The Inequity of Nicknames

by Aileen

My mother had two children, my brother and I. For some reason I have never been able to figure out, and she has never been able to explain, she bestowed a nickname on me but not my brother. Was it because he was older? Because he was a boy? Because she liked him/me more? Or was it because (heaven forbid!) she couldn't remember my name or didn't like my name? Whatever the reason may be, I had a nickname.
And we're not talking about the normal things like calling Catherine by the shortened version of Cathy. No, in addition to the common run of the mill practice of being called Sis or Sissy, I was to be known as PeeWee.
Now, you have to understand, everyone in my family is tall, well over six foot. At five foot eleven inches I am considered to be short in our family, but most definitely not stubby. But PeeWee I became. I do have to admit that it was most commonly used as a term of affection. Whenever I was in trouble or being called in from playing outside, my given name was used. But in casual conversation, times when I needed encouragement or prodding, or times when I was being praised I was more often than not referred to as PeeWee.
This usually did not create an issue for me, I had grown up with it and just took it for granted, yet when I started going to school and began to bring friends home, they naturally heard my mother call me PeeWee and thought it was a riot, so PeeWee I became at school, too. Oh, the humiliation.
I struggled very hard to get out from underneath that name before high school. As I approached my teen years, every time I heard the name PeeWee, I would become more and more angry. And more and more determined to make everyone stops using it. I even refused to answer unless people used my correct name.
It took me a while and much concentrated effort, but eventually I left PeeWee behind. As I went through my young adult hood, even my family, including my mother used the hateful nickname less and less. I thought about it less and less. It got moved to the back of my mind where all the other items that have nothing to do with earning a living and raising your family seem to go.
And then the other day, out of the blue, I was at my mother's house, helping her move some boxes from the basement to the garage for pick up by our community service organization and we sat down to take a break after we were finished. My mom looked at me and said, "Well, that's a job finished, PeeWee, isn't it?"
Suddenly fifty years rolled away, and I was just a little girl again, helping her mom and loving it. And the strangest thing of all? The nickname didn't bother me a bit.

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