Even before I got married, people had issues with my name. I’ve had folks misspell, mispronounce, and just plain misunderstand my name, and over the years, I’ve been pretty tolerant about the whole thing. After all, I figure, “Maren” is not exactly a common name, and neither is “Montalbano.” So I give folks a break and patiently wait for them to figure it out. But now that I’ve gotten married and changed my name, it’s gotten even worse, and I’m starting to get a little mad.

Before I get into this diatribe, I do want you to know that I thought long and hard about changing my name. After all, Maren Montalbano is a brand, and I’ve spent many years making sure people remember that name and associate it with me and my face. But, on the other hand, I wanted to make sure the world knew that I was someone’s wife now. I’m a Mrs., not a Ms. or a Miss, and after having addressed multiple invitations for the wedding, I realize that it’s always easier when you can write “Mr. & Mrs. So-and-So” rather than “Mr. So-and-So & Ms. Such-and-Such.”

So I hit on a compromise that MANY women take. I would keep my maiden name, but move it over to my middle name, so that I would now, legally, become Maren Montalbano Brehm. My professional name, my “stage name,” if you want to call it that, is still Maren Montalbano, and always will be. That way, if I get a check written out to Maren Montalbano, the bank won’t have too hard a time guessing that it’s really me, since both my middle and last names will be on the account. Sounds simple enough, right? Plus, it’s what the majority of women do when they change their names.

The trouble started when I went to Italy last year, and the travel agency who was arranging the tour messed up my name on the plane tickets, putting “Montalbano-Brehm, Maren” down as my name on the ticket, when my passport, which was correct, said “Brehm, Maren Montalbano.” You’d think that would be an easy enough error to correct, but I was held up at every single airport I went through on that trip because my ticket didn’t match my passport. When I tried to correct it through the airline, they said they would make a note on the passenger list, but I STILL got held up at the airport. The fine people at TSA (and the French equivalent) clearly thought that I was trying to pull a fast one on them by adding a hyphen to my name.

Once home, it actually took several tries to change my bank accounts and credit cards. One credit card couldn’t be bothered to change my name even after I sent them a copy of my marriage certificate, a letter signed by me, and a copy of my driver’s license to prove it was me, so I have since canceled the card.

The township where I live has such bad record-keeping that they not only have my name wrong, but our address wrong as well! We found out last year that the township had been sending property tax bills for years to Ray’s previous address. When we received a zoning permit for replacement of an AC unit that we didn’t ask for, I wrote the township a very detailed letter, returning the zoning permit, along with a copy of the deed to the house, our marriage certificate, my driver’s license, and asked very politely for them to change their records. This year a similar thing happened again, so I went down to the municipal offices and made sure their databases were changed (clearly they don’t share data between departments).

Earlier this year, when it came time for us to give our receipts and reports to our tax accountant, I included a copy of our marriage certificate (which states very clearly what my new name is!) so that he could file our taxes with the correct name. Our taxes came back, and every single page said “Montalbano, Maren W.” We pointed out the problem to the accountant, who said, “Just get some white-out and change the name on the papers yourself.” So I did.

Now we’re getting our tax refunds, and if that isn’t a botched up mess, too! NY State sent me a check for “MAREN MONTALBANOBREHM,” which is a new variation — pretty creative, if you ask me. NJ State sent a check made out to “Montalbano Brehm” with no reference to “Maren” at all. Now, I’m not concerned that I won’t be able to deposit these checks, but how difficult is it for people to figure this out? Haven’t women been doing this for centuries?

On the other side of the spectrum, I am singing in a concert at my church this weekend, and all the posters and flyers have been printed with my name listed as “Maren Brehm.” I know I had been a little flexible with the posting of my name in the church bulletins, since I figured this group of people, since they knew I had just been married, would expect my name to change. And my choir director even asked me how to list my name, and I had told him, “Either ‘Maren Montalbano’ or ‘Maren Montalbano Brehm.’” I think he took this to mean I didn’t mind being listed as “Maren Brehm,” and, it turns out, I do. Professionally, at least.

I do realize I’ve made it a little bit difficult by insisting on keeping my maiden name as my professional name. So, mea culpa , mea culpa , and maybe I deserve a little bit of the grief I’m getting. But there are only three names to deal with, people. Don’t hyphenate it, ask me before you put my name on an advertisement, and you’ll be fine. It’s not like I’ve got a name like Tarquin Fintimlinbinwhinbimlim Bus Stop F’tang F’tang Ole Biscuit-Barrel. Then, I think, I would be in a lot more trouble.

What’s In A Name?