I was born Christopher Asbury. In the second grade, my teacher asked if I preferred “Chris” or “Christopher”. I didn’t really have an answer, so I picked “Chris” because it had fewer syllables. I’ve been Chris ever since. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even recognize that when someone says “Christopher”, they are referring to me. I’ll answer to “hey you” or “hey moron”, but not “hey Christopher”. I even took one of those dumb personality quizzes on Facebook. I did it once as Chris and once as Christopher. The personalities were totally different, yet I am clearly a Chris.
At the same time, I hate the name Asbury. Most people mispronounce or misspell it. I don’t like the way it sounds.
When I moved to Seattle, I had thought about changing my name to Chris, but didn’t follow through with it, because I thought it would be too big a hassle. As the years went by, I got more and more accounts and things under the name Christopher, that the perceived hassle grew.
More years went by, and it remained in the back of my mind. A couple of years ago, I looked into it again, and found out that it’s not that expensive, and sure, I do have to contact all of my banks and stuff to update their records, but it’s not as painful an experience as I had thought.
At first, I was just going to change “Christopher” to “Chris.”. Then I figured, if I’m going to go through all of that work, I might as well change my entire name. I had thrown around some ideas like spelling it phonetically. Something like “AzBurry”. The more I thought of it, the sillier it sounded.
I’d go to a doctor or some other important appointment. I’d see “Christopher Asbury” and I began to have a visceral reaction to it. I fucking hate that name. That’s my slave name.
One day, it occurred to me. A lastname (also called a surname), is also called a “family name”. I don’t talk to my family. I haven’t considered myself a member of my family for years. Why am I clinging to a label for my family? My true family consists of my friends and people in my life NOW, not people who were in my life in the long long ago, and who were the source of a lot of my pain. I don’t want to be reminded of that every time I see my name.
Boom. Now I had a lot more freedom. So now I had to pick a name that meant something to ME. Not a name that had been passed down for generations. I’ve never done things just because that’s the way of things. There’s a reason for just about everything I do. Why not treat a last name the same way?
With that in mind, I tried to think of a name that would represent ME. Instantly, I thought of Dantes. It was literally the first name to come to me. Everyone who knows me, knows I am an obsessed Alexandre Dumas fan. Edmond Dantes was the main character in my favorite Dumas story, the Count of Monte Cristo.
It was perfect. Chris Dantes.
What about my middle name? Paul. Well, honestly, I don’t think about my middle name. It’s not something that comes up very often. I don’t have a problem with Paul. I could have changed it to something badass like “Tiberius”, after Kirk. Chris Tiberius Dantes. Nah. So I just kept my middle name the same.
Changing a name (at least in the state of Washington) is pretty simple. It costs less than $200, and if you pay cash, can be done the same day. You fill in a form. You get a court date. You go to the court, and the judge asks why you are changing your name. They want to know if you are trying to avoid paying a bill or if you’re wanted for a crime. If not, the judge signs the court order, and your name is legally changed. You’ll need certified copies of the court order. They are $5 each. I got 4, and so far, that seems to be enough.
I did this in the wrong order, so here’s the correct order. Go to Social Security first. FIRST. Wait in line with the smelly people. The wait was an hour, but it only took 15 minutes to change the name, and less than a week to get my new card. You’ll need the certified court order (but you’ll get it back), your passport, birth certificate, and a photo ID.
Next, get your license changed. I did the license first, then the Social Security card. Here’s why you should do the SS card first. In WA, they offer something called an “Enhanced Driver’s License”. This is a sort of mix between a license and a passport, and allows you to reenter the US from Mexico and Canada. Apparently, at some point in the near future, the normal license will not be enough of an ID to board airplanes. You’ll need either a passport or the EDL. I figured, if I’m getting a new license anyway, might as well upgrade to the EDL. The problem, is that they need the SS card with the new name. Oh well. I’m not going on a plane between now and when the license expires, so I’ll upgrade next time. Changing the license is pretty simple. I showed them my court order (you’ll get it back), my passport, and my old license. It was $10, they took a new photo, and I got the new license in less than a week.
Now that you’ve got the important things done, it’s time to update your employment. You’ll need to fill out a new W4, and maybe some other forms. You’ll need another court order (you won’t get this back) and copies of your license and SS card. If you have health insurance through your job, your boss or HR person should be able to handle that. Same with 401k and stuff like that.
Banks are weird. One bank just needed to see my certified court order. Another bank needed my new driver’s license, too. One bank required me to fax or mail them copies of the court order, license, and a signed letter asking them to change my name. With a lot of these things, it’s just a question of asking them to change your name on the account, and having everything ready. I recommend having a certified court order, your birth certificate, and new license.
I’m still working on a few accounts, but I just got my new license in the mail yesterday. So far, it hasn’t been very painful, and once you have the correct paperwork, it’s quite smooth.
The only hiccup I’ve had is with this switching this website to the new domain, because some of the images aren’t showing up, and I’m not sure why. After screwing around with stuff, I managed to lose my database, and the only backup I could find was from March 2017, so I lost like 15 articles. Luckily, BlueHost had their own backups and I was able to fix everything… except for the images.
Anyway, that’s why I have a new domain. I’ll get back to complaining about religion soon.