In between battling evil for my day job (don’t expect to see me around much through November — bet you thought I’d come back when the wedding was over, huh?), I’m currently filling out forms to alert people to my name change. The decision to change my name was initially simple — “his is easier to spell” — but became more complex as I really thought about how much of my identity is bound up in my name. I’ve never felt particularly attached to either of my names, first or last, and I’ve gone through a number of nicknames, often seizing or at least intending to seize on the opportunity to reinvent myself. But it’s hard to avoid the fact that a name change is a change of identity, whether you really identify with the old identity or not. And when you’re filling out the form to change your name on your identification card, it’s even harder to get around that.
Which is why I’m also taking this opportunity to change my weight on my ID. Currently my driver’s license says 185, which is thirty pounds off, because when I went in to get my license they used my vital stats from the first time I’d gotten a license in this state. At which point a) I was in my teens and b) I was lying. I can’t imagine a situation in which anyone uses your weight on your license to identify you, and it’s quite possible I look more like people’s idea of 185 than their idea of 215. But this is my identification card. And I identify as a person who weighs 215 pounds, because that is what I weigh.
It’s important to me that my sense of my “real body” matches up with the body I’ve got, and putting my real weight on my license feels like a manifestation of that. Part of it is the importance of owning your weight and thus countering people’s misconceptions of what 200 pounds or 300 pounds looks like. But part of it is related more to the Fantasy of Being Thin. As long as the person on my driver’s license weighs 185, is there part of me clinging to that slightly more idealized identity? Maybe that’s silly, but I want to nix that possibility. I’m not waiting to make my driver’s license a reality, the way I used to do when I lied about my weight. I don’t think of myself as a size 12 who happens to be wearing a 16/18. At this point, I truly identify with my size — I identify as a fat girl, as a 16W dress, as 215 pounds (more or less). Those things are me, along with of course a number of other things that have nothing to do with weight. Putting that on my state-issued ID is just a way of codifying that.
I remember writing something when I was a little kid, maybe fourth grade, about how if my name had only been Ashley I’d be thin and good at gymnastics. The teacher’s gentle comment: “I don’t think that has much to do with your name.” But it had to do with my identity, who I was; if I could only change what I was called, I’d be free of the limitations of size and clumsiness that brought me so much shame. Now here I am changing my name, for good, and while parts of my identity will change — for instance, someone meeting me at a party will not be able to go home and Google up the articles I write for work under what is now my maiden name — I find that the things I once wanted to magically get rid of are a strong part of who I am.
What does your driver’s license say you weigh? Is it the same as what you weigh? Do you identify with your weight, or are you waiting to move into your real body?