Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Philly Moms: The wonderful world of bugs -- and nicknames

The wonderful world of bugs -- and nicknames

Original post to Philadelphia Moms Blog

Bugs1Insects don’t frost my cookies.

I don’t groove on spiders (I’m actually kind of scared of the brown ones the size of quarter that sometimes find their way into our kitchen). I’m less intimidated by the stinkbugs that seem to have proliferated the last few years (why is that?) but I can’t say I like them at all -- despite their cilantro-ish scent. Ladybugs and gnats are cute, but they both have a thing about flying just about head level. And the spectacular butterflies, dragonflies and praying mantises are, well let's be honest, a little freakish.

Still, my daughter’s nickname is Bug. Occasionally Buggy, sometimes Buglet, but mostly just plain Bug. As a baby she was tiny, cute, an astonishingly quick crawler and, very occasionally, pesky.

For a long time she really liked the nickname. She asked see the bugs at every natural history museum we visited. She put together a model of a golden beetle, wore an Egyptian scarab pendant and her favorite t-shirt depicted insects of all sorts.

Everything changes.

Not long ago when we were discussing what “name” I’d give her when I write about her in this (Philadelphia Moms Blog, no longer active) blog “the Bug” was my first choice.

“Don’t you dare,” she said. “Just call me Brooklyn.”

Umm. O-kay.

Nicknames are peculiar. I’ve been Bree, Breeny, Beanie (and its variant, the Bean), Nina, Nena, Toots, and, given the Latino habit of adding a diminutive to every name, Sabrinita. I love them all -- because they’re associated with a particular person or set of people from all the different lifetimes I’ve lived in this one.

But I’ll admit to at least one case of nickname envy.

Barely out of my teens, I met a girl whose name, Ximena, provided the coolest possible nickname: “X.” She fit her nickname well. She was a fledgling visual artist with the edgy sort of style that wouldn’t come into the mainstream until a good decade after she had worn it. She was younger than me, but much savvier and just a little bit jaded. I easily imagined her leading the life I dreamed about in those days: smoking Gitanes and discussing New Wave film in some Parisian café with the ideal composite Jean (looked like Jean Marais, created art like Jean Cocteau, articulated his existential angst like Jean-Paul Sartre, and left me breathless like Jean-Paul Belmondo) sitting opposite me until dawn.

Can a person be shaped by a nickname?

I have no idea where life has taken X, whether she continues to be the epitome of hip, or even if she still goes by that nickname. As for me with my beloved-but-not-even-remotely-hipster nicknames -- I haven’t been to Paris, can’t be relied upon these days to remember the title of a movie much less its director, and lose all capacity for coherence if I stay up past 2 a.m. And my husband has never much liked to linger at cafés -- but his steps have matched mine wherever I’ve wandered.

I worry about future I might have made for my daughter by giving her a goofy and affectionate nickname instead of a cool one -- but I’m thinking she’ll sort it out.

Brooklyn. It does have a ring to it, doesn’t it?

For Chinche (bedbug), Piojo (nit) and Pulga (flea) -- and my younger brother who gave them all those nicknames.

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