I dig those sensory experiences that contain enough specificity and random happenstance to transport you so instantly to another place and time. It could be a certain scent of freshly cut grass on a chilly morning, or the impact of a particular sweetness upon the taste buds after a puff of something righteous, or the sound of house with a whiff of fog machine—the moment dictates that you are both here and there. And sometimes that one triggered memory cannot be fully recomposed, but there is an intrigue that resonates inside of you. The experience is familiar because you feel something you know you’ve felt before, and for a second, nothing else matters.
She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place…at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…
—Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past: Swann’s Way
On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to come in contact with many people, all with their own unique(?) names.
What’s in a name?
It’s gotten me to consider: what are the repercussions of a name? I’m not even talking about those inexplicable, obscure ones, like the ones celebrities choose for their offspring (ahem…). I write this with Everyman in mind: he/she who is dealt with the subtle, unintentional blow of a perfectly standard, yet sometimes old-fashioned, and possibly unfortunate moniker (see Gayman).
A baby named, say, Gertrude or Mildred, in these times, is potentially in for a rough upbringing. How can you hear about little 2010 Mildred, without first imagining….I don’t know….a tight perm and a string of pearls, and a British accent? Her name may go over better than “Audio Science” but she’ll still need all the “gentle strength" she can muster.
The implications of a surname particularly fascinate, because these will never die out; generations upon generations get screwed over. My own surname is neither common nor unfortunate…I think. Or at least I’m not aware of any plays on the word that I should be insecure about…
But then there are those names, less ethnic, more “Anglo”-sounding. Smith and Jones—these are the most common. But then what of Little, for instance? Who wants to be the Asian guy named Little? Or the black guy, at that? Who wants to be any boy named Big or Long? Unless it suits him reasonably, it’s a lot for his accoutrements to live up to (see Penis).
And then there’s a surname like Nice—I’ve encountered this one a few times. It raises certain expectations that may or may not end in disappointment. I would undoubtedly dislike the mean lady named Nice, more than I would any other mean lady. Just being honest. Hypothetical Ms. Nice probably knows this too, and while she normally is hypothetically really nice, the pressure to maintain that must be too much at times, I’d imagine, and she would lose her nice marbles. Hypothetically.
Finally there are those celebrity namesakes, sprung from parents who set their children up to fail by annointing their newborn “Martha Stewart” or “Michael Jordan.” Or “Samuel L. Jackson.” Really? The ‘L’ too?
Of course, none of this speculation matters, if these children can somehow escape the implications of their name and grow into self-assured, undeterred citizens. But really, how annoyed is, let’s say, 37-year-old bartender Justin Bieber of Seattle?