Monday, September 12, 2011

who(m) the hell am i?

so...yeah. i've got a problem. at this age, and even for a bit before, i am grateful to find myself comfortable in the person that i am, the beliefs i hold, the skin that i am in...all that good stuff. existentially, i'm in a good place and seem to have purpose and can figure out who i am in an abstract sense. i'm cool with me.

legally, however, i may or may not exist. allow me to elaborate:

1. i was born in the 60s to separated parents and my birth certificate was issued as MSD (this is a name i haven't used for decades and doesn't even show up on a google search--i'm going to hang on to this little bit of privacy). parents were divorced and i was raised by my mom and my maternal grandparents.

2. mom remarries in the 70s; decides to "simplify" (this is the operative word here) things by legally changing my name to her husband's family name, making me MSG. mom gets a court order to change my name and has my original birth certificate invalidated. mom files name change with county court (different from birth county) but fails to get new birth certificate issued, thus state bureau of vital statistics has no record of me.

3. at same time of name change, mom registers me for a SS# in the new name, MSG.

4. in 1980, i get my first passport--a little trouble with proving who i am but ultimately passport is issued as MSG (this is 21 years before 9/11/01--it was easier back then).

5. driver's license issued, with passport and SS# as identity proof, as MSG.

6. high school diploma listed as MSDG (some of my school records were MSD, some were MSG--it made sense at the time).

7. undergraduate degree listed as MSG.

8. MSG marries RCA and i had some trouble proving who i was for the marriage license, but i did get it. i ultimately become MSA.

9. graduate degrees listed as MSGA (again, some records as MSG and some as MSA).

thus today, i have five potential legal identities (MSD, MSG, MSDG, MSA, MSGA) and one casual professional identity (MGA--that isn't even included in this ridiculous accounting), however the lynchpin of them all, MSG, never seems to have legally existed. to prove who i am has always been a challenge for me when i was younger; today it is a full-blown nightmare. as one friend recently pointed out, the president of the united states had all the proof of who he was that i do except the birth certificate, and that still led people to believe he wasn't who he claimed to be.

i've spent hours on the phone with county and state recording agencies in texas just trying to figure out what i need to do to remedy this. the vast majority of these people have absolutely no idea where to begin to help me, but all agree--i don't exist in the vital statistics records. one woman i spoke with had a brother with a similar problem, but her direction hasn't gotten me anywhere (yet). and none of this ever really bothered me terribly until another friend raised the possibility that i may not be legally married--MSG married RCA, and MSG was never fully established as my legal name. texas has rather generous common-law marriage statutes, so i feel secure i have at least met those, but it bugs the shit out of me that a few missing sheets of paper may determine that i am not who i thought i was.

at this time in history, particularly in the US, it seems to be more important than ever to firmly and unequivocally prove one's identity, and the birth certificate seems to be the one unassailable document for doing just that. even if i can get a new birth certificate issued (three and a half decades after the name change), does it automatically and retroactively solve the problems of my legal identity? would anyone even bother to challenge who i claim to be? i don't know what will happen in the future, but i do know that as of now the issue of who the hell i am is murky at best and unlikely to ever be clarified by the filter of time. my kids are going to have a hell of a time settling my estate.

i think i will, at least, remarry rich when i get a proper birth certificate. it'll be a big party--you're all invited--and i'll be billing my mom for it. :)

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