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Nick Namers & Nit Pickers

I had an opportunity to get out of the house for lunch recently to visit my good friend Stevo. Why would someone call themselves Stevo one might ask. Can I like a guy that calls himself Stevo? Well, actually he goes by Steve and I like to call him Stevo. The next question might be – maybe I shouldn’t like you then? Fair enough. I’ve never been a big fan of people who are the nick namers. But I just had to try it. Everyone has known the person who’s always coming up with the nick names for everyone. We’re not talking about the kid who calls the thin kid named James, “Slim Jim”. Those are what I like to call natural nick names. Those nick names just happen. But there are those out there that might call a friend who they find fun, “Fireworks” or those who might call someone with the last name of “Keon” something like “hey, Redbone” – because Keon rhymes with Leon and a famous Leon was Leon Redbone. It’s a stretch right. Dear reader, I’m not wrong here, am I? When Redbone didn’t catch on, this person would go on a personal crusade to call Mr. Keon “Redbone” whenever he saw him. The funny thing is this guy is most likely not Mr. Keon’s best friend (mostly likely not even second or third best friend) so it ends up being twice a year that he tries to ignite the fervor for the nick name of “Redbone” to no avail.

So I don’t try to get the name Stevo to catch on with anyone else. I am doing it to be ironic. Unfortunately, somewhere buried deep in the rules of irony there is a discussion about how sometimes trying to be ironic can also make you look like an ass. But you see, I’ve read this rule and I’m very comfortable with running that risk, for the sake of what only qualifies as an inside joke for nobody but me. Wait. Come to think of it, maybe it’s not worth it. Maybe I need to reconsider. Anyway, nick namers must navigate a difficult path steering clear of the obvious mistakes while trying to pick the names. Groping about looking for the right name like a person picking lice out of a full head of child hair.

Just a few short months ago Stevo and I were having a conversation about how a good business idea would be to offer services to lice addled kids. Some people would pay any price to not have to deal with the horror of a lice infected head. Fortunately, my wife and I have not had to deal with this (yet-knocking on big pieces of wood as I type), but have had friends who have gone through it. Several months ago, Stevo and I were swapping stories of friends and relatives who have had to go through the ordeal. The treatments, the combing through hair endlessly searching for the egg sacks and lice hopped up on some kind of John Coltrane jazz infused hip hopping, gliding through the air from follicle to follicle without a care in the world.

Just a few short years ago, before children, I remember thinking that if my kids ever got lice I would just get rid of them. Sell them to the circus. Make a new one. Start from scratch. But, lo and behold, one grows attached to the little bodies. A plan that has been hatched in the past couple years – a new plan of action. For our lone boy, Hoyt, his hair will be gone in a nano second. Four year old Telly Savalas, who loves ya baby. For the one year old, Iris, her hair will be gone in a nano second. Can you say baby bonnet with ribbon. The tough one will be our eight year old, Lila. She has grown more attached to her thick brown hair. Even though she recently got a bob, I’m sure she has no plans for anything more extreme. So once every few months, my wife and I do a little indoctrination. Indoctrination, as a word, gets such a bad rap. Indoctrination is not always bad. We are indoctrinated not to use drugs and to get a job when we are older. Our indoctrination has been trying to subconsciously make Lila ok with the idea of being bald. Every couple of months we play Sinead O’Connor and talk about her picture – the stereotype bald woman: beautiful and strong. Everyone knows Sinead was bald. There have been other bald woman who look good, but it’s easier to indoctrinate using the image of a rock star. We first had tried with my great, great aunt Betty, but I don’t think baldness was her choice and she certainly didn’t look happy bald. In fact, I don’t think I remember her looking happy with hair. But that’s another story. I don’t know if Lila has bought into our indoctrination of the possible coolness of being bald and I’m hoping that we don’t have to find out.

My friend Stevo, on the other hand, had to find out that his kids would not go the Sinead route. Their hair was attached to them (two nine year old daughters) and they were attached to their hair. He spent hours combing through their hair like a bomb expert in a mine field. He was a bug explosives expert. By the end he could spot enemy Lice or egg sacks 100 follicles away. Some nights he still lays awake not able to wash from his mind’s eye the laughing, hopping nits. He suffers from PTLD (Post Traumatic Lice Disorder). It helps him to talk about it. So I listened, all the while cringing and hoping that I will not be drafted next. I even started to rethink the way I was living my life. Shouldn’t something like a person’s name be more sacred. It’s their name. I told Stevo that I would stop calling him Stevo and call him Steve. He said he had never really been listening to me when I said his name. Oh, I said out loud slightly after I said it to myself. On second thought, maybe picking the right nick name for people will in some way prepare me for the task of being a nit picker. Even though, I don’t want to be a nit picker, I thought, maybe, some of the nick names I came up with were not really the best – but I have decided to continue honing my skills.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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