I have a name. It arrived in the mail last week. Bonney Lee Eva King. That’s me. An official declaration by the Province of British Columbia on January 23, 2014. It was printed on one of those cheesy government certificates that are the same color as our fifty dollar bill. So it must be real.
Truth is, it feels surreal. And ironic.
Surreal, because it’s been a long time coming. I was 24 when I learned I wasn’t who I thought I was. Some of you know this story from a previous blog post called, “What Happens in 204 Stays in 204 and the Fine Art of Secret Keeping.”
The truth about my mistaken identity was revealed by the government of Canada when my ex-husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, and I decided to go to Europe. We mailed off our passport applications and within weeks he got his, no sweat. All I got was a letter from the government saying, essentially, that I didn’t exist.
Ridiculous. Preposterous. Insane. Impossible. Laughable if it wasn’t happening to me.
Little back story on the back story.
This is the conversation between me and Ma the night I called her to find out what the hell was going on. Taken from that original blog post, it went down something like this:
“Ma, a strange thing happened when I tried to get my passport.”
“What’s that dear?”
“I got this letter from the government saying I don’t exist.”
“Glo told me everything Ma.”
Silence followed. By a pregnant pause. By more silence.
“Ma why didn’t you just put The Old Man’s name on my birth certificate?”
“I didn’t know I could.”
So the truth was, I did exist. I just had a different last name than the one I had been using for 24 years. Legally it was same as my three older siblings. And appallingly, the same surname as their biological father, Ma’s infamous, and rarely spoken of, first husband.
Since Ma and The Old Man never married, I was their illegitimate child. Isn’t that a quaint expression? I think all children are legitimate. And once born, belong here on earth. Precious and valued. Being a veritable product of the sixties, I like to think that I was their “Love Child.” I can feel the earth in Northwestern Ontario rumble as the two of them roll over in their shared grave.
For decades I was crippled by an illogical fear that it would be intensely complicated, far too time consuming, and downright next to impossible to get my name legally changed. I viewed it as a colossal mess beyond anything I could handle, much less fix. Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I was also intimidated by the Big Government machine that declared me nonexistent at 24. This grew so epic in my mind that it prevented me from taking even the teeniest baby-steps towards change.
I was stuck.
Then something happened last summer that was a pain in the ass at the time. But turned out to be the proverbial kick in the ass I needed to transform my thinking. And take action.
I went to get my Drivers License renewed. No big deal. I do it every five years. Except this year, the Government of BC had implemented a new policy. Who knew? Not me. My bad.
Here’s my “Dummies” version. To provide better security, in a world of ever increasing fraud and deception, our Health Care Cards and our Drivers Licenses, or some other form of legal identification with a photo, are now connected. They’ll both be stored together like conjoined twins in one of those big bureaucratic organisms that is way beyond my comprehension. There’s also a hitch. Caveat. Proviso.
The names on both cards have to match.
And mine would have, had there not been an unfortunate typo on my Drivers License. I knew about the typo but it had been a non-issue until this new government policy was instated.
The plot thickens.
I also learned on that fateful summer day that if I didn’t have a connected Health Card Card/Drivers License I could be in big trouble in five years. The government health coverage, for which I have been paying up the yin-yang for years, will be compromised. Or worse. Null and void. I’m no Psychic but I see a hot mess on the horizon.
That was all it took. Scared the shit out me. Imagine a Canadian without health care. Unthinkable.
Long story short.
I finally went through the process of changing my name. One small step at a time. In the end it was no big deal, cost a little over $300 and a bit of my time here and there. Worth every cent and every second.
Now for the ironic part.
It took over 20 years and a chunk of money to get divorced from my first husband. Remember him? The guy I was going to go to Europe with when I was 24. During that 20 years, E and I were living together, had a Love Child of our own and in 2011, after a painful year of litigation, were married on the top of the hill behind our home. The night before we got married we filled out the paperwork with our Pastor for the marriage license.
In the space for my name I wrote, Bonney Lee Eva King.
At the Vital Statistics Agency I learned that, in my particular case, the most expeditious way to change my name would be to use the one on my marriage license. It was a ground zero document and a good place to start.
That presented a disconcerting conundrum.
Do I take the last name of the man I just spent over 20 years extricating myself from because it’s the swiftest thing to do? Do I take E’s last name because we are now legally married? Or do I change it to something completely different like Zelda Zooey because it might be fun to reinvent myself as a borderline fool?
In the end, I chose the name on my marriage license. Not because it was the quickest and easiest way out of all this messy name business. But because I’ve spent more time with that name than any other. It’s become part of my identity. Without realizing it, I grew into the name. It’s me. Feels right. Resonates. When I see it on paper, I recognize it.
Besides, I love the nickname and writing handle that goes with it.
Boo King. That’s me too.