The dreaded name change. I’d heard about it from my few ‘wife’ friends. They spoke about changing their last names in the wide eyed way that one would think is reserved for those who have seen some messed up stuff. They spoke of the hours wasted at the Social Security Office or the DMV in hushed tones, like maybe if they said it loud enough they’d have to go back. To say that I wasn’t looking forward to shuffling in a crowded room with Orange County’s finest (and by finest I mean all of the individuals that look like they’re extras on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre set but suddenly really, really need to be at the DMV?) in the heat of summer is an understatement. And come to think of it, the idea of parting with my last name seemed absolutely archaic.
I’m an Uphoff. I’ve been an Uphoff for 26 years. I’m such an Uphoff. Throughout my lifetime, Uphoff had become synonymous with the many incredible attributes that are common in my three person family: loyal, tenacious, ass kickin’, hilarious, honest, smart…all things that I wholeheartedly believe my parents instilled in me. Nature vs Nuture, and all that. I’m an only child, and if I was only closer with my parents it would probably be considered weird. How could I just give up the thing that tied me to them?
I was born Olivia Ann Uphoff. My mom says that the minute she heard the name Olivia, she knew it would be the name of her someday daughter – despite the fact that she had been told by countless medical professionals that conceiving a child of her own would be next to impossible. A survivor of childhood cancer, my mom was not about to accept that kind of bullshit news. Seriously. My mom is the strongest person I’ve ever met. More on that later. A lot more. For five years my parents struggled to bring a little baby Uphoff into the world. Then I hit the scene. And when I say hit, I mean I hit that thing hard. I was born at 29 weeks, 11 weeks early (more on this later) to the happiest, most terrified and still totally badass parents in the game. 29 weeks in the cooker and I decided it was time I arrive, with a full head of hair, and thankfully (amazingly) I flourished in that NICU. I may have been the size of my dad’s palm, but I was ready to rock this life and with parents like mine, how could I not? I was given the middle name Ann after my fairy god mother who has been a true fairy god mother in every sense of the word. Like a second mother, she has taught me invaluable life lessons every young woman needs to know like: dancing is at it’s best when in the kitchen, dessert for dinner isn’t a luxury but simply smart planning, and every single person you meet has a story worth hearing. I could and will write an entire story on the life lessons of my Aunt Ann, lessons that I’ve always held incredibly dear to my heart but even more so of late, as in February Ann was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. While I’m not sure that I’m ready to pen my thoughts on the months that have followed such a diagnosis I think it’s safe to say this: Ann being part of my name is never something I will give up.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t particularly think Uphoff is pretty. It’s aggressive sounding, isn’t it? Sort of German, sort of Masculine, and definitely not something that a single person has ever made me feel is easy to spell. So ingrained in my mind that Uphoff isn’t an easy one I often will spell it out without a second thought: “Upho – ff like Frank Frank.” If I don’t include the Frank Frank, I promise you the other person will say “SS? UpHOSS?” No Barbara, no. UPHOFF. But whatever Uphoff is or isn’t, it’s mine. It’s my Dad. It’s my Mom. And it’s me. I’m the last Uphoff of my line, the only child and a female. A double whammy. Uphoff ends with me. Except that it doesn’t, really. You know? It’s in everything I do, it’s in my mannerisms and my style, it’s forever cemented in Google somewhere. Right? Right? Right. Don’t get me wrong. I am over the moon to be a wife, especially to the man I married – some days I have to resist the urge to pinch myself that I get to do forever with that dude. But the longest forever I’ve known so far has been the 26 years that I’ve been my parent’s daughter, Olivia Ann Uphoff. And changing it seemed like I was picking sides somehow – saying that I’d rather be married than be a daughter. Dramatic, I KNOW. I have girlfriends who have kept their last name, girlfriends who have taken their new husbands, and even girlfriends who combined their last name with their spouses to make a hybrid. It’s a personal choice, and one that I clearly didn’t make lightly. But ultimately, I realized that I wanted to honor the family I was creating with my husband in taking his last name. Adultish, I know.
So, that brings us back to this whole name change thing. I, ever the researcher, had done my due diligence. I had purchased a package with HitchSwitch – a company that markets themselves as a streamliner for the entire name changing process. Plot twist: it didn’t. You still need to sit your ass down and wait in the mercilessly un-airconditioned DMV and Social Security Offices, clutching your paperwork like it’s your one way ticket out of this bitch. You need to fill out that paperwork and get that picture taken, and wait your two to one thousand weeks like the rest of us for a little sliver of plastic proof that your name, and life, has changed. When we got engaged, my husband and I discussed it. He in fact went so far as one night to say: “Olivia Craig sounds really nice. And fancy.” Excuse the eff outta me. OLIVIA CRAIG? I am sure that my face matched surprise, and he immediately assured me he’d be ‘okay’ with me keeping Uphoff, but that adding Craig meant a lot to him. I never want to subject my kids to the never ending hyphens, and while I do absolutely identify with Uphoff, I had to admit that I tend to fall into the ‘traditional’ category. So, that was that. That’s how I found myself at the DMV with my mom, a week ago, going on hour three of wait time. I wasn’t bothered because I could literally sit in a cardboard box with my mom for an entire day and we wouldn’t run out of things to laugh about. But still. The DMV. Not a place that often finds us at our ‘best versions of ourselves’, no? They call my number and I practically break the sound barrier racing over to the poor teller. I excitedly and a bit manically (hey, you try waiting four hours in the summer heat) tell her I’m here to change my last name on my drivers license, and thrust my paperwork at the general vicinity of her face. She chuckles and adjusts her portable fan before taking a look at what I’m presenting her. She asks me how long we’ve been married and I, the total good student people pleaser, panic thinking that was a section of paperwork I missed. I hurriedly tell her a month, a month and a few weeks to be exact, but that it’s flown by so I could get her an exact day count and oh – she starts to laugh and reports that I’m ahead of the curve, it takes plenty of new spouses much longer. Realizing that we’re unexpectedly wading into the “friendly at the DMV” zone, I tell her how bizarre it seems to me that our entire identities change when we get married. Now she looks at me. She laughs. She flips through the paperwork, promptly punches a hole in my old license, and says fairly bluntly: “It changes nothin’ but paperwork, a name isn’t nearly as important as a marriage.” Well damn, Oprah Winfrey of the DMV. I’m sure she didn’t think she was imparting any shred of wisdom, just talking to some girl who seemed oddly hyped up on changing her name, but in that moment as she punched another hole through my old license I realized the simplest of things. I’d already shifted my identity in the most important way – I’d gained a partner who I would forever make decisions with, live life with, face challenges with. He’s as much a part of me now as a last name, because we’re connected in the most incredible way – we’ve promised forever to each other. My identity would always be me: an only child from all over, daughter of two amazing blondes, lover of English, dogs, rap music and stationery, friend, god daughter, and wife. Uphoff or Craig, I’ll always be me. And now I’m a wife. And someday, hopefully, a mother. All these wonderful titles, but I vow to never lose sight of everything that makes me who I am. Olivia Ann Uphoff Craig, (FF like Frank Frank and Craig, not Greg, thanks!)