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How to Change your Name in 761 Easy Steps (Or “The Eating Relay”)

Marnell’s workplace has a fantastic program called Get Fit, Get Healthy, where the employees are challenged to lose weight, drink water, and adopt healthy eating and exercise habits.  He had told me that the employees all had their weight measured in the fall, and that it would be measured again on Friday January 12.  If they had not gained weight over the holidays, they would get a $25 gift card.

“Better not eat too much Thursday night,” he said.

On Wednesday, he text me to say that he had been wrong about the date, and they actually had weigh-in on January 10, that day.  But, he added, thankfully, he had weighed one pound less than his weigh-in last fall.

Now, I’ve gained about 7 pounds over the holidays and our wedding, I regret to say.  However, congratulating him seemed to be the Christian thing to do, so I said, “That’s great!” and text him three cheery emoticons, including the clapping hands and a party hat.

However I concluded this morning that the reason brides often gain weight after their weddings might be because of the legal battle to change one’s last name.  Ah yes, men have changes too, but is there any legal proceess with as many steps as changing your last name?

I was trying to get a little exercise a few mornings ago, so I decided to walk to the Baker’s Nook and then to the courthouse to get several certified copies of our marriage license (Step One).  I ate some baked oatmeal and bought a loaf of honey oat bread, still too warm to cut.  I then set off through the melting snow, which was still lying thick across the sidewalk along Jackson Street.  As I forced my steps through the snow, passing cars splashed through muddy pools and sprayed fine gray drops my direction.  The white plastic bag carrying my honey oat bread took on a gray leprous appearance. But by downtown, the walks were cleared and I walked easily up to the courthouse.

The court house in Goshen is a beautiful old building with wooden signs, a high domed roof, and elaborate trim work. The building in Elkhart is a cement block building the shape of a shoe box with glass doors leading into a tunnel of neutral flat walls patched over with black ink signs on white printer paper, mostly announcing things you should not do or have. NO GUNS. NO KNIVES OR MACE. NO DRINKS. If you had any of these things, the signs said, you would have to take them back to your car.

I had failed to consider that I would not have a car to secure any excess items. I had my cell phone with me, and I couldn’t remember if it was permissible to take it inside.

The other thing I had planned poorly was the loaf of honey oat bread, but I couldn’t think of a reason bread should be prohibited.

I scanned for the words NO FOOD or NO CELL PHONES or NO BREAD. None.

“I’m on foot, so I can’t take anything to my car,” I explained to the man beside the security scanner and gray plastic tubs. “I have a phone with me, is that okay?” I couldn’t bring myself to say a phone and a loaf of bread.

“Depends where you’re going.”

“To get a marriage license.”

“That’s fine.”

“Do I have to take my coat off?”

“No, just take out metal or weapons,” he said.

I placed my purse in a plastic tub.

What to do with the bread?

I pushed my insecurities aside and dropped the bag with the mud splashes on the outside and the honey oat bread on the inside into the tub.

If the guard or his comrade noticed the bakery going through the scanner, it did nothing to jar either of them from their boredom.


“Your boots,” the guard said to me tonelessly.

I turned back and slipped them off. The second guard plopped them onto the counter for me on the other side along with my purse and the bread. I reached for them and began putting them back on.

“They only have five per serving,” the first guard said to his colleague. “But they have great flavors: sirracha, shrimp…”

Clearly, I had interrupted an important culinary conversation.  Too bad no knives were allowed or I could have said, Do you want a slice of warm bread with that? 

In the marriage license department, something happened that I don’t ever recall happening before in any government office:  two clerks sprang up and both asked how they could help me, metaphorically bumping into each other.  The one who took the job looked us up.

“It’s not back yet,” she said.

“But I called down to Goshen where we got it,” I said.  “They said it was, and that I could pick it up in Elkhart.”

As she called over reinforcements, I gave the loaf of bread a quick inspection.  It was doing fine.  An aroma of honey oatiness wafted up to my nostrils and I wondered if anyone else in the room could smell it.

Finally, they discovered they had been on the online-only section and our marriage license was in fact back.

“I’ll take three copies,” I said, “Or do you think I’ll need more?”

“You can always come back for more,” she said. “Congratulations.”

Soon I was walking home.  Once there, I cut into the fresh loaf and ate about 1/3 of it. So much for the benefit of the walk.

Next, I went to the Social Security office, located on Waterfall Drive.  I think they picked that address on purpose since they knew it would be the only beautiful part of the organization. I entered through a nondescript door and found myself directed down a hallway outlined by airport-style rope barriers.

A staff member bellowed “761”, and the respective person sitting in the vast crowd in the waiting room stood and went to the counter.

I checked in at a kiosk, an apparent attempt to keep human interaction to a minimum, and verified that I wished to speak English and that I did not have any hearing impairment.

I sat and waited until my number was called.

“Make sure everything is spelled right,” the man said.

“Congratulations,” he added before I left.

“I’m not really into subs after all,” I told Marnell when we met up, even though the subs had been my idea.  We went to Lux Cafe, and I ordered a sausage skillet with French toast.

I called CapitalOne and tried talking with another robot, their automated answering service.

“What would you like to change?”

“My name.”

“I’m sorry, we’re having trouble understanding you.  You can say “address”, “telephone number” or “name”.  What would you like to change?”

“My name!”

“I’m sorry, we’re-“

“NAME!!” I shouted, thinking maybe the innocent pronoun was the culprit.  But the robot had given up on me and sent me to a person.  Even though she had a tittery voice and sounded like she was 13, I was relieved. She also congratulated me on our marriage and began to ask me questions.

“What is your birth date?” she asked.  “You’re 35? Oh, you sound younger than that!” she gushed.

After I gave her my new name, she said, “I guess… should I call you Miss Lee now? Tee hee.”

“Thank you,” I said when the end of the conversation appeared to be close.

“No, thank you!” she said. “Without your help we don’t have a job, so thank you!”

On Friday, I had to run into work.  I stopped at the Baker’s Nook on the way back.

“I’ll have some soup,” I told the cashier, my friend Sarah.  “To build up my strength for going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to change my name.”

“A cup or a bowl?” she asked.

“A bowl,” I said, “although I should probably have a cup.” I picked the Sod Buster.  Sod Buster is a delightful creation akin to straight cheese sauce with sausage and potatoes.  I had a container of California Blend vegetable casserole thawing at home, but my next task seemed to warrant more than mere vegetables.

I couldn’t hope for a good experience at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.  I packed my bags with a few papers I hoped would be relevant, and drove over.  Enough of the walking thing.

Thankfully, due to the morning ice storm I suppose, the parking lot was almost empty.  There was no one waiting in the sea of black chairs.  I took a number and was soon called.

“How can I help you,” the lady intoned.  She had long purple nails, although I saw a gold-colored nail incorporated on her left hand.  They made a tapping sound when they hit heard surfaces like her desk around the computer mouse.

“Do you have the necessary documentation to be a real ID holder?” she asked.

Somehow, they always manage to ask a question to which I have to respond something like, “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well,” she said, “by October 2020, you need to have a gold star on your ID to access federal buildings.”

Oh!  October 2020 sounded happily distant, and she let me pass.

“Come down to the end for a picture and a signature,” she said.  “You can smile, no teeth.”

She caught me with a forever frozen pained expression, eyes popping and mouth closed in a grimace, charged me nine dollars, and had me sign numerous lines.

“You’re new license will arrive in the mail in 7-10 business days,” she said, handing me the paper copies.

I went home and ate an entire bag of SmartPop popcorn. I love how the calories on popcorn are so low per cup.  As if people typically eat only one cup of flavored popcorn.

Anyway.  Alas.  This will be a crisis if I don’t get my act together soon.  I may not qualify for a $25 gift card, but at least I have only about 365 steps left in the name-changing process, and then I’ll take these pounds off.


Note:  Although I enjoy a little satire, I do take my overeating quite seriously since it’s a problem I’ve dealt with my entire life.  Also, despite the cold nature of the legal process, I was surprised by the courteous people I encountered. With the exception of the BMV, everyone congratulated, even NIPSCO.

Note the Second:  I’m happy to send you our holiday card/wedding picture while supplies last.  Send me your address through email or message (see contact page) and I’ll send one your way.





15 Responses to How to Change your Name in 761 Easy Steps (Or “The Eating Relay”)

  1. Sheila January 13, 2018 at 6:40 pm #

    interesting! I can’t remember going through all that when we got married, tho we probably did 😉 Enjoyed the card you had sent!

  2. VaLita Beckett January 13, 2018 at 7:56 pm #

    I loved the card and was honored to receive it!

  3. Linda Sprouffske January 13, 2018 at 9:12 pm #

    Delightful commentary. Nope, we didn’t have as many steps to take either 30 plus years ago! I wish you well on your next journey to complete the process.
    Would enjoy a photo if you have extra-so I’ll recognize you when you come to Oregon!
    PO Box 433 Canyon City OR 97820

    • 500Admin January 13, 2018 at 10:58 pm #

      Happy to send one Linda… and I guess I was born in the wrong era!

  4. Carol Falk January 13, 2018 at 9:38 pm #

    When I remarried and tried changing my name on my credit cards it was awful! I still have 2 of them that are Hein (and I haven’t been a Hein for almost 15 years!

    • 500Admin January 13, 2018 at 11:00 pm #

      Dear me, that’s dismal!

    • 500Admin January 14, 2018 at 12:05 pm #

      Carol, if you message me your address I’ll send you a card! Still have some left. 🙂

  5. Claudia January 14, 2018 at 9:10 am #

    On the bright side, I’ve learned to actually feel like it’s my name when I sign it, two years in. For a long time, I was “Claudia R. Martin” because I would launch into signing my maiden name.

    • 500Admin January 14, 2018 at 12:05 pm #

      That’s funny! And I don’t think I have your address or I would be happy to send you a card.

  6. William Hoover January 14, 2018 at 11:34 pm #

    Wow! What a great piece of writing. “Metaphorically bumping into each other”! It’s like reading Dickens in 2018. And I appreciated the serious note at the end too.

    • 500Admin January 14, 2018 at 11:37 pm #

      Thanks William! And Dickens is one of my favorites!

  7. Colleen January 14, 2018 at 11:50 pm #

    I well remember this painful process. Gave me new appreciation for people who managed to find a partner who already shared their name! (Would have thought Martin would be easy enough to find but no regrets on changing to Gingrich!🤣)

    Congratulations on your marriage and best of luck with transitioning from Hoover to Lee!

    • 500Admin January 14, 2018 at 11:55 pm #

      Thanks Colleen!

  8. CRS January 16, 2018 at 10:10 pm #

    Maybe this is why one twice-widowed lady I knew didn’t legally change her name when she married the third time!

    • 500Admin January 16, 2018 at 10:12 pm #

      No doubt! I definitely don’t want to change again! For more than one reason of course.