On What’s In a Name?


I changed my name.


The first assumption made by casual acquaintances and people who didn’t know me before 1984 was that I had gotten married. “I just noticed your new email signature. I guess congratulations are in order!” But, of course that’s not what happened.

I guess it would be more correct to say I changed my name back to the one I was born with.


My tongue-in-cheek answer to that questions has been “I don’t know. Maybe I just needed a little more complication in my life.”

And there are so many complications.

It all started when I was filling out a form. The form asked for my name and whether I was married, single, or divorced (circle one, please). What possible difference did my marital status make? Why did they need to know that? This is 2021 and women have the right to enter into agreements without the consent of their spouses (or ex-spouses for that matter). Not only did this organization not need to know whether I was married or not, they certainly didn’t need the “not” defined between never been or failed miserably at it. I declined to answer the question. I left all the words uncircled.

But it got me thinking. Why do I still hold on to the name of a man who I haven’t spoken to about 10 years? Why do I carry around that label? That question started it all. I went home that day and changed my name on my social media accounts. Would that all things were that easy, by the way.

I called the law library to send me the appropriate forms to file. The law library, for your information, is the most antiquated organization around. They are stuck in 1969. I had to mail in a check with my request for the forms. A few weeks later I got mimeographed copies of the documents I needed. I could either fill them out by hand or retype them completely on my computer (of course, I chose the latter). I filed the application at the courthouse and paid the fee. Then I had to publish a notice in the newspaper announcing my intention to the public (or at least the members of the public who read notices in the newspaper). The notice gave the date of the hearing. This allows the public a chance to show up at the courthouse and object. Why would anyone object to my changing my name? I wondered. Why would anyone care?

No one showed up to object, of course, because it only matters to me. The Judge asked me a series of questions. “Why?” being one.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “Maybe I just needed a little more complication in my life.”

The Judge chuckled, signed the order, winked at me, and said, “Good luck!”

My bank accounts had to be changed, but they couldn’t be changed without a valid picture ID; the court order was not enough. Being in a pandemic didn’t make that easy. The lines at the tag agency to get a new license were hours long, some places were only taking 20 appointments a day. My passport also needed changed, but I had trips already planned under my former name. Plus, the passport office is backed up and there was no promise mine would be back in time for my trips. The person at the passport office gave her “unofficial advice” to take the trips under my former name, and apply for a new passport when I get back from Mexico. Fingers crossed that works out.

My doctor’s office wouldn’t change my name in my records until I provided an updated health insurance card with the new name and a valid picture ID. This irritated me. I snipped to the woman at the front desk, “In a world where we are free to decide our own genders without having to prove it, doesn’t it seem odd to you that I can’t do that with my own NAME?” I never saw a person who could flare her nostrils out that far. It was scary.

The health insurance company wouldn’t change my card until my employer provided them with notice. My employer wouldn’t change my records until I showed them a new social security card. The Social Security Administration was not open because of COVID-19, so that application had to be done by mail, using a certified copy of my birth certificate (which they promised to return).

I needed to get a new email address, update the post office and my voter registration, figure out how to have my name read correctly on caller IDs, and notify Discover (which I still haven’t done). My airline miles are listed under my old name. This blog’s Facebook page says it is owned by the former me, although I have changed the name on my personal Facebook and I’m the one who owns the page.

I’ve been living a double life, in a way, but it is getting better. It has been a good while since I introduced myself using the hold moniker. After just a few tries, my old signature was back as if it had never left at all. As natural as breathing.

So, I reclaimed my original name. My driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate all say the same thing: Beverly Diane White.

I have never gone by Beverly, preferring the first initial B. when signing anything. Everyone has always called me Diane. There are a few exceptions; doctors, teachers on the first day of school, and the lady at the DMV, to name a few.

Did I answer the “why” question? I don’t think I really did. Maybe not even to myself.

Losing both my parents in the last couple of years may have had something to do with it. Clinging to my family roots trying to hold on to something I had lost, maybe. I plan to be cremated but still, once in a while I see my name on tombstone and I want it to be that of my family. Going through old photos, like you do when someone dies, and seeing my mother’s handwriting with my name on the backs stirred something inside me for sure. The name is true. It is as old as I am. It was given to me upon arrival. This is you, who you are. When you lose someone has important to me as my parents were to me, I guess it makes sense to cling to whatever you have left.

I feel like I own this name, and the name owns me. Beverly Diane White is who I was, who I am, and who I will forever be. Or… maybe I just needed a little more complication in my life.

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