assman

Three Men on What It’s Like to Have the Last Name Assman (or Assmann)

Contrary to what you might think, the Assman life is the best life

From getting it, to eating it, to having it, welcome to Ass Week, MEL’s weeklong exploration of the body part du jour.

Remember that Canadian guy, David Assman, who recently wasn’t allowed to get a license plate with his own last name on it (and who even more recently is getting the last laugh)? Life must be rough, you might think, with a name like that.

Nope! Wrong!

We asked three other guys what it’s like to be an Assman, and far from being a hindrance, it’s a surname that opens doors, makes fast friends and prompts endless conversations with strangers. So while there’s never, ever a shortage of jokes, life as an Assman (or Assmann) turns out to be a pretty good life.

David Assman, 32

It’s pronounced “OSS-men.” It comes from “Assmannshausen,” a small village in Germany on the Rhine River in wine country. Somewhere along the way they shortened it — I’m not sure when.

The first thing everyone asks is, “Have you seen that episode of Seinfeld?” Of course I’ve seen it. The other thing is that no one ever thinks it’s really my last name until they see my driver’s license — every time I show it to someone at a bar they usually laugh, make some comment about Seinfeld or say, “Is it true? Are you really an assman?” I usually just say yes.

As a kid I didn’t really get teased or picked on necessarily, but I went to a really small school, so everyone knew me and everyone knew how it was pronounced. So I didn’t really get that much shit for it, everyone just kind of thought it was funny. But then when I got to college, people made Facebook groups for me because they thought it was hilarious. I’d be walking down the street and someone would yell, “Assman!” People I’d never met would know me from the Facebook group that someone made.

Otherwise, it’s totally been an asset my whole life, I swear to God. I thought about changing it when I moved to L.A. 10 years ago. I wondered if people would take me seriously with that last name — and then I started getting jobs because of it. The first job I got was at MTV. When I was doing phone interviews with them, they were asking about my last name. They thought it was so hilarious, and they had to have me because of it. They were like, “We don’t know where we’re gonna put you, but just consider yourself hired for somewhere here!” Obviously I had the qualifications too, but it sticks with people in their minds, so I ended up not changing it.

I also got my next job, at an art gallery, because of it. Again, it stuck with my boss, and she remembered me out of the candidates. Now I’m a real estate agent in Beverly Hills. I mail out marketing materials to potential clients, and people will text me pictures of my postcard on their fridge because someone in their family thought it was funny or something — they ripped the portion with my face and name off the postcard and put it up.

In the end then, I’m glad I didn’t change it. Especially because there would have been the whole thing with the family like, “Why’d you change it? Why wouldn’t you just keep your name? It’s been in the family for hundreds of years.” Plus, I’ve learned that after a while, people don’t even pay attention to it. It’s just a name.

Derek Assman, 28

As a kid, my last name did come up, but it was almost more in a sense of, “Hey, that’s kind of cool that’s your name! You’re the assman!” Certainly there are some jokes that go along with it. I’ve embellished it by saying things like, “Yeah, it’s derived from generations ago, when our family members were Saudi Arabian donkey dealers, and they became assmen!” I just completely made that up. But my message is, you gotta have fun with it. I don’t take life too seriously — with a name like Assman, how could you?

It also helped that I’m about 6-foot-6, 270 pounds — in other words, in the schoolyard, I wasn’t the smallest kid.

I sell heavy equipment, like bulldozers and excavators. In sales, my name is more of an asset than a liability because people never forget who you are — good or bad — simply because of your last name. The company I work for has 1,800 people, and, not to knock on my own door here, but people will be like, “Yeah, I know Assman,” or, “Assman in Des Moines.” Without really knowing somebody or interacting with them, they know who you are simply because of your last name.

Something always happens with this name. I was at a college basketball game recently, and in a bar before the game, a friend of mine said, “Hey Assman, do you want another beer?” And I said sure. Somebody nudged me and said, “Hey, why did they call you ‘ass man?’” I said, “Well, it’s my last name.” The guy happens to be a local sports reporter who had done a piece on a kicker for the same school’s football program whose name is Assalley. Then he goes, “I should have you on the radio sometime.”

Today I went to lunch with a local customer — I paid, and on my credit card is “Derek A. Assman.” The waitress looked at me and goes, “I was gonna heckle you a little bit about your last name,” and I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, it’s Assman.” I said, “No it’s not.” Of course my customer is laughing — it’s all in good fun and the waitress thought it was funny and won’t forget it.

Little things like that happen day-in, day-out. I relish it — I don’t think it’s a negative thing.

My mother tried getting ASSMAN license plates and they made her put a letter in front, so right now she has JASSMAN on her car.

Playing sports as a kid, you have your jersey, sweatshirt or T-shirt that says your last name and your number on it — and my mom would get frustrated at me because she thought I was giving them to people. At a track meet or baseball or football game, people would be like, “Let me have that T-shirt with Assman on it,” and there were a couple instances where I did give sweatshirts away — but in reality, they got stolen at a high rate. It was almost like a “420” street sign, or a street sign that says “Boner” or something like that. Also, on the doors our basketball lockers, we had our first and last name and our number and a logo. Well, mine got stolen, and they replaced it — then it got stolen again. They finally put one up with just my number. I assume it was during gym class, or maybe by the opposing team during a game.

People are always timid about pronouncing my last name, though. For example, in college on the first day of class, when they do a roll call, the teacher would always say something like, “Derek … uhhh … not sure how to really say this … let’s go with … Azzzzz-man?” They kind of throw a few z’s in there.

My general approach to life is, you can control two things: Your attitude and your effort. But you can’t control who your parents are, your last name or what you’re born into. At the end of the day, it’s your last name, and I hope no one else in our family has to have a burden of being bullied, or that it prevents them from getting a job or from doing something they aspire to do.

For me, though, it really never felt like a curse. It always felt more like a blessing, because it’s an icebreaker — a way for people not to forget who you are.

Curt Assmann, 39

Even though I’m from a very large family, I’m from a very small town. Like, 200 people small. So for us, we didn’t get that much grief. I had a couple guys crudely say, “Hey ass man,” or whatever in high school, but I just kind of blew it off. They were douches anyway. My nickname throughout college was “assman” — and a lot of people just called me “ass” for short. But it still never bothered me at all because it opened doors.

In the college dorms — I went to a small, Catholic, all guys college — we were introducing ourselves and it was like, “Tell us your name, where you’re from and something cool about yourself.” I’m just like, “My name’s Curt Assmann, you can all call me assman.” Everybody died. They were like, “You’re the guy!” Or, “I’ve seen your name!” I remember graduation. They were going through the names: Anderson, all the A’s, and it’s just dead silent. Then the woman’s like, “Curt … Ozzzzmann?” And everybody just goes, “ASSMAN!!!” screaming it. I mean, like, hundreds of guys.

I used to work for General Mills. When I interviewed, one of the first things the woman asked is, “How do you pronounce your last name?” And once I got hired, as I was introducing myself to people — this is many, many people, a really big company — they’d all be like, “I’d been really wanting to meet you,” and “You’re the guy!” So I’ve always embraced it.

It also probably makes you handle vulnerability more than others, I’d say. You expose it, because you have to give your name a lot, right? Anywhere you go, you have to say it, spell it, show your license, whatever. So you become very vulnerable — the object of somebody’s judgement, I guess.

There’s different spellings — for example, there’s an “Ossman” with an O. I’m convinced those people changed it, but I don’t know that for a fact. My wife never took my last name. Her sister didn’t take the last name of her husband, so that’s how my wife used it as an out to not take mine. I don’t think she would have taken it anyway, though. I didn’t care either way.

When people see my driver’s license, a lot of them just say, “Man, that’s awesome.” It used to be my pickup thing. I’d go up to a girl, not say a word and just hand them my license: Instant conversation starter. They’d be like, “NO WAY. This is fake! This isn’t real!”

It’s interesting that they wouldn’t allow the guy in Canada to get a license plate due to the risk of other people being offended. It’s like, are you kidding me? What about this guy who’s had to live with this name all his life? My aunt said there was a relative in Nebraska who tried to get his name on a license plate, and they declined him, too. But I don’t think I could get the license plate. Just the looks and the laughs, it’d be too much. You’d literally stop traffic — everybody would be pulling out their phones wherever you go. Everybody would be trying to snap a pic of the ASSMANN.