It’s finally done, my signature rests on the final page of the divorce paperwork. The page is a mess of handwriting styles, signatures legible and not, but it is signed and heading to the courts to be reviewed, drawn up by a clerk and finally signed and stamped by a judge.
There in the midst of the enumeration of marital assets and debts, child custody agreements, etc sits a seemingly innocuous phrase, “Petitioner’s name to be restored to…”
Ah yes, the return to my maiden name.
At first, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go back to my maiden name, after all, I have no real affinity for it, it’s not like I was well known or incredibly successful under that name either. So, why return? To what point? I have, however, made a small name for myself under my married name. Changing would be a pain in the ass, requiring a lot of effort, time, some expense and a whole lot of communication with a whole lot of colleagues. So again, why bother?
As I pondered all of the pros and cons of both sides of the issue, it finally hit me that I was looking at this in entirely the wrong fashion. After the time, effort and expense of divorce, the “inconvenience” of a name change would be next to nothing. My colleagues can deal – such is life, they’ll get used to it. What really decided me was stopping thinking about the hassle, and everyone else’s opinions and thinking about me for a change.
As a married woman, I was my husband’s. I was not myself; I was merely an extension of him. I belonged to him. He was husband, head of household, spiritual priest, leader, etc. I was to submit myself to him, to his wishes, to his will. He didn’t view me as a partner, but as a possession. To him, I was nanny, cook, maid, laundress, secretary and whore. I gave him whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it and set aside anything and everything of interest to me in order to support him in all he did, and be by his side whenever he wanted me there.
When I took on his name, those are the things that I unknowingly accepted, the attitudes I unwittingly supported. I had swallowed myself, allowed myself to be buried, and yes, that last name was symbolic of it all.
Viewed in that light, I thought, “Why did I ever consider keeping his name?” Perhaps some trace of that meek creature I had become? Some last trace of setting self aside in order that things be easier for everyone else?
And so I have begun the process of gathering forms, getting paperwork in order and lists made. He still has all of my original papers – certified copy of birth certificate, original Social Security card, etc – and claims he does not. So, the first order of business, of course, is to get new copies of everything, applying for a name change along the way.
It’s a tedious, time consuming and rather annoying business.
But at the same time, as I begin the motions, as I take the first steps to making this change, I begin to feel freer, more alive, more myself. This process, more so even than the divorce, feels like my new beginning. The divorce felt like an ugly thing that had to be slogged through – the unpleasant part of the job that you have to do in order to reach the good stuff. This feels more like rebirth.
Everyone has said that the divorce would change me, set me free – and it has, to some extent.
It is the beginning of the name-change process however that has me feeling changed. Instead of dreading the hassle, I am eagerly awaiting each step, anxious to place my new-old name on the dotted line, looking forward once again to being gloriously, happily me!