*Quick aside: thanks to everyone who helped contribute to the post below. I had no idea we were all so creative!
Chick flicks and shows like Sex and the City are widely acknowledged to paint an idealistic picture of dating and single life, a fantasy world that includes a string of perfect or perfectly comedic dates, and plenty of time to rehash all the dirty details with your girlfriends in between. Prior to my current life as single LB, I always assumed these kinds of conversations and dating situations were horribly exaggerated. “After all,” I’d think, “do people really have the time and energy to date more than one person at a time? And does the main character really not see that the guy who keeps popping in and out of her life is treating her like shit?” Shockingly, in my almost-year living as a single girl in the city, I’ve found most of those assumptions are false: people really do meet on the subway, your friend’s ex really will write a song about their breakup, and through the power of texting, you really can rehash everything that happened on that date to your girlfriends at the end of the day.
My favorite assumption that’s been busted in the past year is the idea that women don’t actually assign “Mr. Big” style nicknames to the men in our dating lives. It seemed so silly to pre-single LB, that you’d bypass using someone’s name in favor of a ridiculous alias, like you can’t be bothered to get to know someone well enough to use his real name, when actually, it’s a really fun part of single life. The nicknames aren’t supposed to be dismissive or cruel, nor are they meant to indicate someone isn’t important enough to use his real name in conversation. In fact, it’s really the opposite. Assigning a nickname means this person will likely be discussed somewhat frequently, enough that it’d be too difficult to remember which friend was dating “Will” and which was dating “Tom,” but fairly easy to recall that someone went out with Overalls once last fall and someone else was seeing Cliff until he broke her heart. Aliases make tales from Single Life sound like you’re creating a chick flick from your life, since it’s much funnier to tell the story of Ponytail sending an unsolicited dick pic than to think a guy actually did that to you.
There’s no formula to assigning an alias, no word association game or method to devising one that sticks. Sometimes the names are as simple as his job, like The Banker and FDNY. Sometimes they’re in reference to where you met, like Subway Boy and Williamsburg. Pretty frequently they’re just nonsense names, like Ham and Mr. Dimples. And every once in a while, it’s something terribly obvious, but more fun to use in silly conversations than his real name, like The Scot. Every alias is attached to a memory, a way to recall how you felt on a date that felt like a cheesy scene from a chick flick, sharing food across the table and laughing the whole time, totally alone in a crowded room. And usually, once a name sticks, it sticks forever; he could change jobs, or move apartments, but his alias remains, until he’s not just a date anymore or until you stop wondering if he’ll reach out. Pending anything really outlandish, the cardinal rule of date-aliases is that they don’t change.
This past weekend, a new code name was created for someone in my life who had been around frequently enough that he’d even made it to first name status in conversations with my girlfriends. What was once a cute nickname, something endearing and fun, tied to memories of 12-hour dates and all the right words, had to change to reflect his actual role in my life. What started as something sweet has turned into something sour, like a spoiled piece of fruit in the back of the fridge that you can’t bring yourself to deal with until it’s too far gone. He’s in my phone now as “DO NOT RESPOND,” an interim step before I delete him completely from my life, unwilling to give him yet another chance he doesn’t deserve. He’s in my conversations now as “The Child,” a reminder that I’ve grown past people refusing to take responsibility for their own actions. I’m sure in future conversations it will be amusing to rehash the stories of how a Child couldn’t even get it together enough to show up to something that he planned, preferring instead to hide behind the safety of a text message excuse and an escape to Brooklyn. After all, it’s much easier to pretend that the past few months were all just a movie, an exaggerated and cautionary tale of dating someone with a silly nickname, than to remember that it all really happened to me.