Step 1: Get birth certificate from parents’ basement. Fill out form. Go to courthouse. Find out this is not enough because my parents never actually filed the name after my kiddush, although my father wrote “Esther Shaindel” in – and that does not count legally, much to everyone’s surprise.
Step 2: Request certified copy of birth certificate from Vital Records. Redo name change form reflecting current legal name of “Female.” Submit to clerk’s office along with $65 processing fee.
Step 3: Wait a week.
Step 4: Receive mailed notification from the courthouse that the judge signed the order. Go back to the courthouse, get copies of the order with instructions to mail them to the Social Security Office and the Passport Agency and to have it published in a specific newspaper.
Step 5: Mail out the orders. Pay $5 each for certified mail receipts. Realize that in the excitement I forgot to include payment when I sent the order to the newspaper.
Step 6: Call the newspaper once a day for a week and never get through and never get a call returned. Finally get through, they say they’re processing it and I should wait for their call and they’ll get payment info then.
Step 7: Continue waiting another week. Call back and finally get assurance it will be published the next day. Cost appears on my card: $120. I don’t understand why it’s so expensive, but I just want this to be over, so I take the hit and move on.
Step 8: Check the classifieds the next day and stare at that notice for a while, happy that this is almost done. Wait for the affidavit to arrive in the mail.
Step 9: After ten days, get frustrated and call the newspaper office. Get told to wait another week before calling back.
Step 10: Find the affidavit in the mail that evening.
Step 11: Take the receipts from mailing and the affidavit of publication back to the courthouse. Get told I got the wrong kind of receipt from the post office. Try not to cry (it was a bad day to begin with). Clerk is nice to me and reassures me, prints out more orders for me to re-mail.
Step 12: Mail the orders, get the correct receipts that cost $1.50 each.
Step 13: Back to the courthouse again, submit all the receipts, ask for 5 certified copies. Need exact change, so a quick trip to the nearby deli to break a 20, back to the courthouse to pay $30.
Step 14: Submit certified copy to one of my workplaces, excited to get new IDs. They tell me they need my new Social Security card before they can do anything.
Steps 15, 16, 17, 18, please no more: Plan to go to DMV and Social Security offices, get new passport photo taken (more $$), get new passport ($110). Submit certified copies of name change order and documents to all my workplaces, my bank, health insurance, doctors.
It’s been a headache (which is not yet over) but I am finally legally
Dainy Esther Shaindel Bernstein