There are lots of different monikers we grow up with. Some of them are bestowed upon us by parents, teachers, friends, even enemies. They can be nicknames or pet names; cutesy kind of sounding prefixes that get trotted out on special occasions or intimate ones. We can be given silly names by children, sexy names by lovers and we can also be given names that make us cringe, even when the user of that name knows how it makes us feel. All in all, the names try to denote or foster personality traits upon us. We either embrace them or work hard to shred them. Some we foist upon ourselves. Some we can never outrun. And some we love and no one uses. Collectively names become a part of us. They generate a sense of familiarity and closeness. Not just with the holder of the moniker but the person utilising it as well. Ernest Hemingway so hated his first name he started calling himself Papa during his Paris sojourn years, and it stuck. Elizabeth Taylor was called Liz in the hyper-focused press and vehemently hated it. Sydney Crosby will forever be ‘Syd the Kid.’ Let’s talk about defining names. Fun, right?!
Growing up it was imparted upon me my name was my name. Our given names say usually more about the people who gave us our name, than us on our own. This is often why middle names are WILD. For me, under no circumstance was I to allow my name to be shortened or nicknamed up. I was to let people know as quickly as possible, “I’m Kristina with a ‘K” less they go about writing it in a manner my Mum deemed reprehensible. Lord above if someone uses ‘Ch.’ And I got used to this. It did instill in me a sense of self. My name was wholly mine, most definitely defined me. Meaning when people and teachers heard it, they heard, quiet and shy and pliant. Kristina is such a lovely child. Ya, right. Now of course it bothers me less when Starbucks writes ‘Tina’ or someone perchance says KristinE – well, ok, maybe that one still bugs me a tiny bit. And only now as a deeply middle-aged person might I find my name on bookmarks and knotted bracelets. However, I do draw the line at ‘Kris’. I don’t know her. Unless you mean the Kardashian matriarch, you’re not talking to or about me with that name-calling. So, if you want this Kris to do something it isn’t me and I take no responsibility. Joke’s on you pal.
For a last name, that outside who don’t know me, well I’d sometimes get called my last name by male teachers or colleagues. I don’t know why. I’ve never inquired as to why. It seems to give off the, can use to get your attention vibes. It rhymes with a delicious sweet treat – wait, ooOOoo I think I’ve just put that together in my head. Wow. If that’s the case it’s taken me long enough to make that connection, decades, and how very weird of teachers to do that (that I won’t let my brain delve into too much). Maybe not but the treat is delicious and … let’s stop here on that one. I can’t take that on right now. ::blushes::
Like the aforementioned, I’ve only ever been called ‘red’ by a few, and never heard it before high school. In recent memory, there is only one person who calls me that (Hi!) and circumstances mean I haven’t heard them say it in a long time. I digress. But truth be told it is one of my favourite names.
But even with all the information above, it didn’t even occur to me until I was a mother that I do have some very defining and personal names and descriptors that embody who I am. Let’s learn what they are. C’mon, if you’ve made it this far, you may as well see it to the end.
Fuzzy. This is a name my daughter gave me when she was about 2. I surmise because I would sing Fuzzy Wuzzy to her in the bath. It was one of only a handful of songs that would set her off into a fit of giggles. It never failed.
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bear,
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy … was he?
I have to admit I really nailed the delivery on “was he?’ every time. After that, she’d be off to the races. So, around toddler age, she started calling me Fuzzy. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it. Why didn’t she want to call me Mum or Mama like I was trying to get her to say? Did she think I was hairy and rotund like a bear? She’d say agua from Dora the Explorer but no Mum. Just Fuzzy. But I got used to it. I liked it. Sometimes she’d say Fuzzy and pet my face. I realized that meant it was love. I felt that too. Writing that out just now leaves me emotional. Those days of us falling asleep in her bed or mine are gone, as she stroked my cheek and said, ‘Fuzzy’. Now I’m lucky if she responds to text messages, not food or financial recompense related. But even after that name went away and might not be spoken by that little toddler, it’s still a huge part of me and how my daughter saw me. It’s a blessing to have been given that and I don’t take that gift lightly.
Similarly, to the intimacy of Fuzzy, my Dad called me ‘Titch.’ He was sparing with his words my Dad was. He wasn’t about over-usage. When he had things to say he said them, otherwise he was letting you be. Thus, it’s not as if Titch was used every time I saw him. It wasn’t. I remember it on special occasions. I remember it during the one-on-one time, though my childhood and womanhood – when he wasn’t also calling me by his sister’s name. I remembered it longingly as I looked upon him at the funeral home. I wondered aloud, who was ever going to say that to me again. And the answer is no one. No one will ever say it again. It was just for him and that made it just for me. Titch is defined as a small child, little one. At some point, I was his little one. I got it tattooed on me for posterity. I may never be on the receiving end of that name again, but I know it’s there and I remember who I am.
Lastly and boldly, my self-professed, identifying, and foisted mark should come as no surprise. I am geek. Not the geek of your IT department – those men and women are in a class unto themselves. No. I am a geek because without a doubt I’m your socially awkward and inept coworker, friend, and sometime acquaintance who can geek out over anything. I can display an unhealthy interest in a party buffet; I will geek out over the number of cheeses. I can geek out over the amazing selection of candles at the home store. I will spastically geek out in an antique market or craft fair. Geek out over a book I read. I guarantee I will gleefully geek out over something you did because it makes you happy you did it and it makes me happy that you did it! And I will geek out until the end of time, at any time of day, over a Star Wars trailer. Those are all just facts. I have been and continue to be called a geek. I know I’m a geek, this is not news. But it is the closest descriptor and nickname that I will nod along to without thinking about it. It was not always the case. It was bad enough being a myopic, frizzy-haired, shy nerd. But to also be able to unleash the kind of enthusiastic energy only puppies have onto things can be a bit jarring to others. I like being a geek. I think geeks are cool. We’re not the smartest but we’re not dumb. It’s a good nickname, as a word, too! Geeks can get with things. We don’t always need a run-through of what’s going on, that will come later because the deep into-it nerds will tell us. Or our nerd part will spreadsheet it or photograph it or save it to memory later. It’s so awesome to be a geek. Don’t get me wrong, I am also a nerd – the glasses give that away. But I never want to leave geek behind. And I don’t have to. We’re cool enough now people write how-to guides for geek girls. What a time to be alive.
Fuzzy. Titch. Geek. I think those nicknames aren’t bad. I’m sure a lot of people have better ones. Even if someone called you ‘honey’ or ‘big guy’. Whatever it may be, I think the place it’s coming from is most important. It’s why it can be hard to divest of names we were given we didn’t want, especially if they stick. It’s why I think we should embrace the ones we’re given that we love. That came from places of tenderness and kindness. Even if I didn’t understand at first what being a geek meant, and at first thought, it was making fun, I realised it wasn’t and that someone saw me, even if just for a moment. And our prefixes and suffixes can do that, they can let others see us. They can let us see ourselves.
Ultimately, we do get to choose if our nicknames are who they are trying to say we are. We can even try to be Hemingway and work at giving ourselves one in the hope’s others adopt it. As silly as that sounds it worked out for Papa (not quite at the end, but you know what I mean).
Being a geek frees those quiet and shy parts to be ridiculous. Being described as a geek, named a geek, quite honestly means I can see your cool thing about you, even before you show me. I’ll proudly keep the geek epithet, thank you very much.
Be a geek, get your nickname on.
“When I was a kid, it was a huge insult to be a geek. Now it’s a point of pride in a weird way.” – J.J. Abrams