A Visit from St. Nickname

I know, I know, Christmas and the holidays are a thing of the past. But when you have the pleasure of constantly being visited by St. Nickname, it’s like having a never-ending pity party over and over again.

Ever wonder why certain people seem to have a bullseye on their backs when it comes to acquiring nicknames? It’s a mystery to me, but I’m one of those people.

I was named way before I was ever born. My parents had the brilliant idea that, if I were a girl, I would be called Anel. It’s my mother’s name spelled backward. Yep, my mother was Lena Margaret, and I was named Margaret Anel. No, my parents weren’t dyslexic. While they were married and in college, my dad was in the band at Texas A&M University. My mother worked in the band office on campus, and the band director, Colonel Adams, had a hobby of calling people by their names backward, so he called my mother “Anel.” My parents told him that if they were ever blessed with a baby girl, Anel would be her name. Well, they were, and I was.

It was clever. It was unique. It made an awesome man refer to me as his “band baby” because he named me. But no one ever considered that it’s hard to spell, hard to pronounce, and constantly questioned. One time I got a bill from Sears where my name was spelled “Anal.” I immediately called them up and refused to pay it until they got it right.

So, maybe my parents had a lightbulb moment and realized that there could be confusion surrounding my given name. Despite being Baptists rather than Catholics, they must have decided to enlist the help of good ol’ St. Nickname to come up with some alternative options. When I entered this world, it seemed like St. Nickname himself must have been in the delivery room. As soon as I made my grand entrance, my parents, grandmother, and even the doctor all unanimously agreed that I was “Pookie.”

So at home, I was called Pookie. At school, I was Anel, until in 6th grade, Melvin Moore, my so-called boyfriend, started calling me Trunk because I had a big nose. At that time, my self-esteem was like a rock, so it didn’t bother me. With a name like Melvin, I figured he was doomed to a life of name ridicule, and paybacks can be brutal. His day was coming.

Then KAPOW! Puberty came crashing in like a wrecking ball, turning me into a walking bundle of self-consciousness. My full given name was Margaret Anel Douphrate. Exotic, huh? Probably a piece of cake for Europeans to say, but for Texans, it was a challenge, right up there with Sally selling shells at the seashore.

Back in junior high, I hated the first day of school and when we had a substitute teacher because, during roll call,  my name was always butchered on the pronunciation chopping block. The correct pronunciation is mar-gar-ette uh-nel doo-fray or doo-freight, according to my mother.

I’ll never forget in 8th grade Algebra the day our regular teacher was out sick, and the substitute, Mrs. Turner, stood in. Most kids welcomed substitute days because they could act out. But not me. On days like that, during roll call, I generally tried to concentrate on my happy place and dream of being anywhere else but in the classroom. On this particular day, there was a long pause as Mrs. Turner got to the D’s. I cringed and sunk into my desk, pretending to be invisible, as the stupid woman announced, “Let’s see, this must be Angel Doo-doo-far-tee.” Of course, pandamonium erupted in the class, and the kids all called me Doo-doo-far-tee for the rest of 8th grade. Obviously, St. Nickname wanted me to become a comedienne.

In high school, my brother named me Moosie Goosie, and I called him Dubbie Bunz because he had a cute, flat butt. But with a last name like Douphrate, we never dared call each other our pet names in public. We knew all about the power of names. To this day, when my brother texts or emails me, he calls me Moosie, MG, or Pook. I refer to him as Bunz.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare

But despite all the ribbing, shame, and mortification my name has caused throughout my life, I have to admit they have made me a stronger, wimpy girl. I probably haven’t said “thank you” enough to those responsible for affording me such power. I’d like to take this opportunity to do that right now.

Dear Mama, Daddy, Melvin, Mrs. Turner, Bunz, and St. Nickname,

Thanks for giving me such weird names.

They have truly made me who I am today.

I’m so fortunate that none of my names have ever appeared on those keychains and personalized cards in gift stores.

Never, ever have I been in a class where someone else has the same name as me.

I am a better speller because of the names you’ve bestowed upon me.

And, most of all, thank you for remembering to teach me that being unique is better than being perfect.


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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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