on the big sad day, my mom bought me a plane ticket home. i didn't have a car so i caught a ride to the airport from a dear friend who told me "you can do this" as I walked into hartsfield-jackson alone. i tried so hard to hold it together in the security line, holding my breath as the tears came uncontrollably down, placing my right hand on my chest just to keep from falling over.
security must see this all the time because no one messed with me.
when it was time to board, i handed the flight attendant my ticket and she looked at me and cheerfully said:
"have a safe flight mrs. haas"
my puffy face froze.
for just a moment, i swear i stopped breathing. this was my name, she was not wrong. and it was so painful.
after this, I started to introduce myself as "just laura." but every form i signed, every email i sent, every check i wrote and most importantly (to me, anyway) every byline bore someone else's name.
try to get through a day without using your full name, in writing or speech. imagine that every time you did, someone grabbed your heart and twisted it, sometimes just enough to make you wince, sometimes enough to leave you sobbing.
I had to take my nameplate off of my desk, hide my business cards in a drawer and cover my bachelor's degree. but it didn't change anything. It just meant that when my eyes moved toward the wall behind my desk, I wouldn't see the name but I would still know that it used to hang there.
I changed my instagram username because it felt inconsequential as far as announcements went and yet so significant to me - to have just one space where i could share and create with full ownership.
When I finally did become poff again, I learned that the only way to really change your name is to tell people. over and over. every time they get it wrong. Now every conversation, every undeliverable work email, every visit to a government office was an opportunity to remind someone, and myself, of a deeply personal failure.
A stranger at the social security office laughed at the absurdity and i did too. My doctor pointed out the similiarities in the two names saying, "mix it up a little next time."
but when you're having a light chat with a mutual acquaintance and they say your name or call you mrs, do you correct them and end the conversation with awkward condolences and a shuffling away? or do you just ignore it, wince a little, and let them keep going, until they notice the new sign on your office door?
I tried not to say anything. I made all of the visible changes and waited for people to catch on. but people aren't paying as close attention as you think. and it took ages.
every now and then someone will still slip up and call me haas. and i will cringe. and catch my breath. and make a face. i can't help it.
if im feeling brave, i'll say 'actually, it's poff now.' i'll laugh at the absurdity of it, and to make them more comfortable, but they won't find it so funny. they haven't said it so many times before.
i know it'll always be a little jarring, and maybe I'll have to spend the rest of my life explaining why those first few years of bylines don't match up with the rest. but this is just a part of the deal - a period to press through until eventually people forget that they ever called you anything else.
like they've forgotten poof, puff, powerpoff and poffy. can't tell you how good it would feel to hear those (I think, affectionate) taunts again instead of all the awkward apologies.