One of the hardest things to get used to this year at Yale has been the loss of my unique identity. I’m not saying that someone else has become me, or that I have lost touch with my interesting, exotic ethnic background of 100 percent eastern European Jewish stock. I’m not even saying that I suffered amnesia over the summer due to some highly improbable — yet likely to garner tremendous ratings — tragedy. No, it’s simpler than that. I learned, upon returning to school this year, that I’m no longer the only Goff at Yale. There are two new Goffs, a Justin and a Sarah. Justin is even in Stiles, just as I am. Little did I know that my life would never be the same.
Some of my friends have suffered the same problem; some never even knew another life. My friend Mark found upon coming to Yale that he wasn’t even the only Mark Lee at Yale. He would be forced to be Mark S. Lee in his e-mails. My girlfriend has since begun to claim that I’m the third-best Goff she knows, behind one of the new Goffs and, even more upsettingly, my younger brother. I feel Mark’s pain.
The scary part is that apparently the other Goff is an expert on the Goff family tree. He explained to a friend of mine that there are many types of Goff. He explained that there are Goffs of Scottish origin and Goffs of Irish origin, and those are subdivided into Boston Goffs and Pennsylvania Goffs. He wasn’t aware of any New York Goffs of Polish or perhaps Latvian ancestry. This raises an important question: am I truly a Goff, or am I something else entirely? My friend Dave says that Goff sounds like a Dr. Seuss creation, (as in one Goff, two Goffs, red Goffs, blue Goffs) and though I think this is an astute observation, I’m not sure what bearing it has on my quest to discover my inner Goff.
I recently talked to another Goff about our shared heritage, and he said that life was even worse for him. (It seems that his father is also named Dan Goff, which means, among other things, that I have finally found a soul mate.) He told me about his father — that would be Dan Goff’s father — Dick Goff, and Dick’s unfortunately named brother Jack Goff. (Repeat until hilarity ensues. Jack Goff. Jack Goff.) Jack apparently became a Hare Krishna and is currently estranged from the family, after a large number of short, unsuccessful marriages. With a name like Jack Goff, I can understand why.
Sarah Goff had an even more interesting story. It turns out that two Puritan judges who sentenced King Charles I to death fled England in 1661 and came to the heavily Puritan colony of New Haven. These two judges, named Whalley and Goffe, hid in a cave on top of West Rock, at the ends of Whalley and Goffe streets. It turns out she is descended from this Goffe. I would like to think that my Goffs had a similarly interesting but tangential role in Latvian history.
This Wednesday the Goffs of Yale are going to get together to watch “The Big Lebowski,” a movie with themes similar to those of our lives as Goffs. I’m not sure it will help put right my shattered sense of identity, but hey, you never know.