I don't know what my parents were thinking, sticking me with a weird name like Jim. Why couldn’t they have named me something cool, like Hal 2000 or Bandersnatch or Sasquatch or a thousand other cool names that the parents who really care about their kids would have come up with? Maybe something like Hashtag, Kingsolomon, Espn, Yoga or Burger. But no, they named me after some relative, a grandad or somebody, and I got teased mercilessly about my odd, funny-sounding name by Whiz, Spam and Colic, the school's biggest bullies. Oh, kids can be cruel.
I had a crush on a girl named I Break for Whales but she would never play with me because I wasn’t a Native American. I said, “But neither are you, or your parents.”
“Not in this life,” she said, “but they were before. They don’t want me to forget my past-life heritage.”
My wife, Sue, had problems, too. It seems Rainbow and Lilypad were always up in her face about her silly name. “What are you gonna do,” they'd say, “sue us?” and laugh.
Of course, Sue and I were born before our parents could Google the really good, creative names that give kids a leg up on the fierce competition for future jobs. Who wouldn't want someone named Mephistopheles, Bang Bang, Partly Cloudy Chance of Rain or Trapezoid working for them? Faster than you can say, “Nice skull tattoo on your forehead,” they'll be sucking up all the good jobs on Wall Street and at the white-shoe law firms, while the Jims and Sues of the world are quickly forgotten. A Jim plays checkers, while a Tyrion has adventures. A Sue plays canasta, while a Katniss hunts down dinner with a bow and arrow. I always thought I would get a terrific nickname, like Killer or Kong, or at least Butch or Bud -- a name that would reflect what I really am on the inside. But a nickname, just like your given name, is not something you pick yourself. It is given to you. I don't remember who started calling me Dumbo, but it stuck. Actually, I'm pretty sure it was Sue.
Giving me such an ordinary name wasn't the worst thing my parents ever did, it just started the ball rolling downhill. I don't know what was wrong with them, but they made sure I had a happy childhood. Obviously, they didn't know much about parenting. They read me bedtime stories, they gave me plenty of love and attention, they made sure I was well-fed and clothed and had plenty of fun things to do.
In short, they wrecked my life. Who wants to read about someone's boring, happy childhood? They totally killed my chances of writing a string of best-sellers about my struggles to overcome childhood traumas. Who would read “Oliver Twist” if the whole story was about how much fun he was having at Chuck E. Cheese's day after day? Who would read “Mommie Dearest” if she had been the perfect mom? Why couldn't my dad have made me stand out in the cold under a dripping drainpipe for 24 hours for forgetting to shine his shoes? Why couldn't he have sold my puppy to a traveling salesman? Why couldn't he have been an absinthe smuggler or a spy?
If only my folks had done something interesting, I could be on all the morning shows plugging memoirs like “Food Fight: My Multiple Personalities Have Multiple Eating Disorders,” “Still Potty-Training at 40” and “My Problems Make Yours Look Tiny.” But I can't. I'm perfectly happy and content.
They wrecked my life.
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.