Jay-Z and I have something in common.
True, in some respects, we’re a bit different. I’ve got that scrawny, middle-aged nerd look that drives women wild, and poor Jay-Z just looks like a boring ol’ rap star. I regularly drink semi-skimmed milk, while poor Jay-Z has to settle for Armand de Brignac, the world’s finest champagne, which I imagine tastes absolutely awful in a bowl of Cheerios.
But luckily for Jay-Z, there is one area in which he’s been able to live out his fantasy of being me: He legally adopted his wife’s last name, just like I did.
(To be clear, I adopted my wife’s last name. If I had adopted Jay-Z’s wife’s last name, my own wife might have gotten suspicious. Plus, it would just encourage Beyoncé to keep stalking me. BEYONCÉ, I’VE TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES! I’M NOT INTERESTED! LEAVE ME ALONE!)
See, I was born Jacob Weinstein. Then I married Lauren Sager. We were happy to keep our names the way they were until we started thinking about having children. Both of us wanted to have the same last name as our (not-yet-existent) kids. Otherwise, when our theoretical son had a meltdown in the grocery store and started shouting “I hate you! You’re not my parents!” somebody might believe him and take him away from us.
I now see the flaw in that logic. When your kids are having a meltdown in the grocery store, that’s precisely the time you DO want somebody to take them away from you. But at the time, it seemed to make sense.
So we each needed to have the same last name as adorable little Theoretical. My wife didn’t want to give up her maiden name; she had been a Sager all her life. I didn’t want to give up my maiden name; I had been a Weinstein for longer than she had been a Sager, dammit.
The only problem was, “Sager-Weinstein” was a lengthy, hyphenated monstrosity. So we did the only sensible thing: We left out the hyphen. We went for “Sager Weinstein.”
I admit that it felt a little weird. Maybe I had some distant ancestor named Moishe Wein who married the lovely Hayya Stein, and they combined their names. Or perhaps Moishe Weinstei married the perfunctorily named Hayya N. But barring those unlikely events, I was breaking a long chain of men named Weinstein.
Of course, centuries ago, Jewish families didn’t have permanent last names. I would just have been Jacob, son of Harris. I was only born a Weinstein because some goyishe bureaucrat forced one of my shtetl ancestors to put an arbitrarily chosen surname on an official form.
But a few hundred years later, it didn’t feel so arbitrary. I had gotten it from my father, and he had gotten it from his father — both of them men I’d be proud to emulate. And everything I had accomplished up to that point (including conning Lauren into marrying me), I had accomplished as a Weinstein.
Now, some 15 years later, I’ve grown into my Sager Weinsteinnousity. Our one theoretical child has turned into two actual children. I’ve published four books as a Sager Weinstein. I’ve never been haunted by the spirit of a shtetl ancestor, berating me for diluting the family name and then asking me where to find a good bialy.
Everything has worked out just fine ... until the day when one of my children marries Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s daughter. “Sager Weinstein Knowles-Carter” is going to be awfully hard to fit on a marriage certificate.
Jacob Sager Weinstein’s latest book is a parody of parenting books called "How Not To Kill Your Baby."
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