The Real America

jasper-johns-map-museum-of-modern-artDo you remember when Sarah Palin spoke of “The Real America“?

After living in two states for the past two years, I finally got my Illinois drivers’ license yesterday and experienced this exchange:

DMV Guy:  You’re going to need your marriage certificate.

Me:  When my husband got his driver’s license, I don’t think he needed his marriage license.

DMV Guy:  But he didn’t change his name when he got married.

Me:  I didn’t change my name either.

DMV Guy:  What do you mean?

Me:  I didn’t change my name when I got married.

DMV Guy:  You can do that?

Me:  (?)

DMV: You have to change your name when you get married.

Me:  Actually, you don’t.

So, I got my new license yesterday with my actual birth name and the DMV cashier also wondered how I managed to keep my name after getting married, and it made me think that maybe I am a little out of touch with The Real America.

How can you not know that you can get married and keep your name?

So, I am a Professional Pastor serving The Institutional Church and sometimes I wonder how far off base I am in terms of Real People.

We serve God’s people and sometimes we don’t understand God’s people.  We might believe that everybody has heard of Walter Bruggemann and everybody reads The New York Times and everybody watches Homeland.  But the truth is that there are people Out There who don’t even know that Women Can Get Married and Keep Their Names.

I’m just saying.  Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are separated from people who are not just like we are.

Image of Jasper Johns’ Flag (1954-1955)

6 responses to “The Real America

  1. Christine Chakoian

    Your point is well taken about what we think we know about real people. But OMG!!! As a native Illinoisan, I am so sorry you went through this! This wasn’t just any “real people” – this was an official employee of the Illinois government who asked you for additional identification because he was uninformed about legal information related to the job. Yikes!! I hope you contacted his supervisor and/or someone higher up in the DMV!!!!!


  2. He has it backwards. At marriage is when you *can* change your name without going to court. If you want to.


  3. These interactions can definitely be jarring, but they are a great reminder that we truly are a Nation of mixed cultures. I’ve seen the same challenge in academia, where many in that community assume they know what the majority of people want, and what is best for the majority of people. I feel it is so very important that we experience these types of moments to ensure we remain connected to the “bigger picture”. Thankfully your moment was also pretty humorous. Thank you for sharing.


    • I totally agree that these moments are good reminders that what’s familiar to us is not familiar to everyone. I have my own moments on the opposite side of the situation (e.g. Had never heard of Cat Cora until about a month ago.)


  4. I had this exact same encounter with the IRS 39 years ago.

    And you are so right. So many different Americas, and so many different communities of church, and we all think that ours is “the one.”

    Intriguing to consider in light of all of today’s Gettysburg Address anniversary reporting.


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