A month or two ago someone told me straight out that I would have to change my last name and the sooner the better, because I would never overcome the social stigma of being a Silkotch in this town. Everyone would just assume that I’m bar trash like the rest of them.
He had a point. When I first started going to church a few months after the separation, it was a relief to me that hardly anyone there had ever heard of the Silkotches, because a clean fresh start was exactly what I was looking for. I could instantly tell which ones had, though. They would get That Look on their faces as soon as I said my last name. Like they’d just bitten into a lemon…with a worm in it. It didn’t take me long to figure out that certain introductory chats lasted longer and were much friendlier if I only disclosed my first name.
Last night I was reminded of all this when a woman in my worship group asked what my last name is. I told her, and she made this sort of “ahhhh” noise.
“Don’t hold it against me though,” I smiled, only half-joking.
“Don’t worry,” she laughed. “I won’t think you’re a bad person just because you have a bad last name.”
This is an unavoidable issue, is what I’m saying.
I did very briefly consider changing my surname…but to what? I don’t want to go back to using my stepfather’s name, or my biological father’s. My brother legally changed his last name years ago, but he just chose a random one out of thin air and adopted that, which doesn’t really appeal to me.
And truth be told, I like the name Silkotch. I like the story behind it. It was created at Ellis Island when Steve’s great-grandfather got off the boat from Hungary (or was it Austria?) and the dude at the Immigrations desk didn’t know how to spell “Salkovitch.” It’s unique: there aren’t very many Silkotches in existence today, and they’re getting fewer by the generation.
Which brings us to the biggest reason why I don’t want to change my name, except in the case of eventual remarriage. If I do it the kids will want to do it too (Luke has already said so with great conviction), and then I will very likely have a big court battle on my hands. Because the whole reason Steve, who couldn’t be less interested in being a husband or a parent, got married so young and put such intense pressure on me to have kids right away, was because his father put such intense pressure on HIM to Pass On The Family Name. Luke is the last of the Silkotch males. If he changes his surname the Silkotch name will end there, and even I who have no genetic stake in it can see that that would be unfortunate.
And the thing is, it hasn’t always been bad. Steve’s grandparents had a WONDERFUL reputation in this town. For their sake, but mostly for my children’s sake, I would much rather redeem the name than abandon it. I don’t want Luke and Elizabeth to ever get the idea that there was something inherently shameful about being born a Silkotch. Ten years from now when people hear that name I want them to think of things that Luke and Elizabeth and I have done to help make Anza a nicer community to be a part of, instead of getting that wormy-lemon look on their faces.
I want folks in Anza to know as well as I do that my beautiful children, by any other name, would smell as sweet. ;^)