10

Jacob What?

No, this is not a post about my crazy brain that’s going to make your head spin.

Nor is this a post that’s about an undiscovered temple in the Cambodian rainforest.

Nope, it’s just your everyday, average rant about something I don’t like.

You know when you start a conversation with someone new, or you get introduced to someone new? The conversation normally goes something like this.

YOU PERSON: Hi there.

ME: Hi, nice to meet you!

YOU PERSON: Nice to meet you too. I’m [You], what’s your name?

ME: I’m Jacob.

YOU PERSON: Jacob…what?

Bitch, WHAT? Michelle Tanner style

::explosion of rage in my head::

I know this is super weird and really, really petty, but why in the world do you need to know my last name, before we continue with the niceties like “how are you?” or “where are you from?”

First of all, let’s start with You. Nine times out of ten, you introduce yourself as You. Not as You Person, not Mr./Mrs. You Q. Person, but You. And then you expect me to tell you my last name?

If I want you to know my last name right off the bat, I’ll tell you, no big deal. But when you hold that expectant pause, it’s like you can’t go on in life without knowing my last name, despite me not knowing yours. It puts me in a super-awkward spot then, because, what if I don’t want you to know my last name right now? What if I don’t feel like introducing myself beyond the “Hi-I’m-Jacob-nice-to-meet-you-bye” today? What if it just plain doesn’t matter because we’re never going to see each other again, and by the time we do, we’ll have forgotten each other’s first names?

I’ve caught myself saying it to people a few times, especially when I know I’ve met them before but can’t quite place them, but unless I’m flirting (and actually, this is probably a very unsexy way to start a conversation; maybe this is why I don’t date), there’s no need to demand information from anyone when you first meet them.

Most people I’ve met in life do not do this. The demographic of people who ask this question is usually 40s-70s, male, and Jewish. Quite possibly a rabbi, who then wants to know your hometown, your parents’ names, your Hebrew name, what shul you go to, and if you’ve put on tefillin this morning (if you’re a male). But in general, it’s just nosy people who want to add another possible notch to their Jewish geography standings. Now, don’t get me wrong, Jewish Geography is the Game of Champions – seriously, if it were an Olympic sport, I would try out for the team – but I generally don’t break out into full-on JG until the second or third time we meet, or if it’s a situation neither of us can get out of, like waiting for a bus, stuck in a really long line, or in the trenches of the wintry French countryside in World War I. Unfortunately, to the above demographic, if you choose not to engage with their question, you kinda look like an asshole, and even more so if you lie.

Then this happens:

“Jacob Bergenpretzel. Bergenpretzel? Of the New York Bergenpretzels or the Miami Bergenpretzels? You’re from Germany, right…which part? Are you related to Milton Ber-no, wait-Melvin Bergenpretzel? No? How about Gertrude Bergenpretzel? I knew a Gertrude Bergenpretzel, she used to play mahj with my mother-in-law…was she your grandmother, or cousin, or maybe a great-aunt? Is Bergenpretzel short for something? What’s your mother’s maiden name?”

And then they get into health insurance form territory and it’s just a downward spiral from there. Especially because you know that all the answers will be no, because you just plucked Bergenpretzel out of the back of your brain.

So here’s a solution: get to know me a little better. Ask me where I’m from, or how my day was, or what’s on my mind. Then ask for the rest of the details. Or just don’t ask me that question at all because I don’t owe you a thing, it’s that simple.

Unless you’re from the IRS.

In which case, you probably already know my last name.

Word.

Holla for a six-continent day; what up, USA, Chile, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France, India, Sudan, Australia?

 

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4

An Alphabet of Stereotypes

So, I was having a conversation with myself today about names, and I came across the name Summer. Summer. It’s a great word and a lovely name, but how many ways can you really slice a Summer? There’s never been a Queen Summer or a President Summer or even a Grandma Summer. I thought about adding it to my list of potential daughters’ names, but it’s just too…Summer. There are very few places you can go with a Summer, and most of them involve being in a bikini.

Since everyone’s blogging about Scotland’s independence referendum today, I thought I’d do something different and present to you an alphabet of name stereotypes. These are not common names like John and Mary, and not timeless names like Michael, Katherine, and Elizabeth that have too much history to be placed in one category. Rather, these are names that are uncommon but not unusual, but at least for me they have a certain way about them. To be fair, I’ll just do one random name per letter, per gender, skipping Q and X for obvious reasons. Join me, y’all.

And welcome, first visitor from Kyrgyzstan! You were always my favorite Stan.

Disclaimer: This list is meant to be read in complete jest, so Jacquelyn, the coffee is fine.

If your name is Albert, don’t get any piercings. This will only work against you.

If your name is Brook, have a headshot on your faculty website.

If your name is Chuck, you probably spit a lot when you talk and collect things.

If your name is Dallas, you probably own a ten-gallon hat but have never had the opportunity to wear it.

If your name is Eddie, be my drinking buddy. But not Ed. He can go and sit in the back of the closet.

If your name is Fred, you have a lot to live up to. Same for the Wilmas, Mickeys, and Minnies of the world.

If your name is Gilbert, you probably watched Howdy Doody in its first run.

If your name is Harrison, you probably have your hair parted on the side. Oh, and don’t go to China to teach English.

If your name is Ira, don’t be surprised if in the near future you get mistaken for a girl.

If your name is Jacob, be cool about it. Don’t toss that name around willy-nilly. Taylor Lautner did a number for us; unfortunately it was a negative number. And be friendly. If you want to be a jerk (and if I am), be Jake.

If your name is Kevin, take a break and sit down.

If your name is Lorenzo, eat some graham crackers.

If your name is Mickey, you better be cuddly or else.

If your name is Nathan, I really enjoyed those hard, wooden chairs you made me.

If your name is Ozzy, get that bat out of your mouth, I do not want to buy candy from you, and pull your shorts above your butt crack.

If your name is Peter, my deepest sympathies for the inappropriate jokes you have encountered in your life.

If your name is Ray, chill out. You’re much too intense.

If your name is Scott, I never want to see you wearing anything but underwear.

If your name is Timothy, and you haven’t heard the song, your life is incomplete. Also, if you shorten to Timmy don’t expect anything for your birthday other than Tonka trucks.

If your name is Ulysses, be prepared to work hard because you will be called useless at least once a day.

If your name is Victor, don’t make me walk into your magic cabinet.

If your name is Wilbur, your mother’s favorite book was Charlotte’s Web.

If your name is Yorick, I knew him well.

If your name is Zzzzybrrqahh, please don’t eat my brain.

If your name is Alice, you will probably have a husband named Al and move to Alabama where you’ll sell ant farms.

If your name is Bella, avoid used bookstores.

If your name is Carol, you probably either sing in a folk rock band or own a large collection of fuzzy sweaters.

If your name is Donna, you’re an asset to the secretarial pool. Maybe you’ll be an executive assistant one day.

If your name is Edith, thanks for the peanut brittle.

If your name is Frances, you probably need to lighten up.

If your name is Georgia, watch where you’re swingin’ that hoop skirt.

If your name is Helen, I hope you like cats.

If your name is Isabella, you probably can’t read this because you were born sometime this decade.

If your name is Jacquelyn, I may or may not have spit in your coffee this morning.

If your name is Kimberley, congratulations, you’re the head of the cheerleading squad and the top of the pyramid.

If your name is Lola, you were a showgirl.

If your name is Marni, you really got the short end of the stick. That is not a real name. And don’t stomp your platforms at me.

If your name is Nancy, you have an unhealthy relationship with yarn.

If your name is Olga, I am putting all my hope in you at the next Olympics.

If your name is Penelope…yeah, no one’s cool enough to pull off Penelope.

If your name is Summer, you have damaged skin, hair, or both.

If your name is Tiffany, you are never going to give up the 80s, are you?

If your name is Ursula, you either rule a sea kingdom or are in fact a Kodiak bear.

If your name is Velvet, you have served prison time and have the tattoos to prove it.

If your name is Willow, you have either participated in or led a women’s retreat.

If your name is Yolanda, you thoroughly enjoy the conveniences of a convenience store.

If your name is Zona, my seventh-grade Bible teacher gave me permission to shoot your parents.

0

26 Years Ago Today…

1:35 PM EST. Baltimore, Maryland.

I don’t remember it, but I was there.

Happy birthday to me.

I woke up this morning, not feeling much different than I normally do, only rushed, because I had to get my checkbook (which I couldn’t find) and hightail it to the hotel to rendezvous with Mom and Dad to go to the bank, because my credit card got cut off through no means of our own, so basically, I have no credit card until next week. We then went to Starbucks, where my parents gave me a card and a 25 dollar gift card to Starbucks, which was really nice 🙂 and then I took them back to the hotel, they checked out, and we parted ways as I headed to kabuki class. It was fun, as always, and afterwards I grabbed a tuna sandwich at Walgreens and treated myself to a French Press at Starbucks on State Street – though actually, getting a French Press is not a bad deal, given the fact that it’s about two grande cups of coffee for $3.69. I shared it with Vincent, then went to find an awesome geocache at the top of a parking garage, then back home to eat cupcakes with Vincent again. Then I headed off to rehearsal, during the middle of which I jetted across the street for the APO meeting to which about fifty or so people showed up, and I gave out mass quantities of candy and then hustled back to rehearsal. Then, at 9, I went BACK to APO – not to the meeting, but the fellowship afterward at Forever Yogurt, where a LOT of brothers showed up, and then home, where I am right now, and I should be working on my presentation for tomorrow, but I’m not at the moment because it’s time to blog.

I feel like I should tell a story, so I’ll talk about how I got my name.

My full name is very very long and I almost never use it. It’s so long that it takes up my whole driver’s license. In fact, I once bet a Bulgarian women at the airport in Hartford that my name had more letters than hers, and I won. I used to hate my name, the fact that it was too common, easily confused with Jason/Jared/Jonathan/Johnny/Justin (and once, Judith, in a returned phone call, which is kind of ironic in a creepy way), and just too damn long to write on any form. But here, for the first time ever, I’ll break it down for you:

Jacob is my first name. I was named after my mother’s father, Jack, who died in 1971, long before I was born. He was born in Bryansk, Russian Empire (today: Belarus) and came to Baltimore at a very young age. He was obsessed with photography, video, and all things technological, which explains why we have so many strange and random home movies of my mom as a child in the 1950s. He worked for a uniform company in downtown Baltimore. My mother’s brothers both look a lot like him; he was very tall, and fortunately I got enough to the tall genes to make me the height of a normal human. Oddly enough, in my teenage years, we found his birth certificate, and we learned that his name was not, in fact, Jack; it was actually Jacob the whole time, with Jack as a nickname. Funny how that one turned out.

Richard is my first middle name. It’s the one I usually use. It’s also my paternal grandfather’s name. He was born in Gunzenhausen, Germany, and along with my grandmother, took the family out of Europe after Kristallnacht occurred in November 1938. He also died long before I was born, in the 1970s as well, I think.  Before the war, he was a viehhandler, or cattle dealer, and in America, he also worked in clothing, just like my other grandfather. He and my grandmother loved each other very very much, and he was very treasured and well-liked in the family, and also, reportedly, a good dancer. I have not seen many pictures of him, but when he was young, he was very, very good looking – unfortunately, I didn’t inherit all of his good looks, taking after my own dad, who looks like…who knows, someone in the family.

Aaron is my second middle name. It was a last-minute addition, due to the death of my great-grandmother on my mother’s side, Anne Gelb Feingold aka “Gigi.” She died shortly before I was born, either in late 1986 or early 1987. She was a tough lady, and reigned supreme as the queen of her family. She was born in Bystra, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and immigrated to New York City via Ellis Island. I never knew too much about her, and my sister doesn’t even really remember her. Before I went to Slovakia in January 2012, my dad told me that he thought that my grandmother had possibly come from Slovakia, and once there, he did some investigating, and emailed me that the town she was from was, indeed, in Slovakia, effectively making me one-eighth Slovak. Ironically, I was sitting at a bar in Levoca, Slovakia – about 60 miles away from Bystra. She spoke English and Yiddish, and once she got to America, told everyone that she had come from Austria – even the customs agents at Ellis Island – but she had in fact come from what was, at the time of her departure, Poland. I guess she didn’t want to endure the Polish stereotyping. She was a homemaker, and raised my grandmother and great-uncle. She was a very religious lady. I dislike the name Aaron, but the more I learn about my grandmother, the more interested I become in why she was the way she was.

Hellman is my last name. I am not related to Lillian Hellman (sigh), Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, or most likely any Hellman (or Hellmann) you know. It comes from the German word holle (her-la), meaning “the intersection of three streets,” specifically, the intersection of three streets in Gunzenhausen, the town where my grandparents fled from as a married couple, and the area where my family had lived since the 16th century. My dad and his father always were at loggerheads about how to actually spell the name. My grandparents always used “Hellmann” with two n’s, and my dad insisted on only one, because at one point in his life he saw my great-great-great-grandfather’s voting registration card from the 1850s, and he used only one. This is disputed, however, because we have not been able to locate said voting card, neither in Baltimore nor in the archives in Gunzenhausen. But, then again, my grandfather always spelled my dad’s name wrong, on everything, so maybe my dad has a point.

With that said, I should probably go back to working on my presentation for tomorrow, but before I do, I’d like to wish a happy birthday to: Benyamin Netanyahu (former Prime Minister of Israel), actresses Patti Davis and Carrie Fisher, richest woman in the world Liliane Bettencourt (owner of L’Oreal), Kim Kardashian (who wishes she was Liliane Bettencourt), and Judge Judy. 

Also, the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), the Battle of Aachen (1944), and the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in NYC (1959).

Oh, and apparently it’s also International Day of the Nacho in Mexico and the USA. Olé!