My love of online shopping correlates exactly with my hatred of going to the actual shops. Why do I dislike shops so much? I don’t know. It’s crowded. I can never find stuff because shops keep rearranging their floor plans. I have to drive there (and back). Self-serve checkouts provoke a weird kind of anxiety. Something always goes wrong with me and self-serve checkouts. I realised exactly how hopeless I am with self-serve checkouts when I visited the exact same supermarket where I used to work as a teenager, processing thousands of customers without incident during that year and a half, only to attempt a journey through their brand spanking new self-serve checkouts, and completely flub it up.
The main bad thing about online shopping is how you need to be around to sign for the goods. A number of companies make use of a company called StarTrack. I don’t know if it’s a directive from the top or if it’s the local delivery contractor who has a fear of dogs and a pragmatic attitude towards time management, but StarTrack will not come and knock at your door. Not in our area. I know this because I have been home, drinking a cup of tea on the veranda, seen the StarTrack car turn up, watched him shove a postcard into our letterbox, then tear off before I could do a slow blink. A similar thing happened yesterday, actually. There were three kiddies playing in the front yard at the time.
Upon retrieving the postcard I read: “Sorry we missed you! You weren’t home when we called! I’m sorry to say, we don’t use the local pharmacy for package pick ups — like all the other companies do — you’ll have to drive all the way to the Yass Depot to pick up your nano SIM.”
I’m paraphrasing. To make things more annoying still, even though it’s my own SIM card that arrived, it has my husband’s name on the package because he ordered through his work. Apparently, my husband would have to pick it up, not me. I can’t remember the last time my husband drove to Yass during post office opening hours. Yass is in the opposite direction from Canberra, where he works.
No problem, I think. I’ll get him to call the Yass Post Office from work and tell them he has a package, but his wife is going to pick it up, because as it happens, I’m planning on a trip to Yass this afternoon anyhow.
He calls me (via landline) some time later and says, “So I got through to the Yass Post Office.” He explains that it’s absolutely fine if I pick up the package addressed to him, since the address and our surnames will be the same. All he has to do is “write a note on the back of the postcard to say that your wife is picking it up.”
Wait, what? No, he tells them, actually his wife didn’t change her name after we got married. So our last names are different.
“Sorry, that’s probably not going to work then,” says the post office person.
DH says to me, “So what are you like at forging my signature?”
At his request, I write a sentence about his wife being authorised to pick up a package, and for some reason I find myself writing in the small, slopey letters which is a general approximation of my husband’s hand, even though I know that my husband has never once in his life visited the Yass Post Office let alone written anything for them to compare it to. I have this small epiphany by the time I get to the part where I forge his signature, which in fact looks nothing at all like his signature.
Steeled to break the law, I make it to the post office later that afternoon, where I thankfully remember to buy a stamp as well as break the law, because I need to fill out a form for the tax department and keep forgetting to buy a stamp because who sends letters these days? (The reason I need to fill out a form and send it by snail mail is because without a mobile phone number you can’t make full use of MyGov. Circle of life, you see. I haven’t bothered with a mobile phone in 8 years after several went through the wash cycle/fell into a squat toilet etc.)
The woman at the counter is smiling and not at all suspicious of me. For some reason I’m expecting slitty eyes and ‘Mm-hmms. Your husband, eh?’
I’m surprised to see her bring out a huge A3 sized envelope. “Wow,” I say. “That is a very big envelope for a SIM card.”
“Oh, is that what it is?” she says. “It feels like there is nothing in there at all.”
I realise that this makes me sound legit. I mean, I know what’s inside the package. I wouldn’t have that information if I had been stealing from other people’s letterboxes, now would I? This will come in handy, later in court.
“I just need your first initial,” she says. I tell her L, and am surprised when she hands me the signature machine that she has written A. She hasn’t heard me correctly. Not only has she written A, she has written A. Hare. My husband’s last name is Hare. OBVIOUSLY, I’m a Hare. I mean, WE’RE MARRIED.
I realise it would be best not to quibble about this minor detail. But for some reason my mind is cast back to that moment in the kitchen earlier when I forged my husband’s signature. I am horrified to see that I am ‘signing’ my husband’s name into the machine.
“Oh boy,” I say. “I’m writing my husband’s name. What a fool.”
“It’s Friday,” says the post office woman behind the counter. “Tough week, eh?”
“Yes. It’s Friday. That’s definitely my excuse,” I reply, realising that I would make an absolutely terrible criminal.
It doesn’t even cross my mind that I should invent an entirely new signature on the spot — one that I might use if I had changed my name to L. Hare some years ago when we got married. Instead, I wrote my own (completely legible) signature Lynley Stace, and she didn’t even look at it. Suddenly I found myself in possession of an ill-gotten SIM card. I thought I’d better make a quick getaway.
I drove home and, after watching two YouTube videos, finally worked out how to insert the tiny bit of nuisance cardboard into my new phone. So now I have a smart phone and I WILL TAKE VERY GOOD CARE OF IT and remember to charge it before I leave the house.
I have already given brain-time to why it is still completely normal, and often expected, for women in the West to change our names after getting married. It turns out all your ladies who did change your names knew something that I did not: Women who keep our birth names are making things so darn confusing for everyone, as my father explained after he expressed disgust at my decision not to change it. (He has since made a point to address me as ‘Mrs Hare’ at every opportunity.)
Is this a small taste of the sort of shit gay couples have to put up with?
I happen to listen to the Slate Double X podcast. In one recent episode June Thomas (the LGBTQ editor) mentioned that there is a modern trend (in America, at least) for lesbian couples to share their last name. Whose last name? In a curve-ball throwback to the 1950s, according to Thomas’s observations, a lesbian couple who decide to share names tends to take the surname of the woman with the more masculine role in the relationship. This is apparently because, personal gender politics aside, everyone wants to share a name with any children they may have.
It is true that if you don’t share the same last name as your child/ren, even in 2015, it will be assumed that the family is a separated one. My daughter’s principal, who is not an old man, addresses me in writing as ‘Miss Stace’. If it were simply a matter of him using old-school honorifics, I’d expect him to default to ‘Mrs’, in acknowledgement that a man must have been involved at some point. (Though it pisses me off even more that he addresses my daughter as ‘Princess’. At least he used to. *clears throat*)
I’m a big advocate of ‘Ms’ as the default honorific for women, though in fact I wish we could do away with compulsory honorifics altogether. When I registered at the new local doctor’s office last year, I left the honorific section blank, only to be told that it was a required field, and that I couldn’t be put into the computer unless I chose something from their list. This, even though I’d already been required to give my gender and marital status elsewhere on the form. How much information did they really need?
The dog also received some mail yesterday. He’s delighted to know it’s time for his heartworm vaccination. It was me who registered him at the vet’s, and I wasn’t asked for any honorific for the dog, which is how I know it can be done. However, I did go the old-fashioned route, and enrolled him as ‘Flicker Hare’, after his ‘father’. The letter that came is always addressed to ‘Mr & Mrs Daniel & Linley [sic] Hare [double sic]’. This is all my own fault, of course, because I didn’t think to tell the vet’s secretary that we were, at that point, living in sin.
I really don’t know how the Chinese manage. I mean, there are rather a lot of them, and still, women don’t change their names after marriage. Forget the billion Chinese who somehow don’t get dazed and confused: How on earth do South Koreans manage? Not only do women keep their birth names their entire lives, but half of them are called Park, half of them are called Lee and the other half are called Kim. How do they even know who they are?