Last week, I spent several hours on the phone with Southwest Airlines. I was trying to update the maiden name on my account (Rebbie Groesbeck) to my government official, married name (Rebecca Ann Brassfield). I sent multiple emails to different departments, I photocopied government documents, I did all the requisite steps, and voila! They changed my name to this:
It's funny because the reason I ultimately changed my name upon marriage was that it seemed simpler for the labeling of my future children.
Let the record show: there is nothing simple about changing your name.
All the government forms and trips to the DMV. The small but annoying question of whether you will get new internet handles. The confusion when an old co-worker sends a Facebook message and then says, "Oh sorry, wrong Rebbie!"
(Wrong Rebbie? How many of us do you know?)
At first, "Rebbie Brassfield" felt strange in my mouth. I missed Groesbeck, with its odd grouping of consonants and tricky "e" that sometimes made new people think I was foreign, and therefore more interesting than I am. I adjusted to Brassfield pretty quickly, and I like it and it's fine. But whether I like it or not, three years later I'm still dealing with its hassle.
I've been thinking about this a lot in the wake of #MeToo. Like you I'm sure, I have been part of countless conversations on the topic, most of which have been enlightening and helpful, some of which have been infuriating.
Because it seems some people want proof before accepting women are often at a disadvantage. They say, "but do you really think it's that common?" They ask if you've been harassed in the workplace, and because you haven't been physically assaulted or directly propositioned, you say no.
But you remember your invisible bothers. The things that were too small to report or too common to add up to anything like proof. The instances that made you doubt yourself, made you feel crazy, threw you just enough off balance that by the time you righted yourself, everyone else had already taken a step ahead.
People want proof, but how do you begin to measure those tiny hits? How would you claim harassment when it so often manifests in an absence, of attention or respect? How do you quantify opportunities lost because you never considered they could be yours?
Sometimes I think about how I would teach a daughter she can "do anything she wants." I think about the forces that made me think I couldn't, I pinpoint how subtle and how pervasive and how young they started, and it feels like an impossible feat.
Because to claim disadvantage because you had to spend time on the phone with an airline makes you sound a little nuts. Right?
Rebbie Grunfeld is, after all, sort of funny, and despite my initial annoyance, I laughed it off and picked the phone back up. I spent more time, sent more emails. Brushed it off.
But it added to my pile of invisible bothers. It took time, and if time is money, there's your pay gap.
I do not have a sensational story to hashtag with #MeToo. For this I count myself a lucky exception to what is starting to seem like the rule.
But I am a woman. And I have been hassled.
I wish people would stop needing proof.