I had quite a few nicknames growing up. Some were annoying, as any 'baby of the family' will experience, most of which were thanks to my older brother. And since I've grown a lot in the past 41 years and learned to laugh at myself, I'll share them with you now...at least the ones I can remember. He had a few he seemed to use interchangeably, and to this day I have no idea why any of them even came about. Coo-Coo was the first one...does anyone even know what that means? The closest I can come to is coo coo ca choo from the Beatles song, I Am The Walrus...a group I adore, though back then I was still too young to appreciate them. Rufus was another nickname, and also a mystery...though it actually has a meaning if you look it up. It means red-haired, which I guess would make sense until I turned five...and my red locks turned brown. No matter what he called me they were silly little names, ones an older sibling will use to tease the younger brothers and sisters who want to follow them everywhere, play with their toys, and be in their way. Annoying, maybe, but normal!
And there are other nicknames I've adopted over the years, from friends and sometimes complete strangers...my best friend and I still call each other 'Girlie' and 'Chickee Poo' when we chat. And once when I went out after work with my teaching co-workers, a tipsy stranger came up to us and put his arm around me, saying "Baby girl, you're so beautiful...you should go home and thank your parents!" before stumbling away. For a while after that I was known as 'Baby Girl' which I didn't mind, mainly because the memory made me laugh.
So when do names begin to hurt? When do they start to twist the insides, forming emotional lumps we tuck away and try to ignore when we're older? With some names I think it's the tone behind them...if someone other than my brother had called me 'Rufus' and spoke it with malice, it would have stung. Possibly I wouldn't still long for the red hair I lost, or be a fan of the Beatles today. Though other names have grown and morphed in this world, gaining a life that requires extreme measures to eradicate...those names are not limited to one, and usually encompass whole groups of people. They make no sense to me either, mainly because they are based in hate, and often ignorance...they grew from a twisted need to insult and hurt, and for many that need lives on. Even when people use these names without thinking of the hate that creeps behind them, the problem is simple...it keeps the insults alive.
I won't go into the bad names that have been directed at me over the years...there are a few, and they still hurt to this day. One explanation I have for that happening, is the fact that I have physical differences...and differences scare people. Even when there are explanations for them (and I didn't have any explanations to share for a lot of years,) there are some people who still cannot accept anyone who doesn't look, act, walk or talk like the norm. And even though I've managed to overcome a lot of that ignorance, the old wounds still open easily when I hear the names again. Even when a name isn't directed at me, it hurts to hear them and other insults that remain popular today, such as the 'R' word...mainly because I know what it feels like to be singled out for my differences. I mentioned this word in a previous post, Names Do Hurt, and was recently reminded of the fight that still exists to put an end to its existence...it turns out that this week is 'no name calling' week, which would be a blessing if we could achieve it! Though to tell you the truth, I think we have a long way to go before that would ever be possible.
My father, also a blogger, wrote today about Martin Luther King, Jr...in a post called I Have a Dream. MLK faced harsh obstacles and worked tirelessly to help our country overcome them, so that we could reach a level of equality and respect for all. His dream was that women would be given the same respect as men, and blacks would be given the same respect as whites...and people of all religions would exist together, and live in harmony. Have we achieved those dreams completely? I don't believe so, though we are much further along than we were when Dr. King first took up the fight. I was reading parts of his speech, and one sentence resonated strongly with me..."I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Any parent would wish for nothing less for their own children...they would want their daughters to be given the same chances as their sons, and want all their children to be considered equal to others, no matter what their race or creed. They would want their children's character to be judged first, no matter what the differences might be. I try my best to work toward achieving MLK's dreams, through my actions and words I direct toward others. And I extend that dream even further, and hope that one day we live in a world where any person who lives with a disability (no matter what type of disability it may be) receives the same respect as all others. No matter what their cognitive or physical abilities, speech, behavior or appearance may be, they are people...WE are people. All of us want to be respected despite our differences, and accepted because of them...all of us deserve that chance, don't you think?