Saturday, June 20, 2009

New & Improved Emily 2.0

After much waiting and checking bank statements for a cashed check, our marriage certificate(s) finally came in the mail. Andy had called the office and a recording said that it would take 20 working days to get them, not including mailing time. Since Memorial day was in there, I think it did take exactly 20 working days. But, they were delivered the day after they were mailed. Oy.

Friday I finally decided enough was enough and I'd take the afternoon off to get this settled. It's really, really awful feeling in between names. You don't realize how much your name is a part of you, until it's not your name.

I planned the trip out as best I could with rather short notice. You can, apparently, make an appointment at the social security office just like you can at the DMV. I didn't know that, much less did I do it early enough to reserve a time that would work.

When you get married and decide to change your name, the first stop is social security. (The rest is a little fuzzy because it's however you get around to it). Social security is pretty much what you would expect: not in a nice neighborhood, and full of old people paired up with almost equally old caretakers. Of course, everyone there knew you go to this ATM sort of thing, press a button for your issue, and get a number. Once I figured this out I pulled out my book and waited about 45 minutes.

There is a pretty simple form involved, and you need to show your "legal documents" (read: marriage certificate) and two forms of ID. The social security office does not accept a social security card as ID. I, of course, brought everything. The clerk looked at my license, passport, and certificate, and handed them straight back to me, then kept my SS-5 form and typed around a little. No questions, nothing. They didn't even keep a copy of the certificate! I signed a confirmation (signed with my new name, which is always confusing). The whole thing took less than five minutes so I can't imagine what kind of issues people have that made me have to wait 45.

At this point, you are no longer who you were before. Everything after this point is "correcting" the name on your stuff. The fact that it's so simple to do but has so much impact is kind of mindblowing.

I was on a tight time schedule as it was after 4 and the DMV closed at 5. (I heard later that some DMVs are closing earlier, or certain days of the week, or the whole summer because of budgets, so I consider myself really, really lucky.)

And the line was out the door.

So I go in, wait in line with an entirely different slice of humanity (a teddy bear tattoo with the name "Bobo" and a woman in nothing but shorts and a sports bra). It was probably similar wait before I got to the counter to explain myself. Of course I'm all ready with my folder of info like those perky cheerful hyper-organized brides and their binders.

Me: "Hello, I'd like to change my name on my license and also my car title." (thank you, Andy, for bringing that to my attention! do them both at the same time.)
Clerk: "How are you changing it?"
Me: "Oh, I'm just changing my last name."
Clerk: "No, how are you changing it?"
Me: "Um, to my husband's last name?"

Ladies: the correct answer to this question is by marriage. They don't care if you're changing your name to Princess Bananahammock, they want to know by what method. Sheepishly showing them your marriage certificate will also answer this question. (And as a disturbing aside, Firefox does not recognize "bananahammock" as a misspelled word.)

The form to change your name on your car title is available online but you have to fill out the form to change your license at the DMV and sign it in front of a clerk. You can also change your voter registration with this form (cool!). It's free to change your car title, but $22 to get a new license. On the other hand, if you needed a reason to get married but didn't have a good one, you get a new driver's license picture. They even let me smile this time. I'm glad I wore a nice shirt.

When I got in the car, it was exactly 5:00. I had a nice dinner in downtown El Segundo with my husband to celebrate.

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