Archive for December, 2012


the only toiletry you really need is gum

As a budding connoisseur of the funny pages, I came to relate most closely to characters that either were known almost exclusively by a nickname, or were never seen without their trademark hat. The otherwordly elation I felt when these two elements converged every time Jughead appeared in the pages of Archie carried me through some difficult times as a kid. The universes these characters inhabited, in which Sluggo could wear a hat in class, or it could be considered perfectly normal for professional educators to address one of their pupils as “Bazooka Joe,” seemed like much more interesting places than the one in which I lived, where I was one of three kids in my class with the same first name, and the closest I ever came to attaining a nickname was every third or fourth day when my teacher picked a student from class to bring a folder containing that night’s homework to “Jeff in the nurse’s office.” Though the dress codes observed by every school in the real world made it unlikely that I would ever achieve my dream of being unrecognizable without my signature propellor beanie or logoless ballcap, I reached for the brass ring of nickname glory once my chance presented itself at computer camp the summer before I was to begin sixth grade at a new school in a new town. We stayed in the dorms at the college, where prior to arrival our counselors had taped name tags to the foot of each bed to preemptively avert disputes over bunk placement. They assigned everyone a nickname, despite never having met any of us. Most of the kids’ nicknames were elaborately wrought works of art, like Jerome “the Magnificent Serpent King” Haddox or Clem “22nd Century Firelord” Kitsko, but me they dubbed “Doc.” By the third day of camp the nickname experiment had proved to be a real pain and everyone had given up on it. I was the only one still trying to make “Doc” work. On the first day of school a month later, my first period math teacher passed out an information card for us each to fill out, and after writing my given name in the first blank, I hesitated for a second at the next blank, pausing to touch my eraser to my chin as I contemplated the typewritten “Name you’d like to be called” that preceded it before penciling in “Doc.” Within a few minutes of handing it in I felt my stomach start to clench up, but I had gone too far to turn back now.

December 2012