Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pete & Repeat

I used to hate my name. Even as a five-year-old I thought it was really nerdy.
I wanted to be called something more normal and mainstream (years before the extrovert's desperate bid for attention kicked in). I wanted a name that was more American. I started writing 'John' on all of my kindergarten art work.

"Look what I made for you at school!" I'd proudly announce to my mom.

She thought I had taken the wrong Crayola masterpiece home with me.

"You'd better take this back to whoever John is," she told me.

"No, that's me," I tried to explain. "I'm John, now."

"No," my father said, "you're Peter and you'll always be Peter."


The name Peter is such an easy target for nicknames and teasing - Peter Pan, Peter Piper, Peter Rabbit, Peter Parker (although, being associated with Spiderman wasn't so bad) Peter-Peter Pumpkin Eater . . . Peter-eater.

Okay, that last one became a given. But back then, who knew?

Even in the suburbs of Tokyo, my Japanese classmates called me Peter Pan ("Pee-tah Pan"), which, in the Japanese language, naturally evolves into Peter Pan-tsu. The literal translation of that is 'Peter Underpants.'

I eventually learned to joke about it, myself:

"Peter-Peter, pumpkin eater
Had a wife and would not eat her
Put her in a pumpkin shell
'cause he did not like her smell"

There are worse things than being born a boy named Peter, however. My parents had names picked out before I was born. If I had been a girl, my name would be 'Arlette.'

Blech. No thanks!

(Thanks to Sunshine and her post on alternate names for inspiring today's entry!)


Louise Larsen said...

I can relate to hating one's given name.

Here's MY name-hating story.

My genius parents named me Louise Lewis.

Yes, the very same name in the feminine and masculine -- so good they named me twice!

So, you go through life with that one, "Ma'am, Your last name is Luis? Louis? Whaaa?"

It got a little better when I married, but it's still an "L" name.

Quin Browne said...

i was supposed to be clarissa.


thelastnoel said...

Um, you get to symphony from me. Try being a boy named Noel--if I hear that damned Christmas song one more time...

the Constantly Dramatic One said...

Hey can I borrow this post? Write something similar in this line?

Peter Varvel said...

LL, I once met a guy named Peter Peterson, so I suppose things could always be worse. Oh, yes.

QB, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet when I hug you.

N, I like 'Leon,' and I like that you use that name in your writing.

TCDO, your first name is beautiful . . . well, it is here in America, don't know if you felt differently in Malaysia?

Cheryl said...

If you ever start a second blog, or a line of clothing, you should definitely call it Peter Underpants.

I've never hated my name, but I've never loved it either. It always seems to be the name of the offstage bitch ex-girlfriend on sitcoms: "I can't believe you're going out with Cheryl again."

Peter Varvel said...

C, omg, slap me - HARD - if you ever catch me using your name in such a generic manner in my own writing (there's a tertiary character in the novel-in-progress named Sharon . . . )