This one does not have one mention of you-know-who. Ha! Do I know how to get her goat or what?
So, let’s just see if I can come anywhere near as self-absorbed as that one.
Pondering my options, I look at the name of my part of this blog, my column, as it were.
Statistics say that the average American reads one book a year. According to my husband, I am the one who reads all the others. I do read on average two books a week. Most of them, however, cannot be considered “lit-tra-chur,” but rather entertainment. No heaving bosoms and throbbing members, but I do love chicklit, lots of Janet Evanovich and Marian Keyes.
So many books in my life.
I became a voracious reader early in life. Thanks to that and my father’s insistence on playing a daily dictionary game (in which he introduced a new word whose meaning and spelling we were expected to know by dinner that night), my vocabulary expanded quickly.
Which led to my first public nickname, The Walking Dictionary, and just so endeared me to my classmates. Right.
Which then led to the second nickname, The Professor. Also? Not terribly attractive.
Combine that with cat’s-eye glasses and an enormous forehead – what do you get? Few photographs exist to document the exquisite loveliness.
We’ll just skip the existential possibilities “of” might bring, and move right along to the second part of title: Jane.
Most of you are far too young to have Dick and Jane ring any bells, but for us Women Of A Certain Age (WOACAs), it was our introduction to the wonderful world of reading. My name was chosen for the series because it was considered one of the most common names possible. Debby, Cathy and Linda were in reality much more common: I have probably met twenty women named Jane in my entire life, while Debbys, Cathys, and Lindas number in the hundreds. Now, of course, they are Courtneys, Brittneys, and Kaitlins. Do not get me started. Soon they will be Madisons, Dakotas, and Topekas. Topeka? That’s a GREAT name. How about Sioux Falls? Albany? Oh, the sweet font of ridiculousness geography gives us.
There are almost no good rhymes for Jane: pain, bane, plain, inane. Being a left-handed Jane means being insulted frequently: left-handed compliments, two left feet, Plain Jane dresses. It never really ends.
And then there was Tarzan. Johnny Weissmuller (who was an Olympic swimmer of great note before going to Hollywood) is the quintessential Tarzan. Despite wearing his loincloth up in his armpits, he was a pretty man and a damn good alligator wrestler to boot. We spent every Saturday afternoon glued to the television watching him, (who else but) Jane and Boy doing many cool things in the jungle.
A more innocent time, I hasten to add. We didn’t know from special effects; you had to rely on willing suspension of belief. Who cared if the lion alternated between being stuffed and being a man in a lion suit? Also a beyond embarrassing absence of political correctness. If you want a good example of the way “persons of color” were treated before 1965, try the Tarzan movies from the 1930s. But we were little Southern white children in the time just preceding the Civil Rights Movement.
But anyhow, almost everyone’s idea of a joke was to greet me with “Me, Tarzan. You, Jane?”
It got old extremely fast.
I spent fifth grade being called Cheetah after Tarzan’s chimpanzee sidekick, and sixth grade brought me a new appellation, Ungawa (pronounced Oon-GOW-wah), Tarzan’s shouted command to make the elephants stampede through the bad guys’ camp to save Jane from being boiled alive.
My sixth grade teacher had a wonderful sense of humor. I was a very cooperative child and rarely did anything to warrant being yelled at. There was a boy named James in my class that year who was constantly getting into trouble. The teacher’s loud, sharp reprimand of “JAMES!” caused me no end of frights. She agreed to change my name to Edward for the rest of the year, so I could relax. I did go back to Jane after that; James went on to reform school and probably prison.
Fortunately, SNL moved on to other jokes, and I no longer had to be a straight man for name jokes. But it did make me very conscious of potential name abuse when choosing what to call my children. Jewish custom is to name each child after a deceased relative. They are also given both a Hebrew and an English name, which are sometimes the same. My oldest was given the Hebrew name of Leah (pronounced LAY-uh); I anticipated the joke: “Wanna lay a Blumoff?” and decided to call her Kate for her English name.
My husband wanted to name our second daughter Mariah (MAH-ry-uh); I could only think of her being called “pariah” and managed to convince him that Meredith was a better choice. Maybe I should have let him choose her name – a little humiliation might have put a dent in the ego. Just think if Lindsay Lohan were named Missoula.