Tag Archives: what’s in a name

Who Am I, Anyway?

There are at least 13 legal permutations of my name. I know this because in 2004 when we first applied for a mortgage, I had to ask for more paper to fill out the “other names under which you are known” section.

I blame the state of New Jersey for this. When we got married, waaaaaay back in 2000, I first changed my social security card to reflect my new identity. When I went to change my drivers’ license, it turns out that the state of New Jersey’s computer system can’t handle the badass feminist I was back then (I’m more badass and more feminist now, thanks for asking) and decided that I needed a hyphen between my two last names.

After an 8-hour ordeal during which I challenged the DMV worker to call the governor’s office in Trenton, I left with a hyphen. Which does not match my social security card. Or my passport. On my credit cards, we dropped my maiden name completely, and never added the new one at the bank, so NONE of that matches anything else at all.

When I was going through all of this name-changing identity crisis nonsense, I was a student at Rutgers. While they allowed me to add a second last name to my current last name, they ate my MIDDLE NAME, of which I am quite fond, and slotted my maiden name in there. Well, okay then. Not terribly progressive of you, Rutgers, but we’ll deal with it.

Fast-forward to 2017, 16.5 years since I got hitched, and I have never once addressed any of this. At first I didn’t have the energy, then I didn’t care, then I didn’t have TIME, and now I’m back to not caring. I also find it amusing, that I can choose who I want to be in a given context.

Now I’m back in school and I have at least four “official” combinations of my name. My original, maiden-as-middle-name is one of them. I think that will show up on transcripts and junk. My drivers’ license name, which is the one I usually go by and sign to papers and exams is another. My OTHER official name, which erases my maiden name entirely (The person “Rachel A Zack” doesn’t technically exist), and my email, which is rdiroll. HILARITY ENSUES.

Example: “Excuse me, Mrs. Zack?”
“Mrs. Zack?”

Another Example: “Rachel D——– Zack?” (Very, very few people can pronounce the maiden name correctly. Hell, half of the family gets it wrong most of the time)

“Rachel D Zack?”
Sure, that’s me, I guess.

It’s very confusing being me. People joke sometimes that they don’t know their own name, but I ACTUALLY DO NOT, at times. I also confuse my left and right hands, but that’s a topic for another day. I’ve also called the kid by the dog’s name which is something my grandmother used to do but in her defense, she has 9 kids. I only have one.

On the one hand, I really should just get a couple copies of my marriage license and pick one name, and make all of my things match. On the other hand, I rather like the chameleonic aspect of having 13 versions of my name. Each one of those ladies inhabits a different version of me, so why not give them each a name? It’s not a split-personality situation (because who has the energy for that, honestly), but more of a way to name my various moods, you know? Sometimes I’m a nice lady who opens doors for old people and says please and thank you and smiles a lot. That’s probably “Mrs Zack.” Other times, I cut people off in traffic and flip them the bird and mouth “ASSHOLE” at them when I pass them on the highway. That’s clearly “Ms Diroll.” Most of the time I’m just doing my thing. That’s what the hyphen is for, I suppose.

As Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Luckily for me, most of my 13 names are the name of a complete badass who is just trying to be her best self, most of the time.

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