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.