essays

Pick a Name -- Any Nickname

what's your nickname?I’ve always wanted a cool nickname. My parents chose Nancy because it was a fairly popular girls given name in the 1950s. Today, hardly anyone picks Nancy as the name for their newborn. It’s a name forever stuck in the middle of the baby boom years.

I have always considered my name to be bland and boring, and it certainly doesn’t lend itself to any fun abbreviations.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to replace Nancy with a neat nickname. The obvious “Nan” just never seemed to fit and I really dislike the nickname “Nance.” The only exception is my dear friend who resides in Florida and has called me “Nance” for more than 30 years. She can continue as long as she likes; Everyone else, please stop.

When I was little kid, my older sister often called me “Piggus.” Since we were not allowed to swear, my sister had created the most distasteful word she could concoct, which she’d hurl at me when I annoyed her, and that was often.

Even after all these years, I can still hear her shouting: “You are such a Piggus, everyone hates you!”

Ah, good times.

Thankfully, Piggus quickly evolved into our family’s ultimate insult or put-down, rather than my childhood nickname. Piggus became one of our slightly twisted family jokes, of which we had many. In our little house on the Minnesota prairie, if you were a Piggus, you were without a doubt the lowest of the low.

My grammar school years went by without any notable monikers. Then, around the time I entered junior high school, my family started calling me “Squid” or even worse, “The Squid,” as in: “When is The Squid coming home?”

“Squid” is indeed a most unfortunate nickname for a woman of my age and short stature. No one can even remember how the name started or why it persisted. However, I do know it is far too late to persuade my family to call me anything else. To them, I am The Squid.

That’s the way it is with nicknames. They are most often bestowed, and those who are the nicknamed often don’t have a say. It just happens and then it sticks.
In high school, for example, two of my closest friends took a shine to “Nanny” which was so-so, but at least I knew it was a term of endearment. However, soon it had morphed into “Nanny Goat,” most often accompanied by a light, animal-like bray.  No amount of pleading would get them to stop.

If you think that nickname got my goat, you would be right.

On to college.

Moving 100 miles away to attend school opened up a whole new chapter in my quest for the perfect nickname. My middle name is Ellen, and for the first few weeks of college, I asked everyone I met to please call me “Ellie.” A cute nickname to be sure.
Unfortunately, I never remembered “Ellie” was the fun nickname I so desperately wanted. I’d often fail to respond, thereby causing other students and teachers to think I was either hard-of-hearing or simply terribly rude.

In one study group, another student even asked me sarcastically, “Don’t you know your own name?”

Evidently not.

As you can imagine, “Ellie” was a feeble, short-lived phase.

any name necklaceWhen I started my business career, my coworkers bestowed a few nicknames. At one of my first jobs, I was called “Minnesota Nancy,” since there was another Nancy in the office, and I had recently relocated from the Land of 10,000 Lakes to sunny Los Angeles.
At another company, my boss called me only by my last name and that caught on for a time.
Yet, when I left a job, the nicknames stayed behind.

Now, the decades have flown by and I’m still Nancy. Yet, my name doesn’t seem so bad anymore. I’ve worked on letting the nickname thing pretty much fade away.  If it happens, it happens. Trying too hard usually doesn’t work out well and my quest to acquire the ideal nickname is a classic example.

So, go ahead, call me Nancy. I’ll be sure to answer.

 

Nancy Wurtzel writes about making big changes at midlife in her blog Dating Dementia. Read about Nancy’s often humorous and sometimes twisted journey as a baby boomer, single woman, empty nester, feminist and caregiver.

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