Diary of a Marriage: Name Changer

If a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, why am I having so much trouble switching mine?

I spend every day straddling two identities—pre- and post-marriage—and sometimes I get them confused. At work, I’m Emily Goulet. According to my driver’s license, I’m still Emily Gagne. And I give both names to my doctor, dentist, insurance company and bank, because I forget which one they have on file.

I’ve been married for over three years and still haven’t officially changed my name. I don’t know why this little task seems so difficult—a trip to the DMV, some paperwork and I’ll officially be a Goulet. So why am I putting it off?

One of my closest friends changed her name immediately post-wedding without a second thought. We went out to lunch shortly after she got married, and she signed “Kennedy” on the credit card receipt as if it had been her signature all along. I was flabbergasted. I practiced signing my new name for months pre-wedding—how would I link the ‘g’ and the ‘o’?—and still sometimes subconsciously reverted to my maiden ‘Gagne’ when signing my name. I felt horrible.

It didn’t help that J. had quietly resigned himself to the fact that I was comfortably settled in the weird middle ground between ditching one surname and adopting another. I wasn’t still a Gagne, but I wasn’t fully a Goulet. I was content picking up prescriptions with the following explanation: “It’s under Goulet. Or, actually, it might be Gagne. Try Goulet first…”  J. wasn’t pressuring me, or throwing a temper tantrum about it. He just shook his head when friends discovered that, yes, I write under my married name, but legally, I’m still a Gagne.

I recently went to dinner with an old friend who still hasn’t officially changed her name either. She’s been married for over two years. But her hang-up is more understandable than mine: A blonde-haired, blue-eyed Irish girl, she’d be shedding her last name (with an apostrophe!) for a Jewish one—her husband was born in Israel. Hello, identity crisis.

I guess I have it easy. I’m making a small lateral move from one French-Canadian name to another. Plus, both start with ‘G’—I won’t even have to change my monogram! Still, after my sister, our family name will peter out. I’ll stop getting asked if I’m related to hockey great Simon Gagne, and people will start asking if I know cheesy crooner Robert Goulet (no to both, for the record).

I’m starting to come around, though. The two-names thing is slowly getting old, and that nearly undetectable pause before saying my last name is gone. Writing my signature correctly is a cinch now, too, and I’m beginning to like my new-ish name. I’ve even started to respond to “Mrs. Goulet,” instead of looking around for my mother-in-law. Still, a part of me will always identify myself as a Gagne. I don’t think that will ever change. But to my pharmacist, doctor, banker, insurance guy, dentist and you, I’m a Goulet. Mrs. Emily Goulet.

And I’ll make it official—just as soon as I get around to it.

Married ladies: Did you have trouble changing your name, or did you do it right away? And if you’re engaged, what’s your plan? How does your groom feel about the situation?


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