I got divorced this week. We have been living separately since 2012, so it was sad because it was the final, legal ending of almost 18 years of marriage. On the other hand, we still left the courthouse together talking, laughing and deciding on where to go out for lunch. Most of the heartache in the ending of this marriage took place over the last few years, so in some ways the court hearing just felt like a division of stuff, but in one way it really left me feeling void of an identity.
My name. I left the courthouse sort of without one.
I never asked how he felt about me keeping my married name because it never really felt like what I would want to do. But going back to my maiden name feels scary and full of shame. That was the girl who was raped. That is the girl who feels shame, guilt, blame, anger, sadness, loss, and all sorts of other things that I don’t want to continue to feel. So when asked by the judge if I wanted to restore my name, I said no, but that I had chosen a new name for myself.
He asked why and I replied that my legal maiden name holds shame. He didn’t ask anything further. But he wondered out loud if it will be allowed since the legal language is that the person wishes to “restore” their former name. He didn’t have any objection to it, but pointed out that it may be rejected from the people in Vital Statistics. I don’t mind a challenge. So I said “that’s ok, I want it anyway.”
After the hearing, my attorney and I filled out the Vital Statistics form. But I can’t say that it was comfortable for me to leave the courthouse. It felt a lot like I left the married me behind and now I had no name at all. The judge had granted my name change, making me feel no longer the person I was an hour before the hearing. However, he had also given me some doubt about whether or not I will get my chosen name.
So who am I? If they reject my name, am I the married name, or am I my maiden name, or am I without a name at all?
I know I’m not the first person to make this decision. And I got the idea last year in reading the book WILD by Cheryl Strayed. It is a FABULOUS book and was very important in my beginning to really rediscover who I am and who I want to be going forward. If you haven’t read it, you should.
I won’t tell the story about how I decided on my name because it was a very personal moment for me. One filled with excitement, joy, tears (both happy and sad), and relief. But I will say that I am absolutely sure that is who I need and want to be from this day forward. So I guess for now I have to wait to see what the Vital Statistics people think, which is strange because why would they even care what name I want? If they reject it, I’ll go forward with a legal name change process, but I hope they grant it.
I hope they give me the right to be the rediscovered me.