It is hard for people to believe that I played roller derby. I have no tattoos, minimal piercings, played non-contact sports growing up, and was never considered overtly agressive. I had roller skated once in my life, when I was 4, and I wouldn’t call holding my grandmother’s hand while shuffling 5 feet actual roller skating. Nor was rolling around my kitchen the night before my first practice. After a few weeks of falling repeatedly, investing in butt pads and being terrified to stop because I might fall, it made sense to pick a derby name that paid homage to all my bruises – “Block n’ Blue.” I really wanted to be Block n’ Deck’Her but the not overtly agressive trait and the constant look of confusion on my face, made that a hard sell. While my name was pretty mild, my teammates had some bad-ass ones – Creep Suzette, Beast Infection, J. Crewella, Tae Kwan Dope, Benson Bruiser to name a few. Saying Lindsey, Larissa, Jackie, Hilary or Betsy just doesn’t have the same intensity when you are referring to your girl gang.
Nicknames can definitely change people’s attitudes towards you. It is also interesting how they evolve as we get older. Pet names can be so sweet and tame when they come from our parents or grandparents and then get so much edgier when our school friends get involved. I grew up as “Chickadee,” “Bunny,” “Sausage,” “Fattypoof” (yes, I was a fat child) and “Clearasil” (also zit cream in Australia). Some might question “Fattypoof” or “Pancinona” (fat stomach in Italian) as being tame or sweet but believe me, they were way better than what I got in school. Although no one called me anything alluding to my weight so maybe it is relative… You hurt the ones you love, especially when it is couched in a cute sounding name in a foreign language.
The evolution of the nicknames started slowly. My last name is Blockey so “Blockhead” was pretty unimaginative. I then got “Broccoli.” Not sure how that made sense but my best friend’s older brothers thought “Cream of Broccoli” was a hilarious nickname. I do have an unusual first name so maybe “Cream of Broccoli” made sense in their testosterone addled brains. They did much better when they came up with “Clea-pet.”
It wasn’t until I became a counselor at a tennis camp that the nicknames became a little more R-rated. I can’t remember who came up with “Clea-vage” but that one wasn’t quite as bad as “Toris” (Thank you, Byron). If you put it together with my first name, it is part of the female anatomy. Yep, that one. The best thing about this nickname and by best, I mean worst, was all the questions from the kids. “Why do they call you Toris?” “Do you drive a Ford Taurus?” “Is that your star sign?” How do you even begin to explain any of that to an 11 year old? Not to mention the teenagers that could put two and two together. Fortunately running them all over the tennis court in high altitude stopped the inquisition. By the end of the lesson they were usually too tired to ask anything else.