On October 7, 2007, I went from being a ”son” to a “man.” If you’re looking at my picture right now, you’re probably thinking, “What is this crazy girl talking about?!”
As the sun shone bright, beaming 90 degree heat sweltering enough to shut down the Chicago marathon, I walked down the aisle flanked by Annette and Bill Friedson, my amazing (and teary-eyed) parents, as my bouquet sat in the synagogue’s kitchen, forgotten in the excitement of the moment.
After seven dizzying circles, seven prayers and one big stomp, I emerged as Rachel Friedman, a 23-year-old newly-wed, glowing with happiness as I walked hand-in-hand with my husband to retrieve the rogue bouquet and catch the limo to take us to our reception.
If you didn’t read that carefully, you may not have even noticed the difference. Friedson to Friedman. Those two tiny letters have served as the ultimate pain-in-the-butt and resulted in a lifetime of mispronunciations and misnomers.
Imagine going to the DMV – quite possibly the most inefficient and awful hellhole to have to go to in the first place – wedding license in hand and on a mission to change your name. The story goes something like this:
Me: Hi – I need to get a new license, because I got married and I’m changing my name.
DMV employee (glancing at paperwork in hand): What are you talking about? – the names here are the same.
Me: Nope – check out those last three letters.
DMV employee: Ooooh – hahahahahaha.
Now reenact that story with the Social Security office, the bank, the credit card company, my employer, and all the other people who inevitably had to be notified, and let me tell you, that joke got old fast. “Are you going to hyphenate?” No. “Are you sure you’re not related?” Yes. “How about merging the two to become Friedsonman?” Mmm – no.
My journey from Friedson to Friedman didn’t begin on my wedding day or even on the day I met David – my husband-to-be. Nope, it started in the fifth grade in music class. Mrs. Armstrong was in the middle of roll-call on our first day of school, and she went through the names…”Chris Felton – ‘here’, Danny Friedman – ‘here’, Rachel Friedman – ‘it’s Friedson, here’.” While the teacher moved on, calling for Andre Goosby, the class tuned her out and began asking Danny and I when we got married (read: “Rachel and Danny sitting in a tree…”).
After eight years of seeing Danny Friedman at the locker adjacent to mine, I couldn’t wait for my college days, when I could be Friedman-free, and people might actually get my name right. But alas, my professors somehow knew to misread my name, and around that same time, I met David, an AEPi with enough confidence to fill a room (more like a building) and the good looks and personality to back it up.
By the time I found out his last name, I was already head over heels, and there was no turning back. Once the word got out that I was dating a Friedman, my friends would respond to the inevitable mispronunciations with “not yet!” before I could even correct them.
Fast forward four years: the Friedson-Friedman wedding blow-out was filled with melt-in-your mouth lemon cake with buttermilk frosting, quite a bit of alcohol, a little bit of hora and several speeches filled with giggles over how great it is that I’ll only have to change two letters – my signature won’t change, my monogram is the same, and yes – I’m going from a son to a man. Our little Rachel is growing up, both literally as she takes this huge new step into adulthood and of course, the name upgrade.
After a year and a half of marriage, I’ve accepted that I’ve gone from a relatively unique ‘Rachel Friedson’ to being one of the 134 Rachel Friedmans on Facebook. Anyone with a distant relative carrying the Friedman surname thinks we may be related, and my last name is correctly pronounced almost every time. I even moved up in the alphabet a teeny bit.
But I can tell you this: I have learned to love being Rachel Friedman, because I picked a wonderful Friedman to love.