Thursday, July 07, 2005

It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's A Last Name

I grew up envying last names - the short and sweet ones. Pronouncable ones. And I have had no problem laughing at the absurd. The girl in my office whose first name is the same as her last name. The Peppercorns, the Frankensteins, the Dicks. The people named after inanimate objects, like Rusty Nail (really, I knew one). I even once broke up with a guy because I couldn't get past his last name. Imagine two words that don't belong together - just that - together. Lip and shits (broken apart and misspelled so he can't google himself and find my shallow waters). But I am allowed to joke about last names because I am of the population with a "different" last name. It's not funny or embarrassing. It's just so gosh darn long and unpronounceable. And don't think kids didn't have a field day with Playground Mean when I was younger.

I think that this is what probably transpired when all the Last Name Making scientists got together in their lab creating all the last names for all the people of the world. It just took one crazy Mad Scientist, a little creativity, and probably a bored panel of Last Name Making scientists to discover my name.

The scene: The clock is ticking, stomachs are growling, and they need one more name before they call it a day.
One Mad Scientist: I've got one!
[Fine-tuned ears, bulging eyes, and edge of your seat finger-clenching overtakes the tick tick tock of the clock, the waning hour, the time to stuff their overworked faces and feed their growling stomachs.]
Mad Scientist: Let's take every letter of the alphabet and throw them all together - in random order! Let's put letters that should defy all logic of pronunciation and - in the real world - would never be placed next to each other. Let's throw out the window what everybody learned about phonetics. Let's trick the people and tell them that - for example - "cat" is really pronounced "gensheflingord". Let's revolutionize the language of Last Names!
[Lots of pencil writing ensues and scrunched foreheads as they learn the thinking of one crraazzyy guy.]
Mad Scientist: And we will start with this little family here. They seem like nice, smart people. Innocent even. And look they are on a boat.
Poor Unsuspecting Little Family Brandished With Said Last Name: Huh? My last name is what? How does it go? Again, how? Um, here, just write that on the back of my hand.

So they tattooed the back of our hands with the Alphabet except it is the alphabet on crack and Red Bull. It's just crraazzyy. Thanks Mad Scientist.

My last name always trips people up. I mean, duh. You get the people at the grocery store, the doctor's office, the bouncer at the bar, some cat named Snowball, all with some variation on one of these questions.

How long did it take you learn that one?
Is that your married name?

You grew up with that?
Where does that come from?
Have you ever heard this ethnic joke?
How do you pronounce it?

And you get the people who think they can pronounce it too. Who insist on trying it. And you try to stop them from the trainwreck but they really want to try and impress you or something. Does anybody ever get it right? And they don't want just one shot at it either. So you humor them and let them attempt it. Again. And again. Why do the grocery clerks these days INSIST on saying, "Thank you, Ms./Mrs./Miss [Alphabet on crack and Red Bull]." The ONE TIME I would be happy with a "maam."

My sister sold me out. She married somebody with a cute, short, sweet last name that ends in a "y" and drinks a lot of beer. This name is so cute it belongs to a little red-headed school girl with pale skin and green eyes who carries her lunch to school with Guinness in her thermos. OK, not Guiness, maybe some Jamieson. OK, maybe just green Kool-Aid. That name belongs to that girl. A little Irish lass which we are not, but she is now. See? There I go with the Name Envy.

But then something happened. When you see that name - Your Name - chiseled into a cement slab of a headstone honoring your father, you feel very connected to it. When you take a rag to that headstone and polish the name, you feel a sense of pride. When you go to the cemetery to "visit" him, you are staring at that name - that glorious name. And you are picturing his smiling pie face. He's always laughing. It no longer feels like a burden weighing me down now. It feels like a little piece of my daddy that I will wear proudly. On my checks. On my driver's license. On my business cards.....On the back of my hand.


Morgan said...

Good for you. I may not be able to say it, but I can certainly spell it. And, even though it is different, there are many people with normal, waspy last names who envy yours...

Amy D. said...

AWWW..very sweet ending (said w/tears in my eyes)