A few years ago, I ordered white stationery. In a “walk on the wild side” moment, I added “Genevieve” in blue script to the front, left-hand, corner.

“Genevieve” is my seldom-used given name, but I like how it looks when written in script. The way the letters cascade is pretty on paper.

I refer to myself as “Genevieve” more often of late—since my last visit to the DMV.  It wasn’t my first Department of Motor Vehicles circus. I armed myself with proper identification: birth certificate, marriage license, and multiple utility bills.

The clerk thumbed through my paperwork.

“The name on the birth certificate and current driver’s license does not match the utility bills,” he said.

“Yes, it does,” I countered, pointing to the documents. “My birth certificate shows my maiden name, but my marriage license vouches for McCutcheon.”

“McCutcheon is not the problem,” said the clerk. “Your birth certificate and marriage license list ‘Genevieve,’ but the utility bills are for a ‘Genny.’”

“Yes. Genny with a “G” for Genevieve,” I said. “We’re the same person.”

It had never been a problem before, but Deputy DMV was not having it. No way. No how. He said I could return to get my new license when all official documents read “Genevieve.”

And I thought the DMV had authority only to make a person wait in line. Trust me when I tell you the DMV has the power to change a person’s identity.

Getting Genny changed to Genevieve was a real treat. The water, electric, gas, cable, and cell phone companies interrogated me, and the bank demanded to see my birth certificate. The conversion was so much fun that I took the initiative and switched to “Genevieve” on my credit cards as well.

When I contact any of the above, I now must identify myself as “Genevieve.” What I didn’t anticipate were the reactions to my old-new name.

Every time I say, “My name is Genevieve,” the person on the receiving end says, “I love that name” or “That is a beautiful name.”

I like it, too. My father named me for his sister, my aunt. I would have been fine had my parents used my proper name from the start. But I think they called me “Genny” for the same reason we call our son, who is Gary III, “Trey”—to avoid confusion.

That I am named for one of the loveliest, strongest, and gracious women to have walked upon the Earth is an honor. It mattered not that this Genevieve was the antithesis of that Genevieve.

That Genevieve was a picture of femininity in fashion and etiquette. Her manners were impeccable. She entertained with an air of refinement. Yet, she bore no hint of arrogance.

It was only fitting that Aunt Genevieve was the owner and operator of a Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio. She radiated a scent of sweet perfume and the pink cold cream I often watched her apply at night.

I spent the first 10 years of my life hanging from tree branches and playing sports with boys, I despised dresses and came home every day with scabby knees and dirt smeared across my face.

When my aunt whisked me into her studio for a make-over most girls dreamed about, I whined and complained. To me, applying creams and lotions to the face and curlers to the hair was torture.

In retrospect, I’m certain my aunt was the one being tortured—by me. Instead of throwing her hands up in disgust, she exuded patience. Aunt Genevieve loved me despite our differences. She never tired of introducing my tomboy self as her namesake.

The “Genny” part of me holds too much history to abandon altogether. So, Mr. Deputy DMV, I am Gen, Genny, and Genevieve. The “G” remains the same, only the name changes now and then.


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