When I first began dating Richard back in high school my best friend Kelly used to make fun of his last name. She’d say, “Are you going out with Richard Kor-ren-go-old again tonight?”
Imagine when I told her years later that I was going to marry Richard Kor-ren-go-old. Even I had to laugh because my maiden name is Chase. It’s simple, easy, and many syllables away from Kor-ren-go-old. People managed to screw it up anyway because it was so easy that they couldn’t believe it. They’d say “Chasse’?” Or “Chaise?” Or “Cheese?” No. Just Chase. As in “You’d better run before that lion begins to chase you.”
I had to learn to live with this new name, too. My mother-in-law (whose maiden name is also an easy name) warned me from the start that I’d always have to spell it out. It would become second nature to me, she said, because people always think it begins with a “’C” or won’t put in the “e” before the “n”.
She was so right. When I need to give my name to someone I always say, “K-o-r-e-n-g-o-l-d”, except when calling any doctor’s office or hospital within a twenty mile radius since they all know us. In fact, receptionists laugh at me when I start to spell the name because they know it as if it were as easy as “Chase.” Let’s just say my kids and I are accident-prone and disease-prone. We go to doctors and emergency rooms so much that I had t-shirts made for the three of us that say “$20 co-pay” on the back.
After almost 23 years of marriage I have finally grown accustomed to the name, although many of my cousins still refer to me as Leslie Chase. They just can’t imagine me being anything other than “a Chase.”
Of course I didn’t have to change my name. Many of my friends chose not to. But I have enough trouble with organizational skills and keeping things straight in life. If I had a different last name from the rest of my family I would send myself into a daily tizzy trying to deal with mail, bills, insurance, and myself. I figured I would end up having severe identity crises trying to decide who I was. I know it’s just a last name, but it’s how you’re identified. We’re the Korengold family. I would have a hard time being Leslie Chase and the Korengolds. It sounds like the name of a Klezmer band.
I understand my friends who had established careers under their maiden names and wanted to keep them. But I didn’t, so I thought it would be easier to just join the crowd. And it’s a big crowd. When I had a Facebook page I found another Leslie Korengold, except that was her real name. Her married name is something else, but she kept the Korengold as a middle name. So, when you look up Leslie Korengold on Facebook, there are actually two of us. It was cool. We e mailed each other. She e mailed me her entire family tree, and though there were some people who had the same names as the Chicago Korengolds that we are, they are the Los Angeles Korengolds and claim there’s no relation.
Now, I know there has to be a relation, unless we got the same name when our ancestors got off the boat but we really had no relatives in common. And my father is pretty sure that our name wasn’t always “Chase”. He said it has to be something else, because “Chase” is too Americanized to be Eastern European, which is what we are. We’re Polish, Russian, and Austrian. Someday I’ll do some genetic research and find out what our name really was. Even ”Korengold” may have been one of those made up names when my husband’s family got off the boat. Legend has it someone looked at the golden corn and a name was born. Legend also had it that my husband’s family members were horse thieves.
But the best part about being a “Korengold” is when I get phone calls and mail from people who want to sell me things and they obviously have never tried to pronounce “Kor-ren-go-old”, or know that I am a girl.
I recently got mail that says, and I am not making this up, “Our records about Mr. Leslie Korengold are incomplete.” Yeah, I’d say! I was torn between calling them and saying,” excuse me, but I am a girl”, and calling and saying what I really want to say, which is “I had a sex change operation, so you might want to update your files and change that ‘Mr.’ to a ‘Miss’ ‘cause I am all woman now, Baby. You can knock, but there’s no one there anymore, if you know what I mean. I have ta ta’s now, but no little Mr. Leslie Korengold, if you catch my drift, Sweetie.”
The letter states, “Our file records concerning you are incomplete. You see, we haven’t heard from you concerning our Fundraising Drive. Perhaps you’ve overlooked our previous appeals. Or, maybe no one has contacted you yet.” Or, maybe I didn’t reply because I’M A GIRL!
I’ve been called “Leslie Karen Gold”. I’ve been called just “Karen Gold”. I’ve even been called “Mrs. Cornfield.”
But, by far, the best name I have ever been called is “Mrs. Corn Dog.” I received a phone call from a woman with a teeny tiny voice who said, “Hi! Mrs. Corn Dog?” I said, “Excuse me. I need to put the phone down for a second.” I put the phone down and laughed my ass off for a minute straight until I was crying. Corn Dog? Did she really say Corn Dog? Oh. My. God.
So, I, one, “Mrs. Leslie Corn Dog” picked the phone back up and politely said while snorting, sniffling, and trying to control my uncontrollable laughter, “My last name is Korengold. K-o-r-e-n-g-o-l-d. But I gotta tell you, that’s the best mistake anyone has ever made with my name.” She apologized for getting it wrong, and I told her it happened all the time. I also thanked her for the best laugh I’d had in weeks. I didn’t mean to embarrass the poor girl, and she seemed to be a young, little girl in training at this company from the sound of her meek little voice and the way she asked my name instead of saying it.
I don’t like receiving mail to “Mr. Leslie Korengold” because that means whoever sent the mail didn’t bother to check to see if I am a man or a woman, but I love that I was once referred to as “Mrs. Corn Dog.” Remembering that one phone call, and repeating the story over and over, can always brighten an otherwise not so great day.
So, as I am finally getting used to the whole spelling out of my last name, at least I don’t have to spell it “C-o-r-n D-o-g.” Now THAT would be embarrassing, and if that was the last name I was asked to take, I might have seriously considered keeping “Chase” even if it meant having to become organized. Or, I might have asked Richard to consider changing his name, or at least thinking about giving the children my last name.
No one wants to have the last name “Corn Dog” unless they’re a comedian or a rapper. “Ladies and Gentlemen! Give it up for ‘lil Corn Dog!” That works, but having to call to register one of my kids for a park district class or something like that would be so embarrassing that I just wouldn’t be able do it. I would have to get “Richard Co-ren Dog” to do it.