Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I talk about these things here because -- where else could I? Just random and casual thoughts. Stray cats looking for a little attention, a little affection if it turns out that way.

There's a fella who thinks it's his job to give people nicknames. It's his calling, apparently, if not his gift. The only one that's sorta stuck is Luxurious, for a fella with a not-very-luxurious beard. He decided that one fella should be called Sweaty J. No, it's not his gift. We've got a Tsunami, which is a great nickname, but it came via someone else. Tonight The Christener decided that a fella with wide feet should be called Barney Rubble. It is slightly amusing, but really -- would you like to be called Barney Rubble? It's not insulting, but it is a tad disrespectful. To be named after a body part. A potentially nightmarish scenario. I just hope they don't find out about my baseball-sized testicles.

Which brings me inexorably, of course, back to me. Almost fooled you, didn't I. I discourage the application of nicknames to myself. There haven't been that many attempts. As I've said, when I was in fourth grade there was a brief movement to call me Mr. Spock. This was when Star Trek was in production, c. 1968. I discouraged it.

I seem to always have been determined to be called what I wish to be called. They started out, my family, calling me Jackie. When I was 7 or 8 that name became literally painful to me. My theory now is that I'd heard it spoken with hatred so often by my mad dog brothers that it became intolerable to hear. I informed everyone that I would henceforth be called Jack. Only one of my brothers refused to honor that. It was very distressing to me. Then I hit upon a plan. Every time he called me Jackie, I kicked him as hard as I could in the shin. Of course I got beaten up. But every time he did it, I kicked him as hard as I could in the shin. Can't say how long that went on, but I have the sense that he learned pretty quick. I remember my fierce resolve.

It's like training a dog. Of course it's not the way you train a real dog, except in the fact that I was very consistent. It turns out that even mad dogs can learn.

Now every once in a while someone will playfully call me Jackie. It shoots a little electricity through my body, but it's harmless. I remind myself that it's not disrespect. It's friendliness. Isn't it strange? -- that I'd have to do that?

I haven't displayed anger to my father very often at all. Haven't even seen him since the mid-nineties, but even then it would have been virtually never, a show of anger. One of the few instances, that merit the "virtually," is when he decided he was going to change my name. I would have been in my thirties. I've mentioned this before, but you don't surf the archives here -- your loss, loser -- so I'll repeat it.

My son was born when I was living in Australia. Six months later my father and one of his wives had a son, my half-brother. And being my father, my father named his new son ... wait for it ... are you ready? -- he named him Jack. My father has two sons named Jack. That would just be weird, except for the fact -- which I have, again, already related -- that when I was a teen my father told me he was sorry he'd named me Jack because that was a real man's name and I was such a little pathetic embarrassing nothing. Words to that effect. So at the first opportunity, what does he do but name another son Jack. Sort of like I didn't exist. Sort of a confirmation that he'd really meant what he'd said. All this is old news.

But when I was in my thirties, trying to give my son some connection to his extended family by having him be around his grandfather and his little (half-) uncle, what did my father try to do, but change my name. Jack is my middle name. My father started trying to call me D, my first name. I ignored it the first few times, but then I pulled him up hard and short. A display of anger. "My name is not D. My name is Jack. Understand?" He was taken aback. He made some noises about the boy having been named for his wife's father's nickname. "No. That name is taken. It's mine. Not yours to give, anymore, ever again. Get it? You don't take my name, and you don't name me twice." "I didn't know you felt that way." "You didn't know I felt any way."

Oddly, not long after that everyone started to call my young half-brother C, his first name. I'd been calling him that all along. Nothing against the boy, that poor boy. I wouldn't try to take his name away from him, but Jack is my name. I earned it. By fighting for it, and being beaten for it, and standing up again and demanding that I be respected. I earned it by being honorable, and honest, and worthy of respect whether or not I was given respect. You see? Not embarrassing. Not pathetic. Not nothing.

I had no idea I was going to write all this when I started talking about nicknames. Telling a little about my brothers made me feel nothing. I'm long since over that. Retelling about my father and his profound invalidations is nothing. Old news, and I'm done with it. But I find myself moved, when I write that I stood up and demanded respect.

I write a lot about protecting the weak and the vulnerable. Well? We have to start with ourselves. Nobody is nothing.

What I meant to write, about nicknames, is that we have to agree to them. Otherwise they're insults. I joke around about being The Jackhammer! That's so unlike me. Any nickname for me that includes "Jack" is going to be obvious. Jack the Ripper is most common. Please. No. But I've finally identified my true nickname. I hear it, frankly, a lot. Especially when I get someone's back, which is a lot. "Oh, this is a nightmare." "God, that was a nightmare." "Rolling with you is just a nightmare."

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Jack "The Nightmare" H!


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