It seems I have an aspect to my personality that I never knew about, an alter ego, if you will.

By day, I’m a journalist, name alliterated in the tradition of comic book reporters and photographers everywhere. By night, I turn into… someone’s freaking wife.

This utterly wifely aspect is one of the reasons I chose to keep my name when marrying. We both kept our names. That sounds fair. That sounds… equal. It sounds like something women’s libbers were fighting for. I have a job, I drive a car, my name is on the property contract and yet… our wonderful home affairs department decided for me that I am done with my surname.

You know what? I like my surname. I’ve grown rather attached to it these past 22 years and I’m not ready to part with it now, nor will I ever be. I’m sick of generations of strong wonderful women being separated from their history and latched onto some male.

Okay, I understand that my name comes from a male, my father, but I’m sure no matter how far back I trace the women in my bloodline, the name will always be male. So I’ve decided the buck stops here. I’ve even considered having our as-yet-unconceived daughter taking my name and seeing how far we can run with this female line thing.

When I went to vote (thank goodness I still have that right) the name on the voter’s roll was not the same as the name on my ID, my driver’s licence or any documentation I use to prove I am who I am. Instead, I had my husband’s surname. I thought it was just a little glitch.

Getting to work on Thursday a colleague of mine (who also chose to keep her name) and I were discussing it, because the same thing had happened to her. Her phone call to home affairs confirmed it. We are not who we think we are. We are “and wife”.

Now, it is possible to go change it. But my problem is, why was it changed in the first place? I did not ASK for it to be changed. I didn’t phone up home affairs and request new documentation. I have never once on a form ticked the “Mrs” box or listed my surname as my married name.

So, I’ve been gleefully bounding along since October thinking I was still me. Relieved that I was saved all that trouble and admin of changing my name. Hmph! Now I have to schlep on down to home affairs and ask for my damn surname back! Those dadblasted good-for-nothing surname stealers!

For any woman getting married who wants to keep her surname, please remember to apply for surname retention. I’m not sure how one does it, but contact home affairs (and blog on it, for posterity), otherwise you too will find your identity has changed over night.

Found this on the home affairs website, maybe it will help:

Section 26: Change of surname of majors

In terms of section 26(1), a woman may assume her husband’s surname, or revert to her maiden surname or a prior surname she legally bore and since 1997 a woman may also join her surname with that of her husband’s as a double-barrelled surname. No application to the Department of Home Affairs is necessary in these instances, but to enable the Department to update the Population Register, women should notify the Department of such changes in writing.
http://www.home-affairs.gov.za/personal_amendments.asp

Notice how it’s “revert” instead of “retain”. Pah!

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