Sunday, November 29, 2009

Male Nicknames

And now for an explanation of one of the most fundamental differences between men and women.

“We had a blast golfing in Myrtle Beach,” a guy will say. I’ll ask who he went with. “Regular crew,” he’ll answer. “Moose, Stokes, Tweezer, Mole Flaps, Germhead, Beano, and Doug.”

Poor Doug. Somehow he missed being hazed into male bonding with the highest honor men bestow upon peers: The Nickname. And somehow we women missed this ritual altogether. We irresponsibly and unimaginatively refer to our friends as Janet, Amy, Laura…all the tragic monikers forced upon us at birth which provide no data regarding our hangover escapades, sexual prowess, jail terms, scatological habits, or body hair patterns.

It’s obvious how this starts. When a little girl falls off her bike and splits her forehead, she’s allowed to cry and go get stitches. When a boy falls off his bike and splits his, the friend who pushed him off in the first place tries to keep him tough by shouting, “Ha! Get back up and keep pedaling, Bloodbrows!”

“Shut up, Man Heinie,” Bloodbrows will retort, because his friend’s last name is Manheim. The two share a joint epiphany, decide to start calling their friend Greg “Buckets” after the quantity he drools when asleep, and give his brother Craig the nickname “Gaybird” because he cried when he saw Dorothy finally get back home to Auntie Em. Ironic, because gay men hardly ever do this nickname thing.

From those early days onward, males take advantage of how good this schema is for confusing females. When a mother asks how something got broken, all her son has to say is, “Wingser pushed The Donnerator into it,” and she gives up. Later it works on girlfriends. “No, babe, I was not out with some other girl Saturday night! I was with Dink’s brother Slampuppy over at Beergut’s cheering up Rimrod after his iguana died.” She then has no idea in hell who to ask about his alibi.

Soon the nicknames become sacred. You could walk into a bar where 20 guy friends are whooping it up over “the game,” and in walks Mumps, a.k.a. Bob Mumphries. If one guy yells “Hey, Bob!” instead of using Bob’s hard-earned handle, the place instantly goes silent as the other 19 stop dead in mid-beer-sucking. The group basically shuns the nonconformist until he redeems himself by doing something rank like eating his own sweaty sock as commentary on the quality of the bar appetizers.

Yet the secret world of nicknames continues to confound women even more than garment-swallowing does. Men will tell you they do it partly because they’ve got three guys named "John" in their inner circle, and this keeps them straight. Some men have been answering to nicknames long enough that they don't even remember what their first names really are. But I think nicknaming is the way men feel most comfortable trading affection. When one guy chokes up over love for another, he knows the one way he can get away with showing it is by calling his buddy "Skanklure" or “Roachdung.” Women do exactly the opposite, more often treasuring friends by offering baked goods certified free of insect waste.

If you ask me, women should fight back by giving their sons names like “JamPants” and “RoadLicker” right on their birth certificates. Then men will have to nickname their friends things like “Dave,” "Joe," and "Bill." Maybe I'm just jealous and want a nickname of my own. Hmm. I'll have to start introducing myself to people as "GlueEater" from now on. No reason.