Last night, as we watched the results of the political primaries held throughout the state, I asked The Partner if he knew what the name Ned was short for.
"Nedward," he said, with authority.
I hit him close to the kidneys in that loving, wifely way. But it got me thinking about nicknames.
I've gone by the name Binky for as long as I can remember. My mother was signing me up for library story time and doctor's appointments under the Binky appellation long before I had any say in the matter. My given name is nothing that such a nickname could be rationally derived from, but that didn't stop my mother. Rationality was never really a sticking point with her.
In third grade, I was a dorky Binky with a bad home perm (again, I can thank my mom for that) and Coke bottle eye glasses. In seventh grade, I was presidential-hopeful Binky, running on the "Don't Clown Around, Vote for Binky" platform. When I entered high school, I went by my given name on paper, but I was Binky in the halls.
I've found that college students don't generally like to introduce themselves by the name that denotes clowns, baby pacifiers, and tattered Lovies. I was no different. But when my new friends stumbled upon my nickname--as they would, they always would, usually courtesy of my mother, whose reach is apparently good for 500+ miles--it was comforting to hear it used again, an homage to a childhood left behind.
I'm Binky today, and I am reverting back to a carefree, too-young-to-know-better state of mind when it comes to caring what other people think about it. Professionally, I still go by my given name, but even that part of my life is taking a turn for the laissez-faire as I greet each haphazard day with the devil-may-care attitude of a freelance-writing mother blogger.
It's the right name for me, which is something I'm typing right now with a bit of incredulity in my fingers. It is a name I despised at times, was ambivalent about on other occasions, and rarely, if ever, liked. But it's me. And now that I am beginning to understand and appreciate myself in a way I never have, that name--that integral part of anyone's identity--has more meaning and resonance than ever.
So The Partner and I gave our daughter a weird name, too. But to really sock it to her, we put it on her birth certificate so there'd be nothing to fall back on. We think it's distinctive. We think it has character. And in 28 years, maybe she'll thank us.
What's your nickname? What are your children's nicknames? What do those names mean to you?