It seems like a while ago since I somehow managed to scribble a whole post about how I came up with the name “Michelle”. Kind of a no brainer, don’t you think? Anyway, this isn’t about that; even I have some limitations regarding what I’ll subject you to. Today let’s talk about the fun process of legally changing one’s name. Let’s say it’s been less fun than my trip to the DMV 18 years ago when my license and all identifying documentation was stolen in broad daylight stick up. Story for another time, but proving I was me was no picnic and in the end I got a ‘pity license’, something I’m sure has not happened since.
The experts advised me to lawyer up and get it done, but my sense of rugged self determination compounded with my loathing to pay someone to do something as simple as paperwork led me in the opposite direction. Besides, if I left it to someone else I would undoubtedly be “Michele Wolfe” right now. Trust me, it already happens a lot more than you think. I turned to a friend who just completed her own and received some extraordinarily helpful information. As it turns out, NYS in a fit of enlightened generosity, saw fit to stick some Do It Yourself (DIY) forms on the internet. 1-2-3, easy peasy, I’d be absolved of the loathsome process of producing a male license and cracking wise about it being a bad hair day. Yay! Of course this would be a real sleeper if it all worked that way.
I filled out my forms, inserted the boilerplate reasoning circulating around and printed it out. On an off Friday I schlepped down to the County Clerk’s office to figure out what to do next. The instructions were not terribly clear. There were a few pointers my friend left out. Tip #1: try not to wear a shitload of metal jewelry when you are going somewhere with a metal detector. Tip #2: there are multiple County Clerk’s Offices in the same building, none of which are marked “Turn In Your Name Change Paperwork Here, Stupid”. Tip #3: carry an umbrella in your purse when parking a mile away. Ugh.
After waiting in the wrong line for a while, I was directed to the right one and waited there. I got to the clerk, or whatever they are called, and proudly produced my immaculately perfectly filled out forms, birth certificate and declared with a lofty flourish that yes, I indeed have them notarized. She pretended not to be impressed, but I think she was. She took it out on me by shuffling through my paperwork with exaggerated confusion. “No, no, no.. this doesn’t make any sense! This should be here, and I don’t even know what this is…” Eventually she concluded that I violated government inefficiency by using a double sided print setting to save on paper; an abominable affront to the old growth logging industry. I was sent packing over to the law library in a heavy downpour with my worthless notarized forms.
The law library has a desk set up for people just like me, with a large neon sign above that reads, “Fucked it up, didn’t ya?”. I waited once again behind other people who fucked up their own paperwork. When it was my turn, she was very helpful, set me up with a computer to redo my forms and print them out. She advised, however, that I’d have to have them re-notarized. Any bank would do. With my second print out, I asked someone else where I could find the nearest notary. “Oh, she’s a notary”, she said pointing to the very woman who advised me earlier to go find a bank. Nice. I waited in line again and got my stuff notarized (she seemed grumpy that I found her out), then headed back out into the rain.
After that it was smooth sailing. I waited in line and bought me an index number. I then hand carried my forms over to another line and waited to turn them in, just to have someone dump them in a basket on the desk. Two weeks later I received my forms in the mail, rubber stamped for approval for my two hundred some bucks. I then had to make another trip downtown, park, and wait in line to simply hand my approved forms to a woman who put them into a different basket. Only an hour and a half, plus parking, just to have them end up in a basket a scant 100 feet from where they were approved by the judge. Madness. Oh, it wasn’t over yet!
Originally, my friend advised some clever wording to avoid having to publish my name change to make it official. I included this on my original, misprinted form, but in the mean time someone caught wise and they removed the option. Bastards. This meant a trek from the County Clerk over to the Buffalo Law Journal so I could take out a personal ad no one would ever read for an additional $45, even though putting it on Craigslist would ensure wider distribution and free, but the judge seemed inclined to help out the old boys at the journal who probably needed the cash, since he specified them and only them. I know, I know, I was too weary to protest though and just wanted the thing done.
Now we are all caught up to the present, and I have the feeling Part II is coming shortly after I have to go to the DMV, explain things to the bank, as well as some additional inflexible organizations. Should be a hoot!