The Name Game

What's in a name?

So, so much. Our names are saturated with history, soaked with stories and steeped in all kinds of identity. They are bestowed upon us at birth and they traipse alongside us for the rest of our days, sometimes staying absolutely the same, sometimes morphing into something kinda/sorta the same and other times, becoming something completely different (Monty Python reference intended).

I hated my last name as a kid. Absolutely hated it. My full name, back then, was Jennifer Ball and trust me, I've heard every "clever" nickname possible. I was Bouncy Ball, Ball-head, Jenny Ballsalot, Ballface, Jenny Nut, etc. I learned to live with it, obviously, and even learned to make fun of it myself (still kinda wishing my old timey grade-school friend Ann Sachs and I had married and hyphenated our last names)(not too late, my friend, LOL).

But I remember thinking how awesome it was going to be, to get married and find out what life was like without a cringey surname. Wow, can you imagine making reservations and saying uh yeah that's a party of five, at seven, last name Sloane. Or being able to say, it's Ford, like the car instead of yes, that's Ball like football or basketball. Ball.

Boys and girls, you know what happened. I got married and took his last name and shed that Ball like a snake sheds its skin. I reveled in the glory of a name that couldn't possibly be made fun of. It couldn't in any way shape or form be compared to a part, any part, of the human body.

It was good.

Until the person who let me take his name decided to give it to another.

Even then, I kept it. IT WAS MINE FIRST. 

It was a hill I was prepared to die on, that last name. It mattered to me, quite a bit, at first. I wanted to match my kids. I wanted to cling to the identity that was mine, that I had worn for so long. It sounded cute, too, such a nice ring to it, as opposed to Jenny Ball, which just sort of fell out my mouth and wobbled in the air like a Weeble.

I will admit that part of my desire to stay with that last name was like my sweet old dog peeing on every utility pole on our walks. THIS IS MINE. CAN YOU SMELL ME HERE, SUCKAS? I WAS HERE. When the new wife, my replacement, began brandishing the same name, like it was some shiny badge of honor, it made me cling to it all the more. Even when I was handed her plastic-wrapped dry-cleaning by mistake, I hung on.

Life went on. The kids got older and aged out of the time of school directories and yearbooks and it no longer seemed as important to be able to identify the members of our little clan based on half of our names.

I gradually, hesitatingly, pulled out the old last name and tried it on for size.

It became my writing name when I discovered that the internet has this search function and people could find out who I was, and therefore, who the other people in my life were. For the sake of my children's privacy and for the avoidance of making the ex and his harpy mad, I became Jennifer Ball again.

At work and on some social media platforms and to my friends, though, I was still the Other Jenny. It was a somewhat harmonious existence.

Until I went to get my drivers license renewed.

Minnesota has a new ID system kicking in, one that requires approximately 906 pieces of identification when you renew. I carefully downloaded and printed and accumulated the information they requested. Passport, old license, bank account statements, W2s, paychecks, the blood of my firstborn, fingernail trimmings and strands of hair with root-bulbs attached.

The woman at the DMV took my pile of Jenny-ness and began loading it all into her magic computer. It was all going well! Fast, even, by DMV standards. Until her fingers stopped clicking keys and she said, "Hmm. That's weird."

There are a thousand times in your life you don't want to hear "Hmm. That's weird." Like during a gyno exam or in bed with a new lover or while getting your oil changed. "Hmm. That's weird" is also something you don't want to hear at the DMV.

"It says here that this social security number doesn't match with your name." She said this to me as she backspaced and tried it again. Nope.

Here's the deal, you guys: apparently I never got around to changing my last name on my social security number. According to our government, I was still, and always had been, Jennifer Ball. I guess I should have figured it out. All these years of doing my taxes, I used my old last name. We did that when I was married, too, and yes I realize that most people would have thought to themselves at some point yeah I need to figure this out but I'll tell ya what, in my world if it ain't broke YOU DO NOT FIX IT. So it was never addressed.

The government had absolutely zero trouble taking checks from New Jenny to pay Old Jenny's tax bills, you know? Also my bank never batted an eye when someone named Jennifer Ball deposited a check into that other Jennifer's account. It was all copacetic.

Until Minnesota had to get all fancy with their IDs. The woman at the DMV was great, she tried different approaches, she even had me go print off one more new and exciting document that had not only my old name on it, but the new one too. None of it worked.

So, it would appear that I need to go completely Ball again. It's either that, or go to the Social Security Office and bring another stack of papers to another person with another magic computer in front of them. Have you ever sat in a Social Security Office? I have. And I'm never doing that again, if I can help it.

It's easier to just get everything back to matching what the Social Security number says. Hence, the name change at work. And on my bank account. And alllll my other accounts. It's tedious but it sure beats driving downtown, paying for parking and giving up a personal day from work to sit in a loud and crowded waiting area for hours.

It it was pretty funny when I told our veterinarian that the dog's name is now Walter Ball. He's not psyched about it.

One thing I've discovered, on this road back to my roots, is that I don't hate my last name anymore. I kind of love it. It's me. It's short and easy to spell and it doesn't bear the stains of a lousy marriage to a lousy man. It's mine now.

It's mine, again.


  1. This is so timely. Just this morning in the shower it dawned on me that I don't want to be a Nahr longer than I was a Skalicky. I kept my married name after the divorce because it was easier on the kids. But now they're old enough they can handle it. So maybe you are the sign from the universe telling me, like Peter Brady, that it's time to change. ;)

  2. Oh so happy for you Jennifer Ball ❤️. I was so happy when I took my maiden name badj and never had to say his name again (it was easier for me as we had no children together but I always felt that my step kids would think I wanted no part of them either). My maiden name is Paine...I've heard all the jokes too but none like yours but I too love my short name. And it's mine!

  3. I like Ball as a surname and I think it's just right for you...because a ball is what all your friends have when we hang out with you :)

  4. I kept my second husband's last name when he died. Got married again so had this enormous name. For rid of that husband and am back to my original name. It's staying. I've finally gotten the old me back and she's not going anywhere!

  5. A ball is a beautiful dance, a glittering occasion... it has a wonderful ring to it and suits you perfectly!

  6. I think 'Ball' for a last name rocks. Its one syllable, and easy to remember. Your problems started, as far as I see it, when you started 'looking forward to thinking how awesome it was going to be to get married/change my last name'. By now you know nothing good can come from that. Thank g-d you saw the light Ms. Ball. You've got a lot of nachas (balls). Love, Gail F.

  7. My ex husband got upset when I announced that I was going back to my maiden name during the divorce. We didn't have children so I didn't see what the issue was. It feels good not to have to be constantly reminded everyday. He and mistress are now married with two children and I have been happily left in peace with my orignal name.

  8. It's all that Federal Real ID stuff so you can use your driver's license for domestic air travel. I had to jump through a bunch of hoops recently here in VA, too, at the DMV. Ugh. And btw, my great grandmother's maiden name was "Ball," so maybe we're kin.

  9. I LOVED my maiden name - and when I got married, my ex's name was decidedly much less cool. So when I got divorced after his infidelity, I thought of changing it back to my maiden name, but waited a year, not sure I wanted to change it because my daughter had that last name. Then I talked to her about it and she didn't care - so I changed it. Now she wants to change her last name to my maiden name which is awesome!

  10. I sure do love your Facebook page and blog! I think Ball is a fabulous name. And someone on your Facebook page commented that people might wonder if you are related to Lucille Ball as you are funny and pretty just like her. :)

    My maiden name is Noyes. Pronounced like "noise". I too had many jokes about my last name. I think this is a very common childhood experience -- people making jokes about your last name. I knew right away that I was going to change my last name back to my maiden name. I even told my kids I was going to and they didn't care at all. He disgusts me and I do not want the last name of a pathological liar, serial cheater, serial adulterer, porn addicted masturbator and stripper fxcker. No, no, no! It was a big pain in the butt to change my name on so many accounts, licenses, etc. But it was soooo worth it! I still have to change my passport and then I think I'm done??? I hope so! I highly doubt I'll ever get married again. But if I do, I will keep my maiden name.

  11. Someday I am going to change my last name to my mother's first name. (I might alter the other ones while I am at it.)

  12. Fun fact: some of George Washington’s direct ancestors were Balls. You are in good company. ;) I am in MN too and I will be heading to the SS office soon to drop the maiden name I kept as a second middle name so that I can get my real id. It’s going to be a pain but for me, it’s worth it. Long story.

  13. How did you get your passport (you specifically mentioned you had one) without that social having your new name?? Is it really easier to change everything else to match the old social than to just update the social to the married name? If so that’s crazy that it’s so hard!

    1. I got the passport prior to going to Amsterdam in 2012, I think? All they required (if I remember correctly) was the drivers license. I think. Maybe birth certificate?

      And yes it is easier...the social security change is insanely looooong and tedious. It will be infinitely easier to just do it this way.


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