In eighth grade my nickname was “Stubby.” I was recruited to play trumpet in the high school band and one of the juniors was making fun of my fat fingers. So it was “Stubby” then “Stubster” then just “Stubbs.” I hated it. Already painfully self conscious about my height, I came to dread band practice.
At first I tried to laugh about it. Then I tried to persuade my tormentors that my actual nickname was “T-bone.” The leader of the group considered it, shook his head and said: “Nope. Sorry Stubby.”
It then became a matter of containment. These guys were in high school. I just had to make sure this didn’t filter back to my middle school classmates.
The problem with nicknames is that others usually take our most glaring inadequacies and brand us with them. That is, unless you’re a rapper…or Carlos Danger. I’ve missed most of the trends since the early 80s, but this business of self-naming has to rank high among my most glaring omissions. So bear with me, I’m making up for lost time.
Looking back I now realize that there was no way “T-bone” was going to fly. I was trying too hard. I needed something that described a cool trait, but in an off-handed, casual way.
Growing up, nothing fit just right. Siblings are usually a pretty good resource for nicknames. My sister called my older brother “Bucky” due to his overbite so I pretty much kept my head down when she was around. My Dad accused my brothers and I of “always playing grab-ass” but “Assgrabber” was probably not the best choice for a newly minted Freshman boy. My Dad also called me a “Fumblef***” once which was more apt than I’d like to admit but still not the best choice for awkward teen years.
My wife and kids aren’t much help.
“I think it’s time for me to have a cool nickname,” I announced at dinner recently.
There was a collective eye roll.
“What’s wrong with T-bone?” asked my youngest.
“Too tame. I need something that really shows my adventuresome spirit, my devil-may-care attitude.”
“Sir Gluten” suggested my other daughter.
And while it’s true I eat wheat with impunity it just didn’t feel right.
“How about ‘Passive A-G’,” suggested my wife. “Or ‘one-beer-weenie’.”
No and no. I then did what I always do when I need help with my social maladroitness. I consulted the wisdom of the internet where I found a rap name generator website. I typed my name, age and race. The result: Clumsy-T. This is the absolute truth and reason enough for me to believe that the NSA is, in fact, watching our every move.
Then this week we learned about the genius of Anthony Weiner a/k/a/ Carlos Danger. A first name with an exotic ethnicity paired with a coveted personality trait. But either I felt like a copy-cat (Pierre Peril or Ricardo Risky) or my coveted traits were too lame (Clark Competent or Ferdinand Foresight).
Then I stumbled upon something online. My wife told me that if I continue my juvenile pursuit of a nickname, I might end up in divorce court. The Urban Slang Dictionary has a word for someone who is “Soon to be an Ex.” He is referred to as “Stubby.” Look it up.