What’s in a Name?

If you’ve lived in Sacramento long enough, you know that everyone’s favorite punch line—or punching bag, as it were—is the state government. Need something in a hurry? Don’t hold your breath. Need a dose of humanity? Just visit the DMV. Though a molasses-paced, maze-like bureaucracy is certainly not unique to Sacramento—I’m sure most cities in the U.S. have their fair share of complaints—it seems that residents of California’s capital are particularly eager to complain.

In light of this, what I say next might shock you. In my (admittedly limited) dealings with the County Clerk Recorder’s office, the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles, I have been pleasantly surprised.

Like most newlyweds, I drew a deep breath of dread when I realized I would not only have to figure out how to be a married person after exchanging rings and vows with my best friend—a daunting task all on its own—but that I would also have to change my name. My driver’s license. My credit cards. My passport. My identity.

As anyone who’s gone through the rigmarole will tell you, there’s an awful lot of paperwork that goes into being a human being—most you don’t even think about until you have to change it. (Does anyone really carry their Social Security card anymore?) In a mind-frying game of chick-or-egg, you must unravel the threads of your “you-ness” in order to reconstruct them as a newer, different you.

First stop: the County Clerk Recorder’s office. Before I arrived, I made sure to check the website at ccr.saccounty.net to find out what to bring (a good idea for any official endeavor). After waiting mere moments and being congratulated more than once by the desk clerk, my marriage certificate was filed and I could proceed to step two: the Social Security Administration. Thanks to the SSA’s particularly useful website (ssa.gov), I was able to arrive with my paperwork prepared. Another brief wait, followed by a very pleasant exchange with another congratulatory desk clerk, and I was on my way to being Mrs. Jessica Laskey.

Armed with my SSA receipt, I was able to head to the DMV and apply for a new license. (The receipt was all they required at the time, but make sure to check in case the rules have changed.) Being the smart Sacramentan I am, I took advantage of the online appointment system at dmv.gov—I suggest you do, too—and arrived with forms in hand. A quick appointment and always-atrocious photograph later, my new driver’s license had only to make its way through the mail (which it did in a delightfully timely fashion) and I was good to go.

The bottom line is, with a little compassion and patience, the name change game can be drama-free. Just check out the websites, prepare advance paperwork and smile.

You just got married, after all.

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