Monday, April 12, 2010

Playground Rules: Part 1 – Nicknames

Playground Rules: Part 1 – Nicknames

Usually I write a Bible devotional that is taken from my morning personal time with the good Lord, but today I was inspired by an exchange that happened in church on Sunday. The whole reason I am writing at all is because I was challenged by my spiritual mentor/teacher. One day while eating lunch with him…my treat…he said that I should start writing. I had never written anything before so of course it seemed like a silly idea at the time. However, as with many messages that are indirectly from God, seemed to make perfect sense when I extracted my opinion from the decision making process. This man is about 130 years old, an ex-preacher, and has written about 5000 books. So, I affectionately call him “Old Man.” As his family was walking into church, his beautiful wife leaned over to me and said, “I don’t really like the name ‘Old Man’”. Shocking? No. Typically, nicknames are a tradition between guys, not gals. It is not the first time a “she” did not like her “he” being referred to as anything other than his real name. I’ll return to the Old Man and his wife after I address this issue corporately. This conversation made me think of a few unwritten, de-facto rules about nicknames as dictated by the playground. Most of this is just understood by most guys, but I’ll try and explain for all those women out there who don’t like nicknames.

1. Nicknames can come from several places, but the most popular are derivatives of the person’s actual name, exaggerated physical characteristics, and one time embarrassing events.
a. John Schmidt, might be Schmitty.
b. If John is losing his hair, he might be the Human Forehead.
c. If John forgot to wear pants, he might be Long John.

2. Nicknames are not given to one’s self. If you don’t like your nickname, you are pretty much stuck. In fact if you try to change your own nickname, you will make it much worse. Watch the Seinfeld episode when George wanted to be called “T-Bone.”

3. Nicknames are permanent. Once your buddies call you the Human Forehead, it will be there to stay. There is only one cure to this and that is to move to a new state and get new friends. This will only keep the lid on the situation for a while though. You know what they say; it is a small world…

If you don’t like these rules, I’m afraid there is nothing that can be done. Once it is established on the playground, it is in stone. Oh sure you can ask people to change and send them to sensitivity training, but you cannot beat the playground. The playground is reality and law, the rest is wishful thinking. Better to embrace it and learn to cope. Dads teach your kids all about the playground before it is too late…

Now back to the Old Man… His name is Glen Pease. Not much to work with there for option #1. I would meet with him on Tuesdays to do some Bible lessons, so for a while I tried “Tuesday’s with Peasey,” (Tuesday’s with Morrie) but that sounded a little girly. I don’t know any one time story that would give me good idea to make use of #3. He is pretty normal looking, so the best I could come up with was “Old Man.”

…special note to the Old Man’s beautiful wife…

When I call your husband “Old Man,” it is not a statement to his age. It is more like a respectful salute to his experience and wisdom. It is like homage to a weathered sailor who is a master at his craft. Like “The Old Man and the Sea.” Each time I say it, it says, “You are the teacher, I am the student,” “you have earned the respect of your braves like the ancient tribe’s elder.” With the rules of the playground in place, and the fact that his name is an accolade, maybe you could reconsider; just think about, maybe, accepting the name? Read rule number 2 above. It is bad if the person with the nickname asks his buddies to change it, but what do you think happens to the kid on the playground who has his woman ask???

But tell you what… I suppose I owe the Old Man a favor… If you still don’t like it after reading this, I will break the rules of the playground and change it…
Hmmm, maybe …Gray Hair Glen…

Written by Chris Vasecka

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