Sunday, April 5, 2020 -
Print Edition

What’s my name?

I have trouble with names; not with spelling them, pronouncing them or even remembering them. My problem is simply this: I have trouble choosing names, particularly when it comes to my own.

I discovered this about myself several months before my marriage, during an innocuous conversation about thank-you notes with my soon-to-be husband.

“What name do you want to put on the return address?” he asked me innocently enough.

I hesitated for a few moments, feeling like a contestant on a TV game show about to give the wrong answer.

“I think I’ll just keep my own, if that’s OK with you,” I replied, uncertain. Had I just placed myself in double jeopardy? The problem was this:

For the first 29 years of my life I had lived with the last name of Hirshberg. In elementary school I got teased (Hirshberg is easily converted into Hershey Bar or Hamburger by an eight-year-old). In high school I was taunted (that’s a Jewish name, isn’t it?). Over the years, I had become both protective and proud of my name. It was a part of me that extended beyond my physical self into the world, but also did much to define my sense of self.

Yet now that I was joining lives with the man I loved, I knew I had to look at myself in new ways. I wanted to be a team player; really I did, so I gave the name change a few tries. I tried my new identity at work but felt so conflicted that at one point I actually had three different business cards, each with an alternative variation of our combined names.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at (303) 861-2234 or email

Amy Lederman

IJN Columnist | Reflections

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