I was born Jean Ann Schoeb. These are simple, single syllable names without complications. I was named after my aunt and my god-mother, both lovely ladies, but the names together never felt like the right fit. To me, Jean Ann was the girl with the bouffant hair-do and poodle skirt, not me.
My mother loved the name Jean Ann and was determined that I would be called my full name. Unfortunately for her, as I grew old enough to have opinions, I was equally determined to be called Jeanie. As I got older and got married at the ripe old age of 19, I switched to Jean in an attempt to sound more mature. Mom complied with my preferences, but never understood my dislike for my full name.
We lived in Kansas when I learned to drive and I had full autonomy over how my name showed up on my driver’s license. For most of my adult life my driver’s license gave my legal name, Jean S. McGuire. Simple, sweet, easy. Then, nine years ago, I chose to move into the city and moved to the state of Missouri. (For those of you not from Kansas City, we’re a city that straddles both Kansas and Missouri, so moving between states is not a big deal.)
When I went to get my new Missouri driver’s license, I did my research and took my Kansas driver’s license with me along with a copy of my birth certificate. This is where it got ugly. The conversation went roughly like this:
DL bureaucrat: Name?
Me: Jean S. McGuire
DLB: Your birth certificate says your middle name is Ann.
Me: Yes, but I don’t use that. My legal name is Jean S. McGuire
DLB: You can’t have “S” as your middle name.
Me: I always have.
DLB: If you want the “S” you have to use your entire maiden name.
Me: They let me do it in Kansas.
DLB: You can’t do it here.
(Repeat the above assertions 3 or 4 times for a more accurate representation of the actual conversation.)
Finally, petulantly, Me: Fine, whatever.
So, to the State of Missouri, I became Jean Ann Schoeb McGuire. My driver’s license has had all four of my names for as long as I’ve lived in Missouri. It made it a pain in the butt when I traveled, but it really had no overreaching impact on my life. Until recently.
In April I had a minor surgery scheduled and when I got to the hospital, I was surprised to find that every piece of paperwork had all four names on it. I didn’t think that much of it at the time, I was more concerned with getting the procedure over and moving on with my life. But it felt weird to see my full name on everything I saw.
Then, when I returned from vacation last week, I found that I brought back an unintentional souvenir: the original strain of the H1N1 flu virus. It was a wicked guest and I landed back in the hospital for two days. I don’t know if you know this, but when you’re in the hospital these days, it seems like they can’t hand you a Kleenex without asking you for your name and date of birth. For the entire two days I had to recite all four names every time I had blood drawn, meds given or my vitals taken. Every. Single. Time.
Even though I felt like mashed ass that had been put in a can and kicked up and down the street a few times, I eventually started to get amused. I began reciting it in a sing-song voice that amused at least me, if not anyone else.
When I got home from the hospital I had to call the administrative department of the hospital to update some insurance information. While I had them on the phone, I asked them if there was anything that could be done to change my name back to the one I prefer. The woman was very kind and completely understood and said she couldn’t do a damn thing about it. As long as all four names are on my driver’s license, they have to use that on their records. I didn’t even bother to point out that they were fine using just two names for almost the entire nine years I’ve lived here.
I realize there’s no point in getting upset, and I might as well get used to it. What I also began to realize is that there was a higher power working to effect this name change. A higher power called Mom. You see, I’ve become pretty convinced that even though it took her 58 years and she had to die to do it, my mom finally figured out a way to force me to use the name she loved. Every time I think about it I imagine I can hear her giggling. All I can do is offer a tip of my hat to the angelic victor.
Well-played Mom, well-played.