Skip to content

Family Story Time: His Name was (not) John

July 31, 2011

My first boyfriend’s name was Michael. Sometimes it takes me a while to be sure of that when someone asks me what his name was. This is not because I have trouble remembering his name in the usual sense. It’s because I have to constantly ask myself if it was John or Michael.

Wait, was it John? Or Michael? Which was his real name?

This isn’t because I dated both a John and a Michael around the same time. It is also not because he had two names or even a nickname. It’s because of my mother. My mother has the power to rewrite history just by being stubbornly insistent that something is what it is not. Like the fact that Michael’s name was John.

“Hey, mom, remember my first boyfriend, Michael?” I ask.

“You mean John?” she replies.

“His name was Michael. Probably still is Michael, mom,” I counter.

“He’ll always be John to me, Starling,” she answers. She laughs then, usually. Again, not because she’s joking, but because she knows I’m starting to get irritated. That’s probably why she insisted on calling him John. And she’s not joking. He’ll always be John to her, even though his name is irrefutably and undeniably Michael. She used to even call him John to his face. She told him that she had accidentally started calling him John, and it stuck and now she couldn’t call him anything else. Besides, she said, he looked like a John.

He was irritated, but he was also a gentleman, and she was my mother, and so he never argued with her. My mother is so powerful that she can even change the name your own mother gave you, and you are powerless to argue. Or too gentlemanly. Same difference in the South, really.

It irritated me so much that pretty much every boyfriend thereafter was named John. My mother likes to irritate me. This is how she shows she cares.

On the phone, years after the first:

“Hey, mom, I have to go now. I’m going to meet D. soon,” I said.

“Isn’t his name John?” my mother replied, sounding genuinely befuddled.

“No, that was the first one, years ago. And his name was actually Michael,” I patiently explained, with only a whisper of irritation in her voice.

“But it’s so much easier to call them all John,” said mom, “Can I just call him John, too?” She made it sound like I had  new man every five seconds. If only.

“NO, YOU CAN’T CALL THEM ALL JOHN! Besides in this case, it would have to be Jean.” I immediately smacked my head with the realization that I’d given my mother the perfect nickname.

My mom burst into laughter.

“Jean! The French John! I love it. It’s perfect. Thanks. Have fun with Jean, honey.”

“OK, mom,” I sighed.

Mom: 2
Starling: 0

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2011 7:56 pm


  2. July 31, 2011 11:31 pm

    Did she ask him what his intentions were the first time she met him? That’s what Mom and Dad did the first time they met my first boyfriend. They thought it was very funny. I did not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: