Maureen Dowd: A Tale of Two Rachels

Very deep and timely.

A Tale of Two Rachels
Published: July 8, 2006

Spooky summer trends range from the hot bad boys of vampire chick lit — “It wasn’t like she could ever have a relationship with a man who was an undead cat,” writes Sherrilyn Kenyon in “Dark Side of the Moon” — to the Frankenstein theme used by John Galliano at the Paris spring men’s shows.

Fashionable fads for men include pearls, lace, gold suits, executive-wear flip-flops, man-icures and Capt. Jack Sparrow puffy pirate shirts.

The latest digital hype is over YouTube clips, from Japanese lingerie commercials to Joe Biden gaffes about Indians overrunning the Delaware 7-Elevens and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Here in Washington, a city of many sideshows but few tattoos, the latest spooky craze is a bar that is also a carnival midway museum, featuring mermaid remains, miniature mummies and a sword swallower.

Between sausage dogs at a Nationals game recently, a friend expressed alarm that there might be a less-than-patriarchal trend toward guys agreeing to merge their last names to create a new surname when they get married. I decided to investigate.

The only person I knew who had done this was Jodi Wilgoren, a New York Times reporter who had talked to me during the 2004 campaign about making an amalgam of her name and that of her fiancé, Gary Ruderman, an architect and playwright.

After considering scores of options — from Wruderman with a silent W to Ruderwilg to Wilgorderman to Dergoren to Manwil — they settled on Rudoren, her new byline.

“I really wanted him to understand what it meant to be a woman entering into this — either change your name or not have the same name as your kids,” she explained.

Eric Wolff, 31, a former reporter at New York magazine who’s now freelancing, also debated changing his name before he married Miriam Goldstein, 25, who is a Ph.D. candidate in biological oceanography. They considered Wolfgold, Goldwolff and Wolffenstein, the favorite of his 15-year-old brother because of the video game Castle Wolfenstein (which would have made the best name of all).

“We’re both Ashkenazi Jews so there’s a lot of overlapping names, and so one friend had the idea of going back and seeing if there was a shared name,” Mr. Wolff recalled. “Unfortunately, there wasn’t because otherwise that would have been a sort of brilliant idea.”

Miriam said they toyed with names that were concocted rather than a mixed cocktail. “Took,” for instance. “It’s from ‘Lord of the Rings’ and we’re giant, giant nerds,” she said, laughing. In the end, she kept Miriam Goldstein but will take Miriam Goldstein Wolff as her legal name when they have kids and still keep Miriam Goldstein as her professional name.

The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, who used to be known as Tony Villar, was a name-meshing pioneer. He initially considered a hyphenate when he married Corina Raigosa, a teacher, 18 years ago. He figured maybe his wife could be known as Raigosa-Villar and he could be known as Villar-Raigosa. But then he decided to go all the way with a combo name.

He said no one thought it was a great idea. His wife was dubious. His mom complained it was too avant-garde and feminist. His sisters clucked. “Guys made fun of me,” he told me. “I really got ribbed, almost to the point of a little meanness with some people. My father left when I was 5, so I didn’t have the same attachment to my name. I’m not someone who needs group validation.”

My favorite couple are the Rachels Vogelstein of Washington. Rachel Brauner, 27, a fellow at the National Women’s Law Center, and Jacob Vogelstein, 28, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins, were out in New York one night before their marriage when the surname subject arose.

“One of our friends, after a few bottles of wine, said, ‘Well, if she takes your last name, then you should take her name,’ ” Mr. Vogelstein recalled, adding that “we liked immediately that it was equitable.”

So he legally changed his first name to Rachel, becoming Rachel Jacob Vogelstein on his driver’s license and everywhere else. And Rachel took his last name, becoming Rachel Brauner Vogelstein.

“The first time we tried to fly with two Rachels Vogelstein, they canceled one of our reservations, so we’ve learned our lesson,” the male Rachel reported. “Now I usually put ‘R. Jacob’ and she puts ‘Rachel.’ Our door says, ‘The Rachels.’ Our call box says, ‘The Rachels.’ The downside is that when people call and ask for Rachel, we don’t really know who they’re asking for.”

The Discussion: One Comment

Pankaj Misra has written an accurate account of present day India. One has to go out of any of our six metropolitan cities to see how true India, that is Bharat, works-primary schools(govt. ones with non existant facilities and the private ones accepting money in black for admissions)health care-again non existent in Govt sector and fake and exploitative in private sector carrying out unnecessary treatments in the vast majotrity of cases;police judicial system where even high profile cases are being chargesheated after decades’gap from the index crime!! Idia will produce more wealth and billionares over the next decade but will remain in the company of Sub Saharan Africa as far as the vast majority is concerned.

July 27, 2006 @ 11:52 pm | Comment

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