My name is wrong.
Bryz-Gornia. A name straight out of your bowl of alphabet soup.
I’ve had comments on my last name throughout my entire life. Back in elementary school, I recall my second and fourth grade teacher (she was the same woman) asking me what would happen if I were to marry a woman that also had a hyphenated last name. Would we hyphenate our names together, creating some sort of god-awful conglomeration that would never fit on any government form, personal check, or arcade game high score list? I politely smiled and said no, even though I thought it was a pretty dumb joke.
In middle school, I had an acquaintance that was very immature and loved pranking me. A good example is that he tricked me into visiting a non-nude porn website while we were in the computer lab one day. Very funny, and I’m still not fully sure how that got past the school’s firewall. Anyway, he also was the person that first realized that the second half of my last name sounded very similar to the disease “gonorrhea,” so he started calling me “Bryz-Gonorrhea.” It really bugged me at first, but the amusing fact is that as people have tried calling me the same as I’ve reached my mid-20s, I just laugh at them and call them a hack while telling them the nickname has been around since I was 11.
In high school, my coaches for baseball and basketball loved referring to all of us by our last names. As you might imagine, “Bryz-Gornia” was a mouthful and thus they chose to shorten it to simply “Bryz.” My teammates quickly adopted the name, and then it spread to my friends that didn’t play sports with me. Pretty soon, the only people that referred to me by my first name were the ones that didn’t know me very well and my family. Even my teachers got in on the act and knew me as Bryz, and as my siblings entered high school, the nickname was passed on to them as well.
Then in college during my freshman year, it took less than a couple months for my neighbors in the dorm to realize that “Bryz-Gornia” totally sounded like a disease. Symptoms were created, Urban Dictionary definitions were invented (and fortunately deleted), and Race For The Cure t-shirts were designed. Thank you, Poland, for making such a humorous name.
And then I learned that my name was a lie.
No no no, I don’t have the wrong name. It’s just spelled wrong.
I recall this day vividly. Sometime when I was in high school, I was with my family as were eating dinner at the local Timberlodge. My brother and I had recently discovered this NHL player by the name of Ilya Bryzgalov, and he was the first person we had ever seen with a surname that was even remotely close to our own. However, we found it interesting that his name was not hyphenated and yet ours was.
A common question I’ve fielded throughout my life was how my name was created. Which parent was “Bryz” and which was “Gornia?” I would explain that while hyphenated names worked in that manner, mine did not. My mom’s maiden name was Bender, so our last name was entirely my dad’s in spite of the hyphen.
Us kids also did a little research and we realized that from online records, there were far more results for “Bryzgornia” than there was for “Bryz-Gornia.” Thus, with this knowledge at our side, we interrogated our parents on what was going on with our name. They responded that it had to do with our grandmother, who had chosen to put the hyphen into the name “because it looked nicer.” To be honest, 5 consonants in a row does look pretty odd.
My dad even joked that knowing our grandmother, it was entirely possible that she never legally changed it. Therefore, once us siblings asked if we could change it back, my dad said that we should just follow in grandma’s footsteps and not even bother doing it legally, either. “Just start writing it the other way!” he said.
I didn’t think he was serious, so I never actually followed suit. However, I kept that conversation in my head as I contemplated whether or not I should change it. I continuously waffled for the following 7 years or so until I brought it up the whole story to my now-wife a few years ago.
As we discussed it after we became engaged, we settled on a solution. She would change her name, but there would be a catch. I would need to change my name as well. No, we weren’t going to add our names together like my elementary school teacher had joked. No, I wasn’t going to adopt Abby’s name. We were going to fix “Bryz-Gornia” by removing the hyphen.
In the past, it was me and my brother, but this time it was Abby and me that approached my parents with a slight twist. Instead of asking why the name was the way it was, we instead wanted to know if they were indeed okay with us changing the name back to the way it was originally. My parents confirmed that they didn’t mind, and in fact added that my brother and two sisters were considering doing the same.
Abby and I started formulating a plan. When we were married, we would deliberately request that the name be spelled as “Bryzgornia” on our marriage certificate so Abby wouldn’t have to change her last name twice. We discussed whether going to a courthouse and getting it legally changed – a la Chad Ochocinco and Metta World Peace – would be necessary. How many companies would have to be notified that we wanted a new spelling? Should we even bother?
Eventually, we settled on this. The marriage certificate is as I mentioned above. We will need to change our driver’s licenses, though Abby will do hers after our honeymoon while I won’t bother until my current one expires. Social Security will probably come into play. I figure I’ll have to tell my school that I want the nameplate on my classroom changed, though I figure that this would be the smallest priority of them all.
Therefore, as you may have noticed on Facebook and Twitter before reading this far, both Abby and I removed the hyphen from my – excuse me, our – last name. The funny thing though is that my youngest sister Kyra actually beat me to the punch, as I noticed her name was already missing that little dash on Twitter. Abby and I were second and third, and I’m willing to bet that my brother and other sister will follow our lead within the next few years.
It’s been over a day now with my new name and it looks so terrible, I think I’m starting to understand why my grandma threw in the extra character to make it look better. Nevertheless, I’m not going to have any regrets on this one. I’m a firm believer that resistance to change makes adapting much harder, so I know that I should just let it go and give it some time. Whether it takes days, weeks, or months, I know that looking at, spelling, and signing my name in its new manner will eventually become second nature.
So, just like my grandma did decades ago, my name is now questionably legal. Or if you’re Abby, it’s barely legal. Despite the name change, it’s good to know that the Bryzgornia disease will continue to spread.