Name game

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” A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

— William Shakespeare

What’s in a name? Everything until you go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) and find out you don’t know your own.

There was a time I could easily renew my driver’s license. Every four years or so I would lie about my weight, pose for a truly terrible photo and be on my way.

Then, our government decided that in order to ever fly or visit a military base, we must have “compliant” licenses. As someone who raised children who like to be on the move, it’s entirely likely I will want to do both those things.

I figured this would be easy. Surely, the government would not place undue burden upon citizens during a pandemic with archaic rules that unfairly target married women for extra hassle and expense?

Well, I hope you are sitting down when I tell you that is exactly what the government did.

Double standard

For men, their identity has always been the same. Women, on the other hand, have often followed the social standard to make name changes.

I was told I would need a birth certificate, social security card, marriage license and something mailed to me with my full name and address such as an IRS statement.

Good enough for federal taxes should be good enough for the BMV right? Wrong.  I was unable to renew my drivers license because they were unable to read my birth certificate.

To their credit, the employees at the BMV were so nice. You have to feel for the associate sliding this ancient document gingerly out of an envelope. She had to be wondering how to tell the old broad with the Farrah flip hair and an unearned sense of youth that her birth certificate had crumbled to dust. She practically blew the cobwebs off the paper.

So, I left the BMV empty handed and headed out to order a copy of my birth certificate. That was another $21 and 10-day wait. This is an additional cost not only in obtaining the document but in lost time and travel.

Trip two

Fresh new copy of my birth certificate in hand, I headed off to the BMV with Mr. Wonderful. This isn’t our idea of a good time hot date. He just needed license plates. Still, it’s good to have witnesses.

We entered the BMV where they dutifully social distanced us, despite the fact that we rode together in the same car.  Okay, rules are rules. I get that. I waved from across the room and giggled over it.

At the counter, I handed over my new birth certificate and documents that had previously been approved. Now they were not approved. Everything I had in hand, legal documents, marriage certificate and former driver’s license, spelled my name as it should be: Kymberly.

My newly reprinted birth certificate showed my name spelled “Kimberly.” In light of that cunning and trickery, the jig was up.  Clearly, I must be a spy.

For the record, this was not news to me. I have graduated, held jobs, married, paid taxes, renewed licenses, been bonded for government jobs and filled out birth certificates for the humans we created. Along the way, I have pointed out that my given name is “Kymberly,” but that my birth certificate does not actually match that.

It matters

I was told every step of the way from the 1980s on that this really “didn’t matter.” I can distinctly recall being told that as long as the pronunciation was the same, no one really cared. I even got a new social security card in 2010. They shrugged and handed it over like “close enough!”  Today, it matters very much.

First, they questioned my marriage certificate. How could “Kymberly” and “Kimberly” possibly be the same person? Mr. Wonderful, standing at the next window, perked right up. I think he thought, momentarily, that it wasn’t valid. I assured him that however we spelled it, he was stuck with me.

Then, we pondered how to fix it. It was suggested I just change my driver’s license to match my birth certificate: “Kimberly.” That, however, would definitely raise red flags if I ever tried to get on an airplane. As it well should.

Every other aspect of my life since childhood has been “Kymberly.” Changing everything to match a name I have never used definitely seemed suspicious — this coming from someone who has apparently been living under an alias her whole life.

For the record, Mr. Wonderful has been divorced prior to marrying me and had to produce no documentation at all. He finds this hilarious and enjoys referring to me as America’s Most Wanted.

It was less funny to him when I reminded him that I may be an undercover criminal, but he drove the getaway car.


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