Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pop psychologists will blabber on about how it's important for us to love ourselves. Sadly, this is rarely a masturbatory call to arms, but rather a vague request for us to arbitrarily declare that we are the kind of people that we like.

What does that mean though?

A lot of people think it means liking how you look. I'm supposed to look in the mirror and spout affirmations about how handsome I am, or, better yet, pass right by the mirror, just KNOWING that my ass looks fabulous in this ratty terrycloth bathrobe. However, the people who recite these mantras about positive body image are the same people who would tell us not to judge others by their looks. So, it's superficial and objectifying to admire someone else's boobs but mandatory and enlightening to celebrate the acne on my forehead?

Screw those don't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover people. $10 says they're paralyzed by a complete lack of data each time they enter a library.

So, is it my personality that I'm supposed to gush over instead? Have these self-esteemizoids met me? I'm kind of a dick. I'm not Dick Cheney dickish, but I'm pretty sure my personality is not the kind that you'd do cartwheels over.

After much contemplation, I think I've determined what it is that we need to make peace with. It's not our body, personality, religion, financial status, or moral code. I mean, sure, I could sit here and ponder whether my morality is up to snuff, but GEEZ, what a drag. It's Saturday night! It's bad enough that I'm blogging, but there's no need to be a complete killjoy and spend my evening contemplating my worthiness/less as a human.

Instead, I'd like to think about another aspect of my identity: my name.

Hi, my name is Mike.

Technically my name is Michael, but names are malleable enough that most of us get the opportunity to tweak them without jumping through any legal hoops. I've been Mike for my entire adult life, but it's not because I really prefer Mike over Michael. I just always raised one internal eyebrow each time I met someone who insisted on being called their full name. I didn't want to be one of those "No, my name isn't Mike, it's Michael!" kind of people. Too formal. Too uptight. So, Mike it is.

The main problem with the name Mike is that it is so goddamn common. It was rare that I was the only Mike in any of my classes in school. In 8th-grade Spanish, we had two Mikes. The other guy got to be Miguel, but due to my slightly smaller size, I was Miguelito. Nice. I also recall one algebra class of 30 people where we had 5 Mikes. Ugh.

Even today I can be on a teleconference with a single digit number of people, and we might have 3 Mikes on the line. We're everywhere! When my boss says, "Hey Mike" half the team ducks and hides under their desk. So much for names being a vaguely unique identifier.

Michael has been the most popular boy's name in this country starting in the 1960s and running through the end of the century. Its reign as the #1 name is unprecedented in modern history. There are so many of us that it's hard for any one famous Michael to dominate the perception of the name. The very commonness of Michael has stripped it of the often colorful associations that get attached to more unique names like the Adolphs, Osamas, and Voldemorts of the world. We're all just Michaels, from Mr. Jackson, to Mr. Jordan, to Mr. Dukakis.

Its ubiquitousness also means it's a hard name to love. You can't love a name like Mike any more than you can choose beige as your favorite color. You might actually buy a beige couch or beige carpet, but you're never going to roll around on that carpet and marvel at the brilliance of the color. It's just beige. On the plus side though, Mikes rarely clash with your drapes.

In the 21 century, however, the name has fallen out of favor. Although this web site* lists it as the #2 name as recently as 2006, I find that hard to believe. I have not met a single kid in any of Daisy's classes, or among any of our friends' kids, who is named Mike. (Actually, there's one Michael, but he never goes by that name, and uses his middle name instead.) I perused the entire directory of Daisy's school and only found one or two Mikes out of hundreds of boys.

As a name species, we are on the brink of endangerment. (Save the Mike!) We are experiencing a Mikecide the likes of which have never been seen before. This is surely a time for reflection.

So, after all this, what do I think about my name? Do I like it? Do I have good name self-esteem?

Eh. I think I'd rather be called Zeke.

* Go play with that name website! The graphs are very entertaining. You can enter a name at the top, and see the graph of the popularity over time. Note that it can be a bit clunky entering the name sometimes.


Lola said...

I am hiding from Avery so I'll put this on your blog - you are so right about memes.

I'm almost not leaving this comment because I did one recently, but only because it gave me the chance to reminisce about past sexual performance, even though it was worded not too obviously so my folks wouldn't pick it up (I hope.)

p.s. Mike's a great name, I've never met a Mike I didn't like. The antithesis of 'Kevin', all of whom are jerks for some reason. Let's hope your dad's not Kevin.

Mike said...

Lola, there is no hiding from Avery. She is EVERYWHERE!

I think you're right about Mikes though. They tend to be pretty nice people. Not necessarily very exciting, but nice. Kevins, however, are a little harder to nail down. I've known good and bad ones. My father is not one of them.

Finally, I can only hope that Lola is your real name. It is both a fun and sexy moniker. Like top 10 sexy.

Avery Gray said...

Why would anyone want to hide from me? I'm such a lovable person! Besides, this has to be the worst hiding place ever. I come here all the time.

About your name--I guess I never really thought about it. You're just Mike. Good ol' Mike. So, to me, your name obviously suits you.

My name, on the other hand, (not Avery, but, you know, the other one) I've been told (even by you, whom I've never met) does not suit me. Not that it's a bad name or anything, but I guess people have certain expectations associated with it. Such is the case with every name.

Ron and I had the hardest time trying to decide what to name Ethan. He likes the more traditional names (Michael, I believe, was on his list), and I like the more contemporary (I wanted to name him Trey), so we compromised. But naming is hard business. I knew a woman named Prudence years ago who was living on welfare and raising her three kids by three different men. I don't think that's the life her parents had hoped for her when they decided on that name. Kinda like naming a whore Chastity. It just doesn't work. Best to go with the generic, popular names than winding up with a vegan named Hunter. Just one more reason for our kids to hate us.

Mike said...

Avery, naming stuff IS hard! I can see why you picked the nom du blog that you did though. It was the 52nd most popular name for girls in 2006! And climbing!

Anonymous said...

i fixed the problem. you are no longer and kid. you are now a man.

Mike said...

Ashley, that means you have accomplished what nearly 4 decades and 1 bar mitzvah could not: make me a man.

yajeev said...

yajeev's never been a popular name. as it turns, out i may be the only yajeev anyone i know will ever meet. as such, i have an obligation to the name to make a good impression for all (or any) yajeev's which are still to be. i don't want people to be able say, "all the yajeev's i've ever met have been dull humorless, skinny twits. they're worse than kevin's."

Lola said...

Is Lola my real name? there's not actually a clear answer to that. It's not the name I was given at birth, but I use it a great deal both online and in reality. As does my sister, which you'd think would be confusing, but it isn't really. Not to us, anyway.

Mike said...

Yajeev, you're my favorite Yajeev so far. Keep up the good work.

Lola, well, you picked a good one. It's yummy.

Meg S. said...

Michael was on our very short 'boy' list. After teaching 15 years, very few names leave me without shuddering or eye rolling. That being said, we had three girls. I wanted things to be simple. Mary. M-a-r-y. Never had a Mary in 15 years of teaching. Never knew one growing up. It was her Great grandmother from Italy's name, so went over very well with the family. Easy to spell although already I have been asked if it's Merrie, Merry, or Meri, or.... gah... I usually quip "Oh we spell it the normal way, but the the q is silent. They never get it. Bah.

Of course she hated her name (it was so weird mom!) and went around for a year calling herself "Flower" or "Rose".

Mike said...

Mary is a sweet name. I'll bet she's a nice kid.

Meg S. said...

Yea, if you like little girls that sit and wait to move until you tell them to, teach themselves to read and play chess, ask permission to walk down the hallway, eat all their dinner, clean up after themselves, kiss you for no reason, have decided to marry Daddy (or maybe a unicorn with wings under a rainbow). She is sweet I guess.

Melissa is the exact opposite. She's me.


Mike said...

Oh yeah, Meg, you've always been a total meanie.