In choosing the names for our offspring, my wife and I underwent a series of intense analytical sessions. We drew up lists, consulted census reports and cross-checked our top contenders to make sure they didn't correlate to any sitcom characters and/or reality stars. But that was just the beginning. Armed with tomes of baby naming books, we parsed out things like origin, meaning, and how the names meshed with their siblings'. I even did a podcast with the best name in public radio, Sylvia Poggioli, to get her take on the subject. (Turns out her name wasn't as cool in grade school.) I guess you could say we were successful in one regard: The names we picked got no complaints from friends and family. As wee lasses, our daughters have fully grown into their names and we couldn't imagine calling them anything different, well in the formal sense, at least.
The truth is on any given day, I'll call them by at least four or five different names. Yes, I'm a serial nicknamer. I get this trait (some consider it witty, others juvenile) from my father, who never found a name he couldn't morph. In my father's world, Jane Doe would be Jane Doe-A-Deer. As a Gen Xer, I'd probably go with J-Doe. Of late, I've been favoring Yiddishizing names for no particular reason. That's right, Jane Dovinsky.
So for years now, my daughters have been the recipients of whatever crazy moniker happens to fly into my noggin. We've had some laughs and they've even gotten into it. They've given themselves some of our all-time favorite nicknames intentionally or through insanely adorable mispronunciations -- a la Beezus from Romona and Beezus. So this is all fun and good, but here's the rub: Some of this is starting to leak outside the sacred family circle. Heard through the mouths of babysitters, teachers and well-meaning neighbors, our nicknames sound less endearing and more like reminders that we're corny and to some degree, twisted. I'm concerned one of my angelic princesses might get stuck with one of my moron bombs she just can't shake.
I should know, for I, myself, am a victim of a nickname gone terrible awry. After years of mutations, Robert went from Robbie to (watch this leap) Roofie-Toofie. This was all fine and good when I was 4, but not so cool when I was 10 and away at summer camp trying to fit in. When the kids in my bunk happened upon a letter addressed to a Roofie-Toofie Sachs, things got very bad very quickly for me.
I know the simple solution is to button up in public, something even my dad learned to do after repeated eye rolls from me and my siblings. He learned to adapt and so must I. I know this will take some practice and some hard elbows to the rib, but I'm pretty confident I can do it. Who knows, perhaps with a little practice, there may never again be an instance where I embarrass my girls in public.
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