I have been traveling a lot lately. That means staying in hotels, a task I am well acquainted with. These days it has been a source of anguish. Why?
When I check into a hotel I am met with the standard ‘Credit card and ID’ request. I slip these two from my purse and present them. The clerk looks them over and then it happens. My smiling face is right there on my TDL along with the name ‘Jeffery Paul Herbst’. This usually causes a slight double take. Look at picture, look at me. Long blond hair, check. Blue eyes, check. Same smile, check. But of course the name and the person standing there simply don’t check. I don’t look like a ‘Jeffrey Paul’.
This has led me to pursue a legal name change, something simple in concept, but with a tedious list of steps to complete.
The obvious first, and often underestimated step is what do you change it to? When I first decided to explore my feminine side, I thought long and hard about what I was to be called. The name Jess was chosen for its simplicity and the similarity to the name everyone already knew me by. I had been called Jeff for as long as I can remember, but my name was Jeffrey.
I believed that I would need a longer more formal form of Jess for my official name. I knew too many Jessica’s so it was out. A google search led me to Jesilyn and its various spellings. OK, I could live with that. But it was not popular with my wife or kids.
Back to the search and I found Jessa and liked it, my kids liked it and even my wife signed off on it. So now what to do with the middle name ‘Paul’? This has been the least used name I have had the pleasure of owning. Over the years I’ve often been called ‘Jeff’ or by my last name, or nicknames bestowed on me by my friends - Herby, Doctor and Mr. Wizard are a few that come to mind. No one has ever called me Paul.
I went to my family history for this task and after a few stumbles settled on Helene, my fathers sister who died in childhood. I remember him speaking of her fondly and just liked the name.
Next step was filling out the paperwork and filing it at the courthouse. This is when my wife stepped back in to the debate asking if it made any sense to have a name that would rarely be used, and only had a single letter difference from the nickname. I had to overcome the notion that my first name must to be a longer formal version of my everyday name. I was reminded that my own daughter’s name is Lauren, no long version, no nickname version, just Lauren. A little thought brings dozens of examples to mind. She was right and Jessa became just Jess.
The form is filed, and fingerprints have been sent to Austin for a background check, a requirement in Texas. So now I just wait for clearance from the DPS and get an appointment before a judge.
When they asks the reason for a name change, I think they will do the same double take and have their answer!