I changed my name when I got married. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. And since I was tackling a number major life changes right then, I was overly concerned with getting things "right," sometimes to the detriment of my sanity and happiness. I think I was convinced that there was a set of rules to follow for as long as you both shall live, and it was bearing down on me. Maybe that's what "the weight of tradition" is all about. I had the weight of tradition on my shoulders.
While I definitely felt an internal pressure to change my name, doing so was a choice I was happy with at the time for one main reason. Rob and I talked about having children together something like two weeks after we met. When it was clear that we were going to be together for a while, we were also pretty sure that there were kids in our future. I didn't like the idea of having to explain repeatedly that I was so-and-so's mother, and this was his last name and this was my last name forever and ever amen. I realize that I wouldn't be the only parent in history not to share a last time with her child, but the ease of being Mr. and Mrs. His Last Name was extremely alluring.
So really, I changed my name because I'm lazy.
Then: Mr. & Mrs. His Last Name, 2005
The problem is I hate it. Not the name itself--though, like many last names, it's a little weird and hard to spell and no one can pronounce it correctly, including the DJ at our wedding (not that I'm still bothered by that or anything). The problem is the change, and my ability to adapt to it. It's been three and a half years and I'm still not used to it. This is why the dentist is relevant. I got a bunch of paperwork at the dentist's office, and naturally it had my name printed at the top on the Patient Name line. I couldn't stop staring at it and thinking that it just looked wrong.
I tried to explain this to Rob: "It's like someone took my name and stuck someone else's name on it."
He said, "That's exactly what happened."
"Yeah, okay." Smart ass. "It's like if someone spelled your name wrong... It just doesn't look right."
I've thought before about changing my name back, and when I bring it up to Rob, he tenses up a little. I think he worries that it means that I think the marriage isn't working out. (Sometimes I think the marriage isn't working out, but that's a separate issue.) I can't seem to get him to understand that it feels spooky and weird to have a name you don't really identify with. I miss the rhythm of my maiden name, the way it looks when I write it out, the ease of signing it after years of practice. And while I still had to spell it out all the time, it's pronounced exactly how it looks and people have heard it before.
In seven months, when I renew my driver's license, I'm thinking about also changing my name back to my maiden name. It would actually be a pretty minor thing, a technicality. As I understand it, a person's birth name is always that her name unless a judge gets involved in changing it. So all I need in order to prove that I am who I say I am--if I choose to go by my maiden name all the time, everywhere--is my birth certificate. Easy.
Now: Mr. His Last Name & ???, 2009
But then I start to think about everything else connected to my married name, and insurance and credit and medical and employment bureaucracy flashes before my eyes. Blinded by red tape. And I'd feel like I'd have to explain myself to the People in Charge: "Um, yeah, so we're not separated or anything...I just like my dad's name better than my husband's. It looks better on paper."
The lazy answer, of course, is to keep my name exactly how it is.