Since I moved far, far away from the little town on the prairie the topic of my maiden name has always gone the same way. Initially, it takes people by surprise and then come the fits of laughter. You see, my hometown of Winkler, is somewhat of an anomaly in when it comes to last names. Back in the good ol’ days when people used phone books it wasn’t enough to know the name of the person you were trying to get in touch with, you needed to being looking for the Mary Peters that lives on 8th street, not the one on Main street. There is probably a ten to one ratio of people to last names in that town and that’s probably a conservative guess. I don’t know exactly why everyone has the last name but they do, something to do with Mennonite immigrants… that apparently stuck together for generation after generation… which remains largely true today. And after all this time everyone is related, as far as 5th cousins… which does that even really count? You start dating someone and then have to break up because you find out you’re their third cousin… or you don’t let that phase you… it all depends. If you don’t want to take unnecessary risks of birth defects you need to stay away from people with the same last name and probably do your homework just to be safe. And that’s just the start. When you get past the fact that there is only 1000 last names for a town of 10,000 people then you have to look at the caliber of last name. For example, Wall, Harder, and my personal favourite… and unfortunately also my maiden name…Dyck (Pronounced like the slang for the male member not the derogatory word for a female that is sexually attracted to other females… which surprisingly was the favoured guess put forth by telemarketers). Thank goodness I got married and took on a much less shameful last name with no questions as to its pronunciation.
Being that we all have the same last names it then is a given that of course I’m not the only Dyck I know (pun intended?). There are so many Dyck’s in fact that one of my best friends last names is also Dyck, not to mention my elementary school teachers, neighbours, and my entire family on my dad’s side. Having the last name Dyck growing up was only funny if your first name was Harry, or Anita (think about it…yeah), or Dick… (I’m sure he exists). So growing up no one really laughed or even blinked upon learning of my last name. I don’t even remember ever having a conversations about it at home. It just wasn’t discussed. However, somehow I still knew it was weird.I remember in high school I often braced myself for people’s reactions which were mild in comparison the ones outside we-are-all-related-ville. I was even more hesitant to share it with the other kids in college and for good reason. The normal reaction was a double take, then disbelief, followed with gut busting, tears-streaming-down-your-face, rolling on the floor, belly laughter… no really. Being an athlete it was especially relevant as people were often called by their last name (despite there only being 3 or so names to go around). One of my teammates was nick named “Dicker” because her last name was even worse… Dick… yes with an “I”. I’m a confident self-assured person and for most of my post Mennonite bubble life I was engaged or married to my wonderful husband Eric, so I laughed along and didn’t have to deal with it unless I brought it up… which I did if parties were getting dull. It really livened things up. I survived childhood because it was a lame overused joke that just went unsaid and I ditched it shortly after entering the real world.
As you can imagine I was all too excited for a name change and jumped at the chance. The conversation of “are you going to take my last name?” was never had because it was a given, a non issue, not even a mention of a hyphen. That has always been a good secondary joke though. The issues of feminism and independence and principle never even crossed my mind as these concepts were overshadowed by the need to escape having such a ridiculous last name. I really lucked out though. Most people with odd last names are probably made fun of their whole pre marriage lives and possibly their post marriage lived as well. My poor mother… what was she thinking? She could have been a Wiebe but she gave it all up for documented proof of her union with my dad. Now that’s love. Some people have even gone as far as to legally change Dyck to Dueck (pronounced Do-ick) or Dixon to avoid the risk of not being taken seriously upon introductions. With all the research out there supporting correlations with positive and negative factors associated with people’s names I can see why people would go to all the work of changing it. Having gone through a name change I can say it’s not an easy task. Not something that’s undertaken in an afternoon type of ordeal. But for me every changed piece of identification was a small victory and one I’ve never regretted.
Check out this link for original challenge: