“I can just put you on my policy,” my husband said one afternoon while we were discussing car insurance.
I recently totaled my car, thus sparking the debate about what kind of car I should get to replace it and whose insurance plan was better. Turns out, his plan offers comparable coverage for a cheaper price. It seemed like a simple decision, but it didn't feel that way. It felt like one more way I was slowly losing my identity since we got married less than a year ago.
I had mixed feelings about changing my name but was leaning toward keeping it -- even though I could go on a tirade about being saddled with a moniker like "Richlin-Zack" for my whole life. Scantrons be damned! But that's a story for another time. Suffice to say, it's like a battle scar that I learned to wear proudly and I shouldn't have to lose it just because I'm getting married.
I broached the subject with my soon-to-be husband shortly before our wedding and he seemed genuinely disappointed. As much as I wanted to keep my maiden name, I also didn't want to disappoint my husband. And, secretly, I relished the idea of taking his monosyllabic, easy-to-understand-over-the-phone last name. Scantrons be damned!
But from the moment I agreed to change my name, I felt like my whole identity was slowly slipping away. The actual name change was both traumatic and exciting. I remember sending a picture of my new driver's license to my husband as I was leaving the DMV with an enthusiastic accompanying message. And then I cried because it occurred to me that "Kate Richlin-Zack" was a non-entity in the state of NJ.
Poof. Just like that, she was gone. Then we started combining things out of convenience: joint checking accounts, credit cards, renters insurance. On paper, everything was slowly moving under his name, including me.
I hadn't openly protested any of the combining. It all made perfect sense. But the car insurance was the last straw. When he suggested we use his policy, I couldn't hide it anymore and I just burst into tears right in front of him.
You're probably thinking, "What are you crying about? You agreed to this! And besides, who wouldn’t want someone else paying their credit card bills, their insurance fees? You have one less monthly expense to worry about! Are you crazy?” Thanks for berating me while I’m crying, asshole, but don’t worry, I asked myself the same questions.
Am I crazy? Without a doubt. And I’ll be the first to admit it, which is precisely why this is not about car insurance.
He offered to let me make the payments for the car itself if it would make me feel better. I have to give him credit for being able to figure out exactly what bothered me and propose a solution that might make me feel better about it.
It didn’t matter. Being on his car insurance just solidified that I’m someone else. I’m different.
But when I think about it, I’ve been different versions of me throughout my whole life.
I’m no longer 8 years old, playing with my Barbie dolls, running home from school to watch “She-Ra,” and arguing with my mom about seeing the math tutor. I’m not 16 years old, doodling on my Trapper Keeper, agonizing about my GPA, and gazing longingly at the Brad Pitt poster hanging on my bedroom wall wondering if I was ever going to have a boyfriend. I’m not the 24-year-old version of me either. I’m not overweight and desperately unhappy, nor am I debating the pros and cons of quitting my job and going to graduate school. I’m not even the 29-year-old version of me, when I was actually in graduate school, chomping at the bit to get back to the “real world,” and wondering if my boyfriend was ever going to propose.
I am the 32-year-old version of me. I still write in my journal like I have since I was 8, only now sometimes I double check my grammar and submit it for publication. I still think a pint of ice cream can fix any problem, only now I sometimes chase it with a glass or two of pinot noir. I still agonize over what I’m going to be when I grow up, only now I’ve eliminated a few options from my list -- and, for the record, astronaut and fairy princess are still perfectly viable options.
After 32 years of reinventing myself, the only thing that’s truly different is my name. Essentially, I gave up a label, dating, and the ability to sleep like a starfish on both sides of the bed (which I can still do when my husband is travelling for work). In return, I got someone who loves me and supports me unconditionally by CHOICE, and he promised to do so until death do us part. Hmm. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a fair exchange.
Even if I am giving up who I was, it’s not something I haven’t done before. I’ve given up things along the way because I’ve grown up along the way. Theoretically, I probably should have changed my name 10 times by now.
I’m still me. I’m just a different version of me. That's how I'm justifying it to myself, anyway. Are there any other conflicted name-changers and car-insurance-sharers out there?