The next thing I knew was that my struggle to be myself was actually an attempt to avoid suffocating in the sea of surnames assigned to me. At that moment of realization, one feels relief.
How come one knows in advance that what one presumes to be love will one day make her scream for help in the midst of a courthouse. When I was young and not miserable enough, one day I suddenly found myself walking down the aisle; “yes-I-do”s were exchanged, signatures were signed, marriage certificate was received, everybody danced, and a new life with a new name started. But I was happy, because during the procedures I had acted smartly in my own way and proudly asked to keep my previous surname; with one name and two surnames I had assumed a new existence that was as long as the entire line. I was thinking that I had asserted myself; I was so very proud. But then years gone by, things got complicated, love was rolled up to be stored in a winter chest, big words were uttered, big quarrels took place, family court’s location was learned, and we parted ways after having a cup of three-in-one coffee at the courthouse balcony. We parted ways, but it turns out that everything was yet to start, I just didn’t know about it.
A new life was to be built; there were tons of stuff to be done. Flat search was done, a flat was found, the furniture was searched and found, single motherhood was truly grasped, and finally when everything seemed to be on track… It turned out that what I had finished in my mind had never finished in the formal world! I was not able to finish on paper the separation I managed to realize in the physical world! Giving back my new surname, which I, for some reason, was so cheerful while assuming, had been very difficult. First, I had to return to my state’s paternal home in the bureaucratic triangle of civil registry-police-passport. I repeated as much as I could the cycle of appointment, photograph, fingerprint, waiting, making my case; every single time I had to tell that I was divorced and respond to the officer’s pitiful looks as I should (with a sad smile). The day I stepped out of the police headquarters, I took a deep breath, it had finally ended… But no, nothing had ended. Lots of nonsense errands of life were lying ahead of me: bank cards, billing addresses, internet accounts, and other things that I had to change. Even the smallest move I want to do in my new life, in my life, in the life that I myself built, such as going to the theater or ordering books online would teleport me back to my previous name and then to my previous life; each time memories were being revoked –starting with the worst ones– and causing me pain. Some encounters were even weirder, I had to explain to well-known professors in the well-known science programs that I was divorced and was not the same person registered in the program. Yet, I didn’t know the marital status of those well-known professors, nor was I interested. When I said “My surname changed,” polite people wouldn’t ask why but they would give me an understanding look which was perhaps the worst, because they did not understand, they did not know how much I wept when I had that surname, they did not know the “new” that I was laboring to build…
One day, something good happened; someone tenderly came into my life which I never thought would accommodate anyone anymore; as the eyes were blazed with the last lights of the summer, my daughter, his daughter, he and I, started a new life with two homes. It seemed to be going well, so we decided to move into the same house. There were many moments oozing in from our previous lives; the possibility of ending up in the courthouse was a nightmare; thus, this relationship had to “officially” exist. Obligated, we made for the marriage office; but this time I was prepared. Years had passed and the struggle for a surname had been won. I was going to tell the officer and remain as “who I am.” We did our application; on a sunny day, the four of us got dressed, went to Kurtuluş Park to eat pancakes; we signed the documents at the marriage office and returned to our home. With a new marriage certificate… And with a brand-new surname combination! How come life can be so easy, you oblivious woman!
It turned out that these issues are not resolved in marriage offices; women who are building a new life for themselves have to crown each move they make at the courthouse. While thinking that “it is just a signature”, was I to find myself again in the abysmal wells of public offices? Breathing fire, my huff and puffs about the state and its institutions for three consecutive days ended at the office of a sweet women lawyer. I was going to entrust a procuration to her and file a lawsuit; before me stood a year at the purgatory of surnames. The judge might want to speak to the male person who gave me his surname; was it the case that this male person wanted to remove the surname stamp? I was OK with it since there was a possibility of reaching a conclusion. It was at the notary which I visited for securing the procuration which I will entrust to my lawyer that the third “new” me met with the e-government. “Why are you here?”, “I was going to entrust a procuration to my lawyer”, “Please give me your ID”, “Here, please”, “But the surname on the ID does not match the ID in the system”, “That is exactly why I am here, I am going to file a lawsuit for this surname; this is why I have a lawyer and I want to entrust a procuration…”, “But your surname does not match, I cannot complete this process”, “???”. It did not work; it was not me but the red-covered official marriage certificate that convinced the notary. Now I have to carry that certificate of formality to each and every institution I go, at least for a year. While trying to find peace with my surname from my father, my other surname which remained from my ex-husband and which pops up now and then, and my new surname, which I never use but the state loves to use, and with all these names that divide and multiply in contrast to my selfhood which is getting stronger each and every day since the separation, I realized that I had spent so much time and energy (which sometimes I did not have) on state bureaucracy and the “ancestral” names of all those men who had been officially involved in my life, I realized that my struggle to be myself was actually an attempt to avoid suffocating in the sea of surnames assigned to me. At that moment of realization, one feels relief. One should say “leave it messy” sometimes, “let the state call you with whichever name it wants”. What matters is the name that you will call yourself by at the end of the day. In the end, just like all the baggage which were not mine, I decided to get rid of all the names and became the mother of my own name; with this surname which I gave myself I am happy like a rose, like a Gülkızı [daughter of rose] in my own world. For all those women who are searching for themselves in the stony paths of freedom…
Here are some tricks from Gülkızı for women who dive into the sea of surnames:
- Marriage… Are you determined? A signature is never only a signature, think twice!
- First of all, you have to make a decision about which surname you want to carry on your life prior to all applications.
- If you want to keep your maiden name, you must tell it to the officer during the marriage applications. If not applied at that moment, your maiden surname automatically falls.
- When you state your willingness to keep your maiden name, the officer should give you a document to sign.
- At the end of this application, what you will get is to have two surnames, that is, you will have both your maiden name and the surname of your spouse. This surname will appear on your marriage certificate, on the e-government, and on all automatically e-government connected platforms.
- If you want to have your maiden name only -yes, we can do that now- it is a little bit bothersome. You need to file a case to the family court. One can do it herself but since we do not know the procedures, it is complicated for people who are not lawyers.
- The lawyer or the person herself applies to the family court with a petition, specifying the reasons for making her surname “change”! It is better if you have split the atom when you have your maiden name because, then, that surname becomes valuable. However, if you have fiddled around, you have to give reasonable justification on what grounds you want to keep your couch potato surname instead of your husband’s valuable one. You list your reasonable justifications and give them as evidence to the court or to your lawyer.
- Then, the court opens, and it reaches its conclusion in one or two hearings. Given the increasingly overburdened courts, it might sometimes take between six months to one year.
- If the judge is not convinced by your petition, they can call the owner of the much valuable surname (Attention! Not the woman! The judge and the husband decide the surname). It is good to explain this possibility to the husband lest you don’t have to deal with “well, what is the point of changing…” when the husband has to go to the courthouse all of a sudden.
- In the end, since there are precedents, the decision is usually positive. However, the decision has to be submitted (again, to the husband!!!). If the male person does not object to that his precious surname is not assumed by the woman when the decision is submitted, finally e-government corrects the records. Now, you can continue your life with your maiden name. Congratulations.
- Then again, how are you going to spend that one year until the decision? If you have started the applications and are waiting, do not ever bring up the subject of surname for occasions such as internet ticket sales, conference presentation, etc. that have nothing to do with the e-government. Don’t get yourself into trouble. Those will have to change again, lots of errands.
- ID, driving license and passport are annoying. You have two options ahead of you: if you like government offices you will change all three of them after the wedding and you will change them once again after the lawsuit is concluded, that is, 2×3=6 times. Or, you will carry your marriage certificate everywhere, especially to the places such as airports, hotels, notary, government offices where you are likely to use your ID. Or else they have the right to not process your requests if your surname on the ID is not the same as the one on the e-government. You can choose between these two lovely options.
- How about the divorce? You don’t have to do anything; ex-husband and the state automatically take back the surname. Once the divorce proceedings register in the e-government, maiden name is automatically given back. Well, what will those who have been married for a long time and want to keep their husband’s surname in order to have the same surname as her child does? Of course, they will file a case, don’t make me say this!
- Another thing about divorce: if there is a child, even when the mother has the custody of the child, the child keeps the father’s surname, of course. Since I couldn’t be one of those energetic women to change my child’s surname, too, I do not know the process exactly. But I have heard rumors that it is a devil of a job.
- What will the male person do in this entire process? If he is not summoned to the courthouse once, he can watch TV, read a book, or sit around. In the end, it is your surname, isn’t it?
- You know what is best? Go back to point one and have a good look at it.
Translator: İpek Tabur
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan