I sat there in the incredibly crowded room thinking, this must violate fire code. I was sandwiched between two strangers and I wished I had remained standing rather than sitting in this seat… Standing isn’t so bad. This place is more packed than the DMV.
Finally, my name was called and I walked to the open window. I proudly presented my marriage certificate. “I’d like to change my last name, please.”
Within minutes, I was done. A new name. I couldn’t wait to get home and celebrate this very official step with my husband.
I picked up some red wine and the ingredients to make a pepperoni pizza (our standard celebratory meal) and rushed home.
For me, my last name change wasn’t just about being AJ’s wife, although that was the best part of it. It was also a way to free myself from the last name that connected me to my biological father. For the last eight years, we were estranged and I wore my maiden name as a title that connected me with someone who didn’t want me. I was reminded of that toxic relationship every time I said my own name. One day, I would take my husband’s name and shed that title I had by no choice of my own. I waited to find the right person and take the right title. I selected my new title carefully. I was looking for a partner that not only wanted me, but would always fight for me. Always defend my title.
As I drove home to AJ that night, I felt completely at ease with my new title. My new name. My name took on new meaning. I was a wife and I was part of a new family. I felt so proud to wear that name. I felt proud of my choice to be AJ’s wife.
Fast forward one year.
I should have been getting ready to celebrate my second full year of marriage, but instead, I was looking at divorce papers with a serious question to answer.
“Do you wish to keep your married name, or return to your maiden name?”
I thought about both names. Each of them meant something to me. I ultimately decided to keep my married name. It’s easy, people never mispronounce it, and this title was my choice.
I was, however, being saddled with a different title as I signed those papers; “divorcee”.
Twenty-eight and divorced. That was not a title I never wanted to earn. This title clung to me like the way a bad scent sticks to clothes. I couldn’t mask it. I couldn’t get rid of it. That title is here to stay.
At first, I tried to convince myself that this new title didn’t matter. I tried to act like it didn’t shape me. Like it didn’t change things.
It changed everything. It changes the way I think about dating. It changes how I view marriage. It changed me.
Everyone saw the change. I wasn’t wearing my ring. My name on Facebook changed and photos of “us” started to disappear.
Every move I made cemented that title on me more.
New title – DIVORCED.
Same legal name, different title.
Ms. Sharpe. Twenty-eight and divorced. What are people going to think of this?
We are all products of the things we have experienced in our lives, both good and bad. I felt incredibly ashamed and embarrassed of my failed marriage, initially. I felt how people pitied me and they would say things like “Oh, I’m sorry… congratulations?”. I felt the empty spot on my finger where my ring once was, showing the world I took on a title I was proud of.
Now, I feel more like I have earned a badge of honor. I don’t see myself as a victim, I see myself as a victor. I don’t look at the love that was lost, I look at the love I was able to give to someone. I don’t see failure, I see a lesson.
What’s in a name or title? As with anything, there are positives and negatives, but don’t let a title or name define you. I don’t feel defined by the title “divorcee”. My divorce has shaped me, but a divorcee is not all I am. Shed the titles and names and define your damn self.