The other day I was in motor vehicle to renew my drivers license. And as anyone knows, going to motor vehicle is not much different than a trip to the dentist: it’s a long wait, a painful experience and when you leave you’re left numb and vow never to return.
As I was waiting on line, I couldn’t help but overhear this young girl behind me talking on her cell phone. She had just gotten married and was there to change her name on her drivers license. Straight ahead of me, on the wall was a giant poster that read: ‘PROTECT YOURSELF, STOP IDENTITY THEFT BEFORE IT STARTS’. I had to laugh out loud. Maybe I should turn around and warn that girl she’s about to participate in the very first form of identity theft: marriage!
Women have been giving up their identity since the first arranged marriage. Transferred like property, a maiden was sent from her fathers house to her husbands house, the only real value being her dowry and her virginity. But what’s a maiden left unmarried but an old maid. It seems women have worked so long and hard for independence and equal rights, only to throw it all away the second they say ‘I do’.
It got me thinking about my own drivers license; who was that girl in the picture looking back at me with the long auburn hair? The smile was carefree, thin and young, absent of worry lines. I had changed my name after I got married, and there it was this new name attached to that old face. It didn’t fit. Then there was that M next to the D on my license that once represented my Harley riding motorcycle days, now it just stands for Mom. This was clearly a picture of mistaken identity. Why hadn’t I changed that picture when I changed my name? Or really, why had I changed my name? Like my drivers license, my name was clean; no violations, no points. I traded it in for someone else’s identity. Little by little the maiden that was once me was being chipped away; and for the ‘me’ that was drowning, that picture seemed a lifeline to my past.
But was my present state so bad I needed a lifeline to my past? If I could change it all today would I really go back? Isn’t a maiden nothing more than a racehorse that has never won a race? In other words, not much different from an old maid. I like who I am, my short blonde hair, the furrow between my brow. And although my smile isn’t as carefree, it is the smile of a woman with three wonderful kids and a great husband. These are the things I identify with now. Is identity just a state of mind, or perhaps an evolutionary process?
As I looked closely at my picture, I knew I had evolved. I wasn’t that girl and she wasn’t me. I was who I am at this very moment and that was okay. As I heard the loud call ‘NEXT’, I looked back at the girl behind me, still talking on her cell phone, I quickly scribbled a note on piece of paper and handed it to her. When the gum chewing clerk was done shuffling through my paperwork, she looked up at me and asked if I wanted a new picture. I took a deep breath, and decidedly said, “Yes, I think it’s time for a new one.” It felt good to be caught up to the present, and that was one identity I could finally relate to.
As I got into my car I heard the young girl call out to me to wait. She held up my note with and inquisitive look, and said “why?” I said better to know who you are now, than wait twenty years to figure it out. She held up her new license to show me. “New name and new picture to match”, she said.
I smiled and got into my car, and what song should be playing on the radio: Another One Bites The Dust!
Reposted by Jean James courtesy of http://www.inthepowderroom.com
8 thoughts on “Identity Theft”
Ha! Yes, perfect song. I got married young, and even back then, I debated taking my husband’s name. It wasn’t who I was. I felt like I was giving away a huge chunk of myself. But I did it deciding that it would be nice for our family to share the same name (when we had kids). I don’t regret it, but early on I made him promise that if anyone ever referred to me as Mrs. (my husband’s first name) Rubin, he had to correct them if he could (and he kept his promise). When people put his first name in place of my first name on envelopes and such, I feel like I disappear completely.
I just noticed my blog on your blogroll. Thank you! Very nice of you to include me. I look forward to returning the favor when I draft my Featured Blogs of June later this month (I rotate my blogroll since there are so many blogs I follow). 🙂
I know what you mean when you say, “…I feel like I disappear completely.” When someone calls me Mrs. So and so I feel like they’re speaking about my mother in law. I too kept my husband’s name for our kids sake. And BTW you’re on my blogroll because I really like your writing.
Aw, thank you. I enjoy yours, too, and I like that you don’t post so frequently. It can be difficult to keep up with several posts a week.
I offered to take my wife’s name or hyphenate it; whatever she wanted. My name is extremely important to me, but if the woman I love wanted me to change for her instead of vice versa, I would have done it. I think that today the name change is just one of those things that you “just do” because no one really thinks about it anymore: it’s another tradition-without-thought… like an atheist celebrating Christmas. But in our case we did think about it, and she decided she wanted to take my name and wanted our kids to have my last name. I hope that for her this was a decision that, since it was made by her, will represent an empowering step in her life and not one representative of maidenhood lost to her lord.
Carrie, i like the idea of correcting the “Mrs. Husband’s First Name.” I think I’ll adopt that.
Well Doug F I think that was most admirable of you to offer to take your wife’s name. I don’t think I know one man who has made a similiar offer. I think our birth family names are important to all of us, but creating our own family is equally as important. Thanks for your comment.
I have to agree with Carrie 100%; I always say “I agreed to take my husband’s last name, not his first.” It irks me to see my identity lost as Mrs. Husband’s Full Name, and so I make it a point not to do that to anyone (much to my mother’s dismay at the lack of formality sometimes).
As far as the decision to take my husband’s name: I did not make it lightly, or alone; my husband and I discussed it at length. He (Doug F) knew my identity was important to me, and yes made the generous offer to take my name or hyphenate it. My parents are from Italy where the women keep their names after marriage. My mother took my father’s name because they married here and she was told by people here “that’s what you do”, but she always had a pang of regret at giving up her identity – even though she married young. With all of that in mind, ultimately I decided to take my husband’s name because I want to have the same last name as my children, and I want my children to have their father’s name, as is tradition. But, conveniently, I had a way to keep my full identity from maidenhood as well because I was not given a middle name by my parents, so I was able to make my maiden name my middle name and not disappear entirely into marriage or give up any part of my name. It’s a beautiful setup because I am happily a part of my husband’s family, am connected to my child in name, and the old me is right there in full on my driver’s license, credit card, etc., but for convenience I can just use my middle initial. I like the way it worked out so much that I actually debated giving our daughter a middle name!
Doug F: you’d better keep that promise! 😉
This was a great response. I had no idea that Italian women kept their names after marriage; whose name do the children take? The only place I’m hyphenated at is work (long story), so at least a few nights a week I can see my maiden name on my ID badge lol. And I agree with all of you about not wanting to be called Mrs. His Name. You may as well just throw a sheet over my head if that’s the case. Thanks for the comment.