"Starting in August, you can't use nicknames on boarding passes." The TSA agent smiled at me, pointing at the Genie on my boarding pass and the Genevieve on my driver's license. I stammered out an "oh, ok" and continued through the "expert traveler" line. And as I walked away, I was a little annoyed. It's not like I walked up with a boarding pass that says Skippy or Booger on it. Genie seems like a reasonable approximation of Genevieve as much as John is for Johnathan. What fascinates me more, though, is that she didn't seem to care that my boarding pass said Powell and my driver's license says Stryker.
My full name is Genevieve Alisa Powell Stryker. My father picked out the names Genevieve Alisa and decided that I would be called Genie for short. At one point I was going to be named Carrie Elizabeth after his mother but she balked at it. Truth be told, as much as I love my grandmother, I'm happy to have my own names.
I love my names. All of them. I love the uniqueness of Genevieve and Alisa. I love the shortened name of Genie. I love that I have the same initials as my father George Allen.
When Jeremy and I were getting married, I asked my parents if they had an opinion on how I changed my name. I wanted to take Jeremy's last name (Grimm is a pretty cool name). I wanted to be Mrs. Grimm. But I was only 21 and I wasn't quite ready to give up being a Powell. My parents, being who they are, said they had no opinion and I could do whatever I wanted. I chose to drop the Alisa so that I would have my birth last name on legal documents and the initials of GPG seemed a bit more appealing than GAG.
Jeremy and I were married for three and a half years. I realized that I liked the idea of being Mrs. Grimm, but I wasn't really enjoying everything else that came with it. When our divorce was final, I went about restoring my name back to its original. And that's a lot harder than it seems.
For those of you who haven't divorced, let me fill you in on how that works. It's nothing like getting married (in many many ways). There is no simple one page form that you get at city hall called a "divorce certificate." The only proof I have that I was no longer Genevieve Powell Grimm is nine pages long and mixed in with the details of who is taking which shares of debt and the reasons for our divorce. Not exactly something you want to fax to your credit card company to get a new name on your card.
As I went through all the machinations of getting my name back, I realized that names are not really as simple as we were all lead to believe. You will always be the person that is on your birth certificate. It is one of the versions of you. You don't ever truly lose that name. No one hands you a new birth certificate at the church when you get married. So as I worked my way through all the paperwork, I realized I was never going to going to get rid of Grimm. And thankfully, I'm okay with that.
I changed my name at work back to Powell. But being the ripe age of 24, everyone assumed it was because I had gotten married and not divorced. Customers on the phone would says "oh congratulations!" and I would say "thanks, but it's not for what you think." I also learned that as long as I keep paying the gas bill, it's really more trouble than it's worth to try to get the bill to come to Genie Powell instead of Janie Grimm. Janie Grimm just kept writing checks until Rich and I moved out of that house last year.
So many women want to salt the earth when it comes to their names, perhaps because they never really liked it in the first place. And for those of us who truly do love all our names, we are led to believe that we have to sacrifice something as part of the marriage. Either give up the middle name to keep your birth last name as a middle, drop your birth last name and replace it with your husband's last name, or keep your name and be the odd one out as your children all become a part of your husband's clan. Sure, you can get creative with names, but most of us see the previous three as our only choices.
Having gone back to my original name after the divorce I realized how much it meant to me. My father was born and raised on Powell Road. We talked in our house about what Powells do and how that clan interacts. In particular, I really wanted to have Alisa back. I use geniealisa as my username for nearly everything and it made me sad to have lost the documentation for that part of me. So from 2002 to 2007, I rocked out with my birth name, owning it far more than I ever did from 1977 to 1998.
And then Rich came along. And we decided to get married. And I wanted to be a part of his clan as well. I ruminated over the possible choices once again. After we were married, I took my paperwork to the social security office, unsure of how I would leave the building. I sat down with an elderly clerk in the office and he asked me what I wanted to change my name to. I told him that I just wanted to add another name and bump everything up one. He looked confused at first until I smiled and said, "I'm a pack rat, even with names." He laughed and said if I could spell it all out for him he'd do whatever I wanted. So I now have two first names - Genevieve Alisa. My middle name is Powell and my last name is Stryker. I signed everything and we shook hands and within a week I had a new driver's license that said Stryker, Genevieve Alisa Powell. Pretty simple, hunh?
Simple until the rest of the world gets involved. I have one credit card that says Genevieve A Stryker and another that says Genevieve P Stryker, both through the same bank. I have mail that comes to Genie P Stryker and Genie A Stryker. Our Honda was sold to Genevieve Alisa P Stryker. And the damn gas bill still comes to Gennie Striker (seriously, people, this is not that hard).
I also made a conscious decision to keep my birth name at work. In the last five years, I had become much more vocal in my work's community and everyone knew me as Genie Powell. I also worked in the same company as my new husband and he was pretty visible with new clients as well. I didn't want to be "Rich's wife" and more importantly I didn't want him to be "Genie's husband" as the first point of contact.
Thus began the journey of living as two separate people. When I walk into the office, I am Genie Powell. I register for conferences with that name, I answer the phone as that name, I use email as that name. I am that person. And when I leave the office and go home, just like Mr. Rogers I take off my Powell blazer and put on my Stryker cardigan. I answer personal emails and phone calls as Genie Stryker, I live my life as Mrs. Stryker. And instead of feeling torn between two worlds, I feel like I have the best of everything. All of these names are mine.
When I travel, I hand the TSA agent a boarding pass that says Genie Powell (the same name on all my business credit cards) and a driver's license that says Genevieve Alisa Powell Stryker. And for a little over two years now not one agent has even batted an eye. I actually get more grief from the Southwest Airlines ticket agents worried that I won't be able to claim my checked bag once I land. We shall see when I get on a plane Monday morning if someone will suddenly care that I'm Genevieve and not Genie or even Stryker and not Powell.
When I got married the first time, I worried about giving up a name and gnashed my teeth at the unfairness of women in our culture having to choose something to sacrifice. After divorcing and re-marrying, I realized that I actually get to keep all those names. I have more aliases than some secret agents, I'm sure, but they're all me.
My name is Genevieve Alisa Powell Stryker, but you can call me Genie.