some reason we did not.

  4. Robin, I think if I had USED the hyphenated name as intended it would mean alot more to me, but since I screwed it up, it has become a burden. But this really was just a fluffy little piece. I’m really not that angsty about it:)

  5. Shelley, I laughed at this article….We never talked about this….I had the same thoughts when I was about to sign the marriage certificate….I have so many names!!!! 🙂

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