Sticks and Stones

11 Oct

My name is Janice. Most people call me “Janice.”

Now and again, someone will get it in their head that they should call me “Jan.” Usually, these are people with names like “David,” “Barbara,” or “Patricia.” They introduce themselves using their whole name, then say, “But you can call me (insert shortened form of longer name).” Like this, “Hi, I’m David, but you can call me ‘Dave’.” Why don’t they just say, “Hi, I’m Dave”?

Never in my life have I said, “Hi, I’m Janice, but you can call me ‘Jan’.” I have said, “Hi, I’m Janice.” The Daves, the Barbs and the Pats then proceed to say, “Hi, Jan. It’s nice to meet you.” “Please call me ‘Janice’,” I say. Most people understand that this probably means I don’t want to be called “Jan.” Every now and then, though, I run into someone who just really wants to call me “Jan.”

When I was in high school, I sang. For four years, the choir director called me “Jan.” Maybe he thought I went by “Jan” because my older sister, whose name is “Roberta,” went by “Bobbi.” I think probably he liked her better, too. Lots of people liked her better. She was a senior and pretty and nice and friendly. I was a freshman and gangly and sullen and sarcastic. I’m pretty sure, at least in high school, that even my parents liked her better.

By my senior year, my sister had graduated and just about everyone in the choir knew that I really didn’t like to be called “Jan.” One day, when the choir director called me “Jan,” I heard the male voice sections respond, “ -ice,” thereby completing my name.

My last name caused much more trouble for me in school than my first name did. If I was gangly, sullen and sarcastic in high school, I was just sarcastic in grade school. Sarcasm is lost on most fourth graders.  Mostly, they just thought I was weird. The playground was not a happy place for sarcastic weirdoes like me. I recall one particular day being cornered by a number of my less weird and less sarcastic classmates who taught me how to play “dress up” while calling me “Janice Lindegarter belt.” I was humiliated, of course, but my inside-my-head voice was saying, “My God. ‘Lindegarterbelt’? Is that the best you can do?”

I can still have trouble with my last name, though no one has called me “Lindegarterbelt” in more than 43 years. When someone asks me for my last name, I say, “Lindegard.” I do this because they asked for my last name and my last name is “Lindegard.” More frequently than you probably will believe, they say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry Mrs. Gard, we don’t have anything on file for you.” And I will have to correct them and say, “My last name is ‘Lindegard.’ The whole last name. My first name is ‘Janice’.” I have never added, “you idiot.” My brother may have added, “you idiot.” He has had the same thing happen to him when someone asked for his last name and did not look up from whatever they were searching through.

Though I don’t go by “Jan” or “Lindegarterbelt,” I have had some nicknames in my life. My nicknames are person-specific; as in certain people call me certain names.

My husband calls me “Boo Boo.” This surprises me. I would think “Boo Boo” would be something you call someone who is cute and sweet and loving, not someone who criticizes the way you do everything, from mowing the lawn to rinsing the dishes. I do think I’m kind of cute, so maybe that’s my “Boo Boo” factor.

My sister calls me “Bean.” I have no idea why. I call her “Bird.” I know why. She knows why. Maybe she told me why she calls me “Bean” once, but I’ve forgotten. My brother calls me “J.” Pretty obvious why he calls me that, I think. If he called me “Jan,” I’d have to hurt him, so he cuts everything but the “J” off and gets to keep his hair.

Some dads call their daughters sweet names like “Princess” or “Sweet Pea.” My dad called me “Pig Pig.” I think he probably liked my sister better. He never called her “Pig Pig.”

I’ve mellowed about name-calling as I’ve gotten older. When my daughter called me “Poopy Pants” because she didn’t like something I said to her, I said, “Ok, Doody Drawers, but you still have to clean up your mess before you go out.” Soon, we were calling each other “Poopy Pants” and “Doody Drawers” on a regular basis. It was cute; it was funny. My daughter’s best friend thought it was cute and funny. She tried it with her own mother. I think she got grounded and I’m pretty sure her mother didn’t believe that “Abby calls her mom ‘Poopy Pants’ all the time!”

My daughter doesn’t call me “Poopy Pants” much anymore. Lately, I’m a “big, fat, big-headed old baby.” I don’t remember if I was trying to get my daughter to stop, or to start something. I didn’t miss a beat, though.

“That’s right,” I said. “That’s me. I’m a big, fat, big-headed baby.”

“You forgot old,” she said. Then she did whatever it was that she had resisted doing before calling me names.

Name-calling seems to vent steam in my house. When I let my daughter call me a “big, fat, big-headed old baby,” I’m giving her a safe way to express her anger and I’m showing her that someone else’s words only have the power to harm if we allow it. I don’t get upset about being called a BFBHOB, because I’m not big or fat. I don’t think I have a particularly big head and I’m certainly not a baby. I’ll give her old; I am, compared to her.

We both know that what she’s saying isn’t true. She also knows that the rules for name-calling are different at school and with friends. She’s a smart girl.

So, she calls me a “big, fat, big-headed old baby.” Sometimes, she even adds “mean” or “ugly” and then she laughs and I laugh with her. But if she ever calls me “Jan,” the girl is grounded.


5 Responses to “Sticks and Stones”

  1. bobbi October 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    Love it, poopy pants!

    I don’t remember why I started calling you bean either…wasn’t it originally “neaner beaner”?

    • jmlindy422 October 11, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

      It may, indeed, have been “neaner beaner.” Do you remember if Dad had a nickname for you? Was it Best Daughter or something like that???

  2. bob palmieri October 12, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Hmmm…. I do recall spelling your name “Janis” more than twice because I thought it fit your self-described “sullen and sarcastic” persona better.

    I also recall that you were quite gracious about this.

    • jmlindy422 October 12, 2010 at 9:54 am #

      I had forgotten that you spelled my name that way. But, I do recall liking it. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. Elaine October 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    The thought of someone calling you “Jan” makes me laugh out loud! I may or may not have to try calling you that one of these days. 🙂

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