vrijdag 2 november 2012

Lessons learned: Name sharing

Sharing a surname intra-family is not quite a world wide phenomenon. I remember looking up phone numbers (way back when both land lines and phone books were still unquestioned parts of any normal household) in Bolivia as my host-sister reeled off different options for surnames.

"His name is Ledezma Martinez. No? How about Ledezma Gutierrez, for his father? Still nothing? And Martinez Arroso? Ah, so they registered in the mother's name." It did add some much needed actual detective work to the whole dating process. (Obviously I never actually called the guy.)

I have noticed that in Singapore many happily married couples do not share a last name either (if there is even such a thing as a "last name" in these parts). So, the fact that S. and I do not share a last name barely registers. I do get referred to as Mrs W. a lot, since most of our accounts and contracts were signed in S.' name primarily. 

That's fine, both by me and legally, as I am actually allowed to use his name (and, for the record and equality watchers, by the same token he is allowed to use my name instead of his own). The only person whose last name is immutably the same under any circumstances, is E. We decided she'd get her daddy's last name, because at that point in time we didn't know she'd turn into a little clone of him and I thought it only fair that as I got to carry her for nine months and she was so utterly and obviously mine, he'd get to plaster his last name all over her passport and future exam papers. 

This has not posed any problems either in Singapore or during any of our travels in the region. 

However. When I tried to leave the Netherlands last week, the lady at passport control took a slightly different view of the matter. "Whose child is that?" she asked, whilst perusing our passports. "Mine", I said, trying to hold on to said child, our combined carry on luggage and my 30-week pregnant belly. "Do you have a birth or a marriage certificate proving that?" she asked. "No", I answered with a sinking feeling. 

See, generally I do actually travel with those documents, having been warned for these eventualities. But they've never come up, and I'd grown lazy. 

"Do you mind if I call the father?" Passport Lady went on. I did some quick calculations. "You could, but it's 3 am in Singapore, so I doubt if he'll answer the phone." I was just contemplating handing her my father-in-law's phone number to verify my status when I got distracted by E. taking a leap into freedom, running off to inspect the luggage carts on the other side of passport control. I hollered for her to come back to me, she darted out of reach of the other airport officials while squealing happily at this impromptu game of tag. The queue behind me got longer. And restless.

Passport Lady threw me a stern look and handed me a leaflet. "This is why we're being extra careful", she admonished me. I nodded appreciatively and assured her that was very very good. Behind her E. was being dragged back kicking and screaming until she spotted me and ran into my arms throwing evil looks at the airport officials. Apparently, this qualified me as The Mother. Passport Lady let me through.

Later on, I took a look at the leaflet to see what alarm bells my pregnant self and toddling travel companion triggered in the mind of Passport Lady. I expected some kind of horror story about children being kidnapped and taken across borders. 

It wasn't. It was about the horror of European men going off into Asia to spend "adult time" with local children. 

I have thought about this long and hard (especially during those night time hours when E.'s and my jet lag jarringly mismatch, meaning that she wakes me up just as I fall asleep, only to fall asleep again right after my body has given up on sleep), but I completely fail to see how that leaflet in any way has anything to do with E. and me travelling to Singapore whilst not sharing the same last name.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

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