Just over a year ago, my family and I were driving to Tennessee for a small vacation. Dream’s brother had rented a cabin, and we were meeting him and the rest of her side of the family. We would all be staying in a lovely cabin on a beautiful mountainside in Tennessee. We were hoping for snow for the kids to play in. Unfortunately the year was unusually warm and dry, and there was no snow in the forecast. Luckily the temperatures dipped low enough for the local ski places to make snow, and we were able to get some skiing in.
This trip came during a time when we were in the middle of some crazy ideas that became life changes. We had started planning to sell our house in order to lighten our financial burden and rent a place closer to work, we had just finished our big purge to minimize our possessions, and the thought of change was fresh in our mind.
The car ride to Tennessee is a long one, clocking in at 10 hours plus whatever it took for gas and food stops. We had an abundance of time for thought and discussion. I’m not sure who brought it up first, but we got onto the subject of our last name (surname.)
My last name is easily mispronounced, easily misspelled, and easily mocked and made fun of. Sometimes I wish I could publish under my real name instead of using a pen name. It would certainly make this blog post easier. Hopefully I can paint a picture through examples that will lead you to understand while still writing under a pen name.
To help I’m going to give you some examples of names that aren’t my name but will give you an idea of where we are coming from. Cockburn, Dumfart, Touchmen, Sinners, Aphole. Ours wasn’t quite like these, as they are bad in a more perverse way, but ours was easily mocked and hard to spell.
With our name, you transpose to letter and you get a completely different word, one that people find a need to comment on. Every time we had to give our name, as when making a doctor appointment or checking into a hotel, the person we were speaking with felt compelled to comment on our name.
The most common comment is “I bet the kids made fun of that name when you were a kid.” The funny thing is, my wife often got that comment too, and she most certainly had a different name as a child.
We had all these thoughts in our head as we started discussing the possibility of changing our last name. We talked and talked. Could we really do it? Could we change this surname that has plagued me for my entire life, and my wife for half of hers?
If we were going to do it, we would need to pick a new last name. We started tossing around ideas. We played a fun game where we looked at all the signs along the highway and picked words from those signs as new last names. We looked at street names, river names, hotel names, local business names. It was a roarin’ good time as we laughed at some of the ridiculous name combinations. Amongst all the funny names we came up with we actually came up with a few solid candidates.
Dream’s big question was, “Would you do it?” Society dictates that the wife take the husbands surname, so it’s not really a big deal for a woman to change her name. (Of course not all follow this societal standard, but most do.) For a man to change his surname, this is a bigger issue. In the historical sense, a man desires sons to carry on the family name. Carrying on the family name is a big deal to many.
To me it is less so. I try to think for myself as you can see from the content on this blog. I’ve moved away from doing what is normal for the sake of being normal (or the sake of being accepted by the normal people around us.) I’ve moved towards doing what is best for me and what is best for my family. We seek happiness and joy and we can’t always do that if we follow the path of normalcy.
I thought about it, and the answer was “Yes, I would be willing to change my name.”
That was that, we decided to do it.
And then we sat on the idea and didn’t do much with it for the next year. I can’t believe how time escapes us every time we decide to make a change. The move from a house to an apartment took about two years from the initial idea to its implementation. The name change is following a similar path, it’s taken us about a year to finally go through with it.
We spent a lot of time discussing names. We decided to set some ground rules.
The name must be:
- Short (less than 6 characters)
- Have a single spelling and be easy to spell (we didn’t want to have to spell it every time someone asked for our name)
- Not have any negative meanings (real or implied)
- It must not be easily mocked or made fun of.
With those rules in hand, we quickly narrowed our list. I came up with a favorite while Dream and Faith continued to debate. Faith was consulted, but she’s really too young to have much input. She basically wanted a name that was alphabetically close to her best friend so they would be next to each other when they stood in line.
Dream has a difficult time making big decisions, so we took some time for her to mull over the short list. She spent some time writing our names with the new potential surnames to see how they looked and felt. A couple of times at dinner I would give one of our potential names to the hostess instead of our real name to see how it sounded when they called our name.
Next we spent time trying to figure out what needs to be done in order to make a legal name change. After a bit of searching around on the Internet, we finally found the appropriate forms for making a name change in our state. There were forms for changing one person’s last name, and most internet references pointed those. I finally found the one to change the surname for the entire family. (For reference, anyone changing a family name in Florida can use Form 12.982(f).
Filling out the form caused some more delay. We had to provide the addresses for every place we have lived SINCE BIRTH, including the dates we lived at each place. Wow! I was a bit surprised when I saw that, and it took us a while to find everything.
I’ve heard they appear on the Social Security report that gets mailed out yearly, but in an effort to keep clutter manageable, I trash those after I look them over. I did manage to find the last few years on our credit report which is available for free at annualcreditreport.com. We managed to piece together some of our old apartment addresses (minus the actual apartment number) by using google maps.
One day when I was looking through our “important documents” folder, I found and address on our marriage license. Then I flipped through that folder some more and actually found every address on various important documents that we had saved over the years.
We also had to list everyplace we had worked for the past seven years, but this wasn’t as difficult. We finally managed to get the form completed.
And then… we didn’t do anything. The form sat completed and we didn’t take any action for several weeks. Dream was growing increasingly frustrated with my lack of action. She wanted to get this done with and wanted to get it done before Faith started second grade. She wanted Faith to be able to start second grade with her new last name. I’m not sure why I was slow to act. I think it was a combination of the fear of the unknown (being unsure of how to navigate the court system required in the next step) and the fear of the reaction of family and friends.
I’m happy to say I overcame that fear and we went down to the courthouse on Friday. We went to the clerk of the court for family matters. We ended up at the wrong counter to start with. Actually it was the right counter, but we missed a step. They directed us to the family case manager’s office. We walked down the hall to the family case manager and she looked over our form. She suggested a couple of changes, which we made, and then we signed and she notarized.
Then it was back to the clerk of the court to submit the forms and pay the fee. The fee was $400. We had some polite chit chat as she entered the information and had us fill out our final judgment forms. She said a couple times how beautiful Dream was and that we had a good aura about us. It seemed odd to receive such compliments and metaphysical talk in a place that was so structured and rigid. Nonetheless it was pleasant and made the process much more enjoyable.
We’re not quite done yet. We are planning to get fingerprinted on Wednesday for our background checks, and then we’ll have to go before the judge.
Seeing the judge is the final step in the official name change. It’s not the final step in the whole process though. After that we’ll need to change the name EVERYWHERE. Driver’s license, social security card, banks, doctors, school, online accounts, Facebook, and probably some other places I can’t even think of right now.
Then we’ll likely have some laughing and mocking as I tell my friends and coworkers. The laughs are bound to happen, but it should all be in good fun. We’ve already got some of it from Dream’s family who has been in on the plans from the beginning.
Then there’s my family. We have my dad, aka toxic grandfather, and I’m not sure what to expect from him. Not that I’d hear much from him anyway since we’ve cut our communication with him, but we do see my mother from time to time, so I may hear it second hand. We may be completely cut out of the will if we’re not already. He’s very narcissistic, so I’m sure he’ll assume we’re changing our last name to hurt him in some way. In reality it has nothing to do with him and would have happened whether or not we had good relations with him. Anyway, there is bound to be some shock when and if I decided to tell my mother.
We actually considered not telling them at all. With the limited contact they would probably never know. But I think in the long run it’s going to be best if we just tell them rather than making an effort to keep it hidden, even if that includes some new fallout from grandfather. I still try to make decisions based on what I think is right and if it were my child changing their last name I would want to be informed.
I’ll keep you posted on all the upcoming surname change events.