Today is John Lennon's birthday as the radio keeps reminding me. I wonder if he ever went through the problem of owning his name. My name, Craig Chaffin, is rhythmically equivalent to his--a spondee followed by a trochee. I don't remember ever liking my name. Most of the Craigs I ever knew were dorks. Think of how many famous actors, writers and musicians are named "Craig." What? You can't think of one?
My mother had two criteria for her three sons' names: 1) That they begin with 'C' to match our last name; 2) That they could not be shortened or easily turned into nicknames. My older brother had his name, "Christopher," changed by common parlance into "Chris." And irony of ironies, my younger brother, Clay, had his name turned into "Dobey" by his own family (after the clay used in traditional southwestern construction). "Craig" alone went unmodified. "Craig" alone fulfilled my mother's stated criteria.
Why don't I like my first name?
First, because of the echo of a sulphurous "egg," whether the raw variety tossed on Halloween or the Easter variety that eventually turns rotten. My mother hated to waste anything, so after dyeing Easter eggs she would chase us down for weeks afterward trying to get us to eat our art. When I mention Easter eggs I smell not only the egg but the vinegar in the dye. For these and other reasons I don't like the "egg" sound in my name. It's that visceral and that simple, though I don't mind eating eggs now and then.
Maybe here's a good place to post today's sonnet, which illustrates the difference between poetry and verse, as it is merely verse:
Owning My Name
You, Craig Erick, time to own your name.
You’re running from its homonym, the sound
Of “egg” within the “Craig,” the childhood shame
Of being called “egghead,” when friends would hound
You with “Professor,” “Brainiac” and the like
While you desperately wanted to be cool,
So much you walked to school, leaving your bike
At home since bikes were not. As a rule
You never cared too much what others thought.
But when you ran for president of your school
You made up buttons: “Craig the Egg.” Your plot
Succeeded. For a semester you would rule--
Also as quarterback, lead in the play--
Until depression washed it all away.
My first name also feels or looks round to me, like someone with a lollipop for a head. (I call young anorexics like Lindsey Lohan "Lollipop Girls" because with their skinny bodies, round faces and big hair, they remind me of lollipops.) I think the open 'C' and the closed 'a' and 'g' contribute to this notion visually, not to mention the sustained "ay" of the vowel, encapsulated by the 'C' and 'g' curves. Pictures of me as a young child show a round head accentuated by a butch haircut. The sound of "Craig" thus has two negative connotations for me: the association with 'egg' and the idea of a very round head.
Enough "Craig" for a day.
Thine at one kilobunny,