Friday, September 25, 2015

What’s in a Name?

            I must have called her by the wrong name. She looked just like Linda at my old school, but in the new school she was Joyce. I almost never call people by their name because their faces shoot poisoned arrows when I get it wrong. There were always at least two Lindas and Nancys and Joyces in every school. If I didn’t have a name, no one could forget it or remember it. They would often spell my name wrong, with a “y” or a “j” instead of an “i.” I never met anyone with my name until I was 30 years old. It was exciting, like proof that I existed. A friend’s daughter was always one of two or three Sarahs in her class. When she went to college, she decided to change to a nickname. She polled everyone she knew and settled on Sadie, a name common among my grandparents. How does it feel to have a common name? When I first went to eastern Europe, there were three other Sonias at the conference, with the “i” and with the “j,” even a Sanya. I had slipped into a slot that fit exactly. My name had become a tribe. My daughter’s name, Christie, can be spelled at least six different ways, and it’s not short for anything. She hates to see it spelled wrong, as though she is someone else. A name has power, but to be nameless is freeing. A name ties you down to one meaning, an anchor to safety, but also a weight to drag you down.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Slice of Life Tuesday

Do Men Have a Better Sense of Humor, 
or Just a Weirder One?

            Recently my husband and I were discussing what makes something funny, and whether something being funny could ever be offensive. He thought that if something was truly funny, it couldn’t be offensive, and someone who thought it wasn’t funny had no sense of humor. I thought that it always depended on where one was in relation to the object of the joke.
            Came a case study today. My husband tells me the following joke someone told him once.
            Mickey Mantle takes his teammates Whitey Ford and Billy Martin hunting in his home state of Oklahoma. Mickey thinks the best hunting will be on his friend’s land, so they go to the friend’s house, where Mickey says he should go in and ask  permission, as a courtesy, since he knows the friend will say yes, while Whitey and Billy stay outside.
            Mickey and his friend exchange greetings, and the friend says that of course they can hunt on his property. But Mickey could do him a favor. The friend’s favorite horse is old and sick, and really should be put down, but he just doesn’t have the heart to shoot him himself. Could Mickey shoot the horse for him? Of course, Mickey says.
            When he joins Whitey and Billy, however, he decides to play a little joke on them. “That son of a bitch,” he reports, “he won’t let us hunt here. I don’t know why he’s being such a shit. I’ve got to get even with him.”
            He points to the old horse in the paddock next to the house. “That’s his favorite horse. I’ve got a good mind to shoot him.”
            “Don’t do that,” Whitey says. “We can go hunt somewhere else.”
            “No,” Mickey insists. “I’m going to shoot his horse.” And while he and Whitey continue to argue over whether Mickey will shoot the horse, they hear gunshots. Billy is shooting the friend’s cattle.
            I grimaced. How stupid, I thought. Yet my husband was laughing. “Of course,” I said, “that is only funny if you think men are really stupid.” Yes, my husband said, still chuckling.
            “And what’s really crazy,” I continued, “is that men tell this joke about each other, and they think it’s funny!” My husband laughed even more, since apparently what I’d said was really funny