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How to Change Your Name: Part 1

January 19, 2012

Your first stop is the Social Security Office. In preparation of this visit, you spend a week secretly searching for your passport because you don’t want your new husband to think you’re irresponsible with vital documents. You find your passport in a large envelope with the rest of your life behind the bookcase you’re using as a dresser (brilliant) and your husband thinks you’ve finally taken some initiative to clean up.

You show up in the office around 10:30 because you’re strategically avoiding the I’ll-come-into-work-laters and the lunch-breakers, just like everyone else. You take a deli number like B77. You watch a endless loop of SSTV: Social Security Television! while all sorts of funny numbers are called around you, “A324, Z34, I3.” Between snippets of cartoon eagles soaring through landmarks of America and cameos from Star Trek characters (“navigating the Social Security Department website is easier than navigating the galaxy, ask your grandchildren for help!”), you are informed that people have different numbers depending on what they are there for, so don’t freak out, just wait for yours to be called. Is this some military strategy for controlling unruly crowds with an illusion of order?  Perhaps.

Finally, B77 is called. You rush to your booth with your husband, clasping your passport, drivers license, certificate of marriage, old Social Security card, birth certificate and maybe a high school transcript. You too-eagerly hand over your forms, but your enthusiasm is more than enough documentation and the officer won’t even bother to ask for any of the identification you brought. The officer takes your form and disappears.

Finally they return with a new piece of paper, distinctly free of your nervous crinkles. They present it to you and the moment of truth has finally arrived. You may have spent a long time thinking about your new name, how your will initials look, what to keep and what to drop. Regardless of the fortified conviction you’ve mustered about your decision, you panic when the officer asks you to proof read your receipt to make sure your new name is spelled correctly. Your husband comes to the rescue because he’s as comfortable with that name as he is with breathing and the light switch placement in the house he grew up in. “Yes, everything’s correct,” and you leave. Less than a week later, a thin envelope with your name on it arrives. You set aside your anxiety about thin envelopes (bills, rejections, that person you forgot to send a Christmas card to) and see your new name in that official font. It’s no longer crazy to practice your new signature.

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