Why I’m Keeping My Name
I’ve been teased about it my whole life, but my name is a part of me. Getting married won’t change that.
Merv enthusiastically jumped in: “Well, with a name like Jeff Nishball, I’d certainly go see him.”
Totie looked out into the audience and instructed, “Remember that name, Jeff Nishball.”
Our local newspaper interviewed me and I became a minor celebrity at school. I loved all three days of it. After that, I began standing up for myself more and not taking crap from people who made fun of me. “Yeah, I’m a Jew, so what?”
A little over a year later, I heard that Totie Fields was slated to come to the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Ct., to do her stand-up act. My parents bought tickets, and I contacted her. She invited me to come backstage afterward and said she was looking forward to finally meeting me. Sadly, several weeks prior to her scheduled appearance, she died of a heart attack. I was devastated at never getting to meet the woman who told the world to remember my name.
Even though I eventually changed my career trajectory, and the Nishball name has not appeared in lights—yet—my name stopped being an embarrassment, and I eventually came out as a proud Nishball. (My gay coming out, unfortunately, took a bit longer; it didn’t happen until I was 31.)
What I once viewed as a negative has become a strong positive. Like many things in life, once I stopped fighting it and apologizing for it, and stopped trying to fit in, everything fell into place. I’ve finally accepted who I am—all of it. And I now love when friends opt for calling me Nishball or Nishy. Now my name is part of my identity.
And that’s why, even if Tony and I decide to walk down the aisle, I’m keeping my name. I even suggested that Tony take my name, but he didn’t go for it. I understood. He’s got a good name. But it’s not Nishball.
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Jeffrey Kahn and his wife are set to open one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington, D.C.