Erase Me

Last week, my lucky spouse got to take a trip to the local city clerk’s office — jackpot! — to obtain a certified copy of our marriage license because I could not, for the life of me, remember that I’d married him.

Kidding! Of course I remember. We actually needed it for a bet.

Kidding again! We needed it for the legitimate purpose of proving to the Netherlands that we have a legally recognized marital relationship.*

The point of telling you that is not to brag about how vital our marriage is to political interests in the Netherlands, but to tell you that when the helpful woman at the clerk’s office handed him the envelope with the certificates, she gave him a “change of name” form as well.

For the record, we have been married ALMOST THIRTEEN YEARS. One might presume that if I had any interest in changing my last name, I would have taken advantage of some of the preceding 12.5 years to obtain and file the appropriate paperwork. One could therefore conclude that my failure to do so indicates my lack of interest. I was not interested in changing my name at age 24. I am even less interested — if that’s even possible, because I gave zero point zero fucks to begin with — at age 37.

One might go so far as to suggest that even if we’d gotten married the day before yesterday, it is not the business of the city clerk’s administrative staff to tell me what to do with my own name.

(Oh, right: I should have explained that the change of name form was meant for me. If she’d given it to him and urged him to adapt my name, this would be a different post and I’d be inviting the staff of the clerk’s office to lead a consciousness-raising session.)**

(As an aside, when we first got married, we contemplated changing both our last names to an entirely new one made of a combination of our mothers’ maiden names, as a way of giving the patriarchy a big middle finger in a way only hepped-up twenty-four-years-olds can who are trying to buck the system while also exploiting their heterosexual privilege to obtain health insurance can do. Sadly, there was and is no way to combine the names “Finkelstein” and “Giannachi,” pronounced gee-ahn-NAA-kee, in a way that doesn’t sound like the name of a frightening Finnish circus clown. I love our moms, but I wouldn’t even name the dog Finkelnnachi.)

When my husband explained to her that the form wouldn’t be necessary, she urged him to take it anyway, because you “never know” and you “might be surprised.” When he continued to demur, she slipped the form into the envelope herself, suggesting, “you tell her that I made you take it.”

Dear Woman at the City Clerk’s Office,

Your message has been received! As requested, my husband explained in detail how you pushed him to bring me the form despite his entirely correct insistence that it was not needed.

On the name-changing, no thanks! But we both really appreciate how you put him in the position of having to hand me a piece of paper that he knew I wouldn’t want and would make him look like a jackass.

Woman who is keeping the name she was born with, and who is not about to figure out a new signature at this late stage of life because she really likes the one she has


*Oh, yeah: I’m moving to the Netherlands! Did I forget to tell you?

**Before you get your man-panties in a bunch: the post would be pretty much the same, because no one has to alter something as fundamental to their identity as their name unless they choose to.


  1. In my country of origin, once women got married, they have to automatically adopt the husbands surnames. The same rule applies to their off springs; they automatically get the name of the fathers. At least, here or somewhere, women have choices.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, classic. I chose to take my husband’s surname partly because I was only twenty three and thought it was ‘romantic'(!) to share my lover’s name, partly because I thought ‘Love’ a better name than ‘Cuthbert’, even if it does mean I now sound like an edited-out character from ‘Wacky Races’.
    The thing I hate the most that people often do here in the UK is address an envelope to us both with the names ‘Mr and Mrs G. Love’ because his name is Gareth.
    Now, I was happy to take his surname, but I didn’t agree to be absorbed into his persona entirely, to become some weird omni-sexual with no identity that isn’t defined by him.
    Is this common in the States or elsewhere, or is it some awful Victorian, wife bondage hangover exclusive to Merry Olde England?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Since I moved from the US to the UK, I get called Mrs. a lot more than I used to–not because I’m married (I wasn’t until gay marriage became legal) but because of my age. The US–or at least the parts I’ve lived in–seem to accept Ms more readily than Britain does. Which doesn’t really answer your question. Sorry, it’s just something you made me think of.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not at all, it’s relly interesting. There’s an age here (and I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is, though I think it’s somwhere in your late 30s) where strangers, usually shop assitants, go from calling you ‘Miss’ to calling you ‘Madam’. So you step from a presumed single state to marriage (or running a bordello – take your pick!)
        Can’t imagine a day when people here in the UK would call all females Ms – some people think it’s too lefty feminist by half.
        Can I ask, Ellen, how you feel about this cultural shift? Discomforted or okay?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It drives me nuts, although oddly enough not as crazy as having telemarketers in the US call me Mrs. Hawley. The difference has something to do with this not being my native culture. I’m an outsider here and always will be. It builds a sort of distance into my reactions. Having said that,though, I’d still rather be called Ms. And if people can’t manage that, I’d settle for being addressed as Lefty Feminist.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Ha! It’s all so outdated. Adult men don’t have their titles change as they age or get married. Being treated equally, not patronised for being a young, naive woman or an older woman that the world has no use for anymore. Just irritating

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I sometimes wish I hadn’t changed my name, only because, well, you know my last name. I did change it for no good reason except I guess, that’s what I assumed I would do. (And my SIL didn’t and in my southern family it caused a bit of pearl-clutching and gasps of “those people from *california*…”)

    Liked by 4 people

  4. …in a way that doesn’t sound like the name of a frightening Finnish circus clown.

    Okay, that’s been making me chuckle for the past five minutes. I sincerely hope this woman somehow finds this post 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I still use my maiden name at work. After only 2.5 years of marriage I’m not quite ready to give me up completely.


      1. All of my kids have my maiden name as their middle name and their (a**hole) father’s name as their last name. Like I told my b***h of an ex-MIL – If they’re going to have his name, they’re going to have mine. I have a son and two daughters. The son has already dropped his fathers last name (legally) and the girls? Dad buys them off every day and throws money at them but at least one of them will opt for changing her last name because her fiancee is old fashioned and she is, too. I changed mine twice: married to the first idiot and then married my husband – I couldn’t very well keep my old name. Wish I had never changed it in the first place.

        You’re moving to the Netherlands? Good luck. I hope y’all have the time of your lives.


  6. Right on, sister! Laughing out loud so my Pom thinks I’ve lost my marginally effective mind! Your take on bureaucratic bs is priceless. College kids in my day went through the same hyphenation debacle, thinking they could end patriarchal privilege with punctuation. Massive probs–their names never fit on official forms, pronunciation was a nightmare, not to mention unnecessary and humiliating humor about said name combos, and using your mother’s maiden names were counter-productive as well since they got them from their fathers!


  7. how about changing it slightly to something shocking like Fink-Nazi? Nazi-Fink? Too soon? you’d get the worst tables at restaurants but you could take over other people’s places. Nah. Stick w/frightening Norwegian clown.


  8. Ugh. This drives me crazy, not least because if the world weren’t full of pushy idiots like this woman at the city clerk’s office, then I wouldn’t have to defend my own choice to change my last name to match my husband’s. I have a weird family, and no great feeling of loyalty to my birth name. Choice, people. Choice is key.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I understand. Great post. Changing my name even though it’s hyphenated was a daunting process. Funny, because one time I had a woman at the city office ask me if I was sure about the pronunciation of my first name!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We both changed our names to a new name we made up. Because effyou patriarchy. Kids got our invented name. Now were divorced and we both have the same name as our kids and neither of us is tempted to go back. Because effyou name change process, which is a pain in the arse.


  11. I took Hubby’s last name because it moved me toward the front of the queue when we have to line up alphabetically. Which is never, since we’re not in grade school. I didn’t think that one through…

    Congrats on the move! My brother recently moved to Sweden (sort of like the Netherlands, except, not really) and loves it. I hope you get to see all the Europe I am unlikely to see. Post pictures for those of us who live vicariously. And sometimes precariously.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I got married very young and took on my husband’s name. We divorced and I took back my maiden name. When my daughter was eight years old I remarried. Her class at school was having a field trip and my husband and I went to help. The teacher divided the class room into three groups. One group with the teacher, one group with me Miss Taylor, one group with Mr Huck. No problem but the kids were so confused because my daughter called him dad and her last name was Jones. We had a good laugh. Hoping you enjoy your new home.


  13. I got married for the first time at 42 and people were STILL after me to change my name to my husbands. I’m sorry, but at 42, I had an identity I was satisfied with. Plus, I had a million accounts, plus some security clearances, that were way more trouble to change than they were worth. In a nod towards unity and fairness blah blah blah, I did ask hubby what he thought and he said he didn’t mind at all, asd his name was even longer and more of a pain than mine.

    Fast forward five years and divorce. I had a relative, and younger one who is supposedly more progressive (ask her and she’ll tell you) tell me that he might not have divorced me if I had just taken his name. Uh…well, I might not have divorced him if he hadn’t been banging every ho-bag in the county. Maybe. Imagine if I had to change all those accounts back again? Blech.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Just got married after beings together for 15 years. Didn’t change my name. In fact, we want as little as possible to change as a result. I have a weird name and people in my industry recognise me as a result, can’t throw that away, I need it for my next venture.


  15. Moving to the Netherlands, eh? I’ve decided I want to learn Dutch! Let’s learn together!

    In Quebec, you can only change your name if you have a very good reason, and getting married is not considered a good reason. I kinda like that, and am endlessly fascinated by the name change shenanigans that happen elsewhere in Canada and in the US.

    The registrar of civil status may authorize a name change if: 1) the name the person generally uses does not correspond to the name on their birth certificate, 2) the name is of foreign origin or too difficult to pronounce or write in its original form, or 3) the name invites ridicule or has become infamous. This law does not make it legal for a woman to immediately change her name upon marriage, as marriage is not listed among the reasons for a name change.

    Also, according to :

    Women in the Netherlands are always identified in documents by their maiden name and can only take their husband’s name under special circumstances

    So, great choice, then! 🙂


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