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The Name Game



Four years ago I married the Professor. Four years ago I thought it would be a great idea to change my middle name to my pen name, Belle, while also changing my last name (hyphenated with my maiden) to reflect my marriage. I filled out my paperwork and off I went to Social Security. I asked the young, pimply guy if I could also change my middle name from Beth to Belle at the same time I was changing my middle name from Maiden to Maiden-Married.

“Sure!” he said. “Why?”

“Because Belle is my pen name and I would like to take it as a legal middle name.”


“Is that all I have to do?” I asked.

“Yep. You are good to go.”

And that was that. I updated my bank accounts, my health insurance, my everything with the new name of Sarah Belle Maiden-Married.

My reasons for changing the middle name are complex. I had blogged under Belle for many years (even before Scrambled Eggs came along), I never felt any spiritual attachment to Beth, many friends at the time called me Belle or Sarah Belle and, honestly, I wanted the chance to reinvent myself. I knew our time in Kentucky was limited and looked towards our next home as the chance to officially shift to exclusively being called Belle.

Time passed and three years later we moved to New York. Here was my bright, shining chance to reinvent myself. No one knew me here so I could easily introduce myself as Belle but… I didn’t. It just did not flow off my tongue like I had hoped. I realized that Belle worked so naturally with my friends in Alabama because they were the ones who had given me the nickname. In Alabama, being called Belle is something that the people I know and connect deeply with do. Yes, I have made excellent friends in NY who I also hold dear, but it just didn’t feel right to have them call me Belle.

A year after moving to NYC and I’m still stalled in my career and identity, even with a shiny new middle name. I have irons in three different fires and not one of them feels “right.” Is this the fault of the name? Oh my gosh, no. I know that a name does not make or break the person. Taking the middle name Belle, though, had a lot of spiritual significance but at this particular junction in my life, I feel very little connection to it.

Belle is a nickname. My bloggers who I love know me as it and some of my nearest, dearest friends call me it. And that is all.

So now we get to the really sticky, annoying part of this journey – my social security card says it.

I have been trying for SIX freaking months now to get an NY drivers license so we can please get a car so I can please get to a grocery store and PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD select my own produce ( continued car rant for another day). Each time I go to the DMV, which requires excruciating planning with Sabine and a bus and train ride, I am turned down. The first two times I did not have proper documentation (you need everything just shy of a blood type here) and the third time I was rejected because I did not have court paperwork for changing my middle name.

What? According to the social security kid I had changed it when I changed my last name. And it was legal. And binding. And I did not have to do anything else. Turns out he was wrong. Quite wrong actually, and I never should have been allowed to change my middle name at the time of changing my last name due to marriage.

I have spent the past four weeks digging into what I can do to correct this problem. I can’t get a driver’s license and now my KY license is expired. My passport is still in my maiden name because I’m lazy and cheap and saw no reason to update it till travel made it necessary. I’ve been living under this assumed name for four years now and bought a house under it and no one questioned.

After a lot of researching (and being treated like a criminal at times) I was presented with two options:

  1. Go to court and legally change it.
  2. Go to the social Social Security Office and change my middle name back to Beth.

Honestly, neither are attractive and both require an insane amount of work. If I change it back to Beth I have to update everything that has Belle on it, including poor Sabine’s birth certificate. Changing it back would be a relatively quick fix, though, and should mean I can have a NY license in the next two weeks AND that we can finally get a car (so I can please buy groceries the old-fashioned way).

This entire ordeal has prompted a sort of identity crisis for me. Sarah Beth was a successful editor and communications pro. Sarah Belle… well, she is just stuck. The realist side of me totally knows this has nothing to do with what my name is, but my spiritual self is convinced otherwise. My solution? Hide from the problem and drink beer!

Not really, but boy do I wish.

Today I went to Social Security and had it changed back to Beth. Once I have my new card I will update all my other things and then proceed on like nothing happened, with a happy NY drivers license and, hopefully, a happy little NY car.

Do I feel any different now that I’m back to Sarah Beth legally and remain Sarah Belle in the blog world and with my dearest friends? Nope. Am I any more clear on my place in life and what I’m supposed to do career wise? Nope. Am I finally finishing this fiasco so I can hopefully start dedicating some real time to the core issue here (my career crisis)? Yep.

So there you have it. That is where I have been, and will likely continue to be for a while. I am sure this is not the last you have heard of the career crisis either.



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  1. September 2, 2014

    Hmmm I changed my middle name when I took my husband’s last name and I haven’t had a problem getting a CT drivers license, a IL drivers license, a new passport, etc. Maybe it’s because I dropped my middle name and moved my maiden name to be my middle name and that is something that a lot of people do?

    • September 2, 2014

      Yes. That is totally ok. Changing your middle name to anything other the your maiden name, however, is not. Go figure!

    • September 2, 2014

      Me too. I have two middle names (so stupid!) and did that by keeping my given middle name and adding my maiden name. No issues here either… But probably because there’s only space for one middle name on forms which defaults to my given middle name.

      I would un-do my change if I could… Or if I wasn’t too lazy.

  2. robin #
    September 2, 2014

    In my head you’re always Sarah Belle. I do think names have significance. I haven’t changed my last name to my husband’s last name but I am still thinking about it (5 years after getting married). I like my name but I feel like I haven’t gone anywhere with it, maybe it would be good to change it. I have had two unsuccessful careers already with this name! Good luck continuing as Sarah Beth, maybe Sarah Beth can find her way in this city!!

  3. September 2, 2014

    I took my husband’s last name when we got married, but since moving to Quebec and dealing with their healthcare system, I’ve had a bit of an identity crisis, too. Here, they put your maiden name on your health insurance card. It’s been a bit weird to be called by my maiden name after not using it for eight years, even though I fully intended to hang onto it as my pen name (if I ever publish anything!). I hope the transition back to Sarah Beth is a smooth one, even if it’s just on paper (or plastic)!

    • September 2, 2014

      Oh that would be so stranger after 8 years!!

  4. Mo #
    September 2, 2014

    We need to talk about this when we meet up in NY. (Messaging you about this in the next couple of days, promise!) 🙂

    • September 2, 2014

      Yay visiting in NY!! Can’t wait!

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