Now that I can take her name

With federally recognized marriage comes a plethora of rights and a windfall of financial benefits – not windfall enough to pay for Asher’s bar mitzvah, but enough to make a difference. At least we’re not working with the same inequality deficits before we wed in New Jersey. Now that I’m a Mrs., I could even take Gabriella’s last name with little effort.

I could have always become a Di Maggio, even when we were unequally gay married, but it would have taken paperwork and cash and a bit of hoop jumping to legally change my last name. Now, while there would still be a fair amount of admin to consider, it would be far easier.

My name and I are not really friends. Deborah Goldstein. Say it. It doesn’t really roll off the tongue. It’s an accountant’s name, which might not be so bad if I were an accountant. Furthermore, Goldstein is a German surname, and my father’s side of the family is Polish. Long story, but suffice it say, I feel no connection to it. That said, Deborah Goldstein is who I have been for fort… a number of years.

I cannot imagine myself a Di Maggio even though everyone else in my household bears the same name. And why not? Why not become a family connected?  Practically speaking, it’s simply easier for a family to share one last name, especially when that last name is, let’s be honest, sounds pretty cool.

But going from Deborah Goldstein JEWISH ACCOUNTANT to Deborah Di Maggio ALLITERARILY ITALIAN feels put-on, not me and weird. The leap is too great for me. I’ve been a Jewish non-accountant all my life. Sure, others have done it, crossed over by marriage. From Hirsch to Flaherty or Shapiro to Rodriguez, they’ve embraced change, and I envy them.

Di Maggio is so Italian. So very not-Jewish.

“But your Jewish boys are Di Maggios!” Friends have pointed out as if to shine the light on some sort of flawed logic.

Our boys are Di Maggios in a way I could never be. I grew up in a Jewish home, raised by Jewish parents, surrounded by Jews, celebrating Jewish holidays, uttering Yiddish words and learning how to pun before I could spell.



Our boys make fresh pasta with their Italian mother and eat all their dinner when she says, “Mangia, amori.” They’ve learned to greet relatives with a kiss on both cheeks. And, said the Jewish non-accountant, we all have dinner on Christmas Eve with Gabriella’s side of the family – seven fishes and cuccidati (glorious Sicilian Christmas cookies that prove that God is Italian). Our boys are just as Di Maggio as the rest of La Famiglia.

While Deborah Di Maggio sounds like a pretty cool gal, Deborah Goldstein is pretty happy being Deborah Goldstein, even if she is not an accountant. And she will be be sure to bring her puns to Christmas dinner.

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  1. From a Susan Goldberg to a Deborah Goldstein: oh, Hashem, how I hear you. I hate my name and I have very little attachment to it, except for the fact that it makes me identifiably Jewish in a city where I could so easily blend in. We hyphenated our boys’ names, which is a huge mouthful and I sometimes regret that. But I also want them to be known as Jewish. Jewish non-accountants, unite!

    • Our hyphenated name would have been a comical mouthful. I couldn’t do it though I certainly appreciate the purpose it serves. Our new band name, The Jewish Non-Accountants, will surely resonate with many conflicted tribe members.

  2. You are my favorite Jewish non-accountant. Let’s drop our last names altogether! You can be the Madonna of Deborahs and I’ll be the Cher of Vikkis.

  3. Or we both take Rubblé.

  4. I made the switch from Medrano to Becker a long time ago. It felt weird and it sometimes still does to know that my heritage is no longer evident by my name alone. I have nothing else to say except that now I want fish and pasta, thanks a lot.

    • Bring your Medrano self over any time and Di Maggio will serve you all the fish and pasta you can eat. You can even bring that Becker woman. We take all kinds.

  5. Hyphenate! No, actually, don’t. We planned on just taking my name at first but then realized our names hyphenate well enough, so there you have it. And to sign my married name I just write Casey twice but you can’t tell. So don’t tell. The Internet is great with secrets.

    • I bet Casey Kasem does the same thing! And I bet you have no idea who Casey Kasem is. The Internet is also good for looking up references that old people make.

  6. So does this mean you won’t be doing our taxes this year?

  7. PS I Loved this essay. Feels, um, true.

  8. If it’s alliteration you want, your wife could try Gabriella Goldstein. 😉

  9. I thought when I divorced my ex that I’d never change my name again (I kept his cuz my kids have it). Here we are, a few years down the road and Laura popped the question and we’re getting hitched in 6 months and I’m seriously considering doing it. Maybe we’ll hyphenate the kids’ names and I’ll take Laura’s. Maybe Laura and I will both hyphenate and leave the kids’ names alone. Not sure, but it’ll definitely be different being a Heins rather than a Lachman because while Lachman isn’t my maiden name its a lot closer to my actual heritage than Heins is (and WAY closer than my maiden name was).

  10. We are not married but, if we were, I could not take his name. That would make me Mich (sounds like Mitch) Stein…a Jewish Accountant! But if he took my name, that would make him Matt Nelson, which sounds like a 6’2″ Blonde Quarterback, which he most definitely is not!

  11. P.S. And you can *forget* Nelson-Stein!! 😉

    • Nelson-Stein? Hmm…. Nelstein? No, I didn’t think so. Just like we could never be Magstein or Dimagold. At least Mich is a sassy name. You’ve got that going for you.

  12. Yes, names are tricky business. I would have hyphenated if Wes had been willing to do it, too. But his first name was still new at the time and I don’t think he was interested in more newness. There was no way on earth I was taking his name, though. Briar Green sounds like a retirement village. Of course, if we’d hyphenated it would have sounded like a super SAD retirement village.

  13. Got married, changed my surname from “de Haan”, very dutch sephardi to “Gianchino” very Italian, our kids (please God) will be Gianchino’s too. My wife was the last one left in the family line, her dad though oh no more Gianchino’s to perpetuate the name, then she married me (of which I am happy about). One more Gianchino! Soon hopefully we will be many more, so much of thinking the family name will cease to exist.

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