I thought it was going to be so easy. I made an appointment online and paid the $93 fee so we could pickup our marriage license from City Hall at 3:30pm yesterday. Dean said hello to former supervisor Aaron Peskin as he walked by. We got in line at the County Clerk office and filled out the form. Perfectly routine. Until the clerk asked, “Not filling out this section means you’re keeping your name. Is that right?”
I nodded, praying that Dean wouldn’t hear or understand her Chinese accent. We had never resolved this issue and I hadn’t considered it would come up. Right then and there. Duh, this is our marriage license. Of course it’s going to come up. But it had completely slipped my mind. Simple routine paperwork, right?
I could see the hurt in Dean’s eyes. “At least hyphenate it.”
I started hyperventilating. I pleaded with the clerk. “Can I keep my name the way it is and change it later?”
She didn’t help. “It costs at least $350-400 to change it later. You might as well do it now if you’re going to change it. It’s free.”
I hyphenated my last name very reluctantly. I felt like I’d carved off a piece of myself and gave it away there at the Office of the County Clerk. I didn’t speak on the way home. My eyes watered. My name is everything to me. I got two degrees with this name. I’m published under this name. I needed some time alone.
When I got home, the fighting began. A soon-to-be-married couple hurling point after counterpoint.
“You are a woman. You take the man’s name. I’m sorry you’re not a man so you can keep your name, but that’s just the way it is.”
“Oh yeah. Explain that to the legions of women I know who’ve kept their name. That’s just the way it is. Sure, right.”
“You have no idea. How am I going to explain to my family and friends that you didn’t even fully take my name. Hyphenating it. How do I sell that to them?”
“Sell? What do you mean by ‘sell that to them?’ How hard is it to sell the fact that I’m accomplished, respectable, that I’m here to support you. Wow, I didn’t realize it was so hard to do!”
“Do you care about us as a family? As a unit? Then deal with it.”
“Well I did hyphenate it so you’re welcome!”
Tell me, people. Is married life easier or harder than this shit. For anyone who thinks planning a committed life together is all ribbons and cupcakes, I’m here to write the honest truth amidst the wedding planning. Truths that most people will never talk about. But we are a real couple with real issues. And that is…true love.