Chapter 72: Nicknames and Social Constructs

There’s no good way to explain it. Trying to turn it into something else doesn’t really work, as it’s painfully obvious to any who hear it what was really going on. It wasn’t really a conscious choice I made, but rather a consequence of wanting to hang out with oddballs whose lives continually drew them to interesting stories.

My high school nickname “Bacon” comes from my involvement in a short-lived backyard wrestling league. There, I said it.

The official name on the roster they made up was “Canadian Bacon”, which is perhaps the least creative wrestling name anyone could have come up with for someone from Nova Scotia. I had no real say, someone thought of it before I got there and it was done. After a while the nickname stuck, and was eventually shortened to Bacon.

To anyone who hasn’t had a nickname, it’s an interesting thing. Men have a problem using actual names; they mostly turn them into strange variations like Markus or Edwardo. It’s a human thing, I guess. Using someone’s actual name has a certain personal nature that makes us uncomfortable, almost like a sign of affection. With nicknames all restraints are off, and it can be contorted or yelled without the fear of sounding too happy to actually see someone. With a nickname, the energy is converted into the name, not the person.

The person I was in high school was Bacon. Sam has existed throughout many alterations and altercations, but the name Bacon was the me that existed from early 1999 until sometime in 2001. Good natured and hopeful, good at math and school, moderately successful at attracting female friends, if not as successful as what might have happened with them.

Then college. Only rarely do nicknames carry over into new social circles. It’s somewhat unacceptable to expect everyone to automatically refer to you as a breakfast pork product. But I needn’t have worried; I had a new name by sophomore year.

One fall day I wandered down the stairs of my frat house to find several brothers watching football. On the screen was Cory Dillon running and running and scoring and dancing, and all the while one particular spectator was screaming “C. Dills! C. Dills! Goooo C. Dills!” He turned to me and shouted, “Yeah, that’s right, C. Dills!” The rest, as they say, is history.

From “C Spills” to “Dilla what!”, the name permeated many parts of my life. On my radio show I decided against the listener sponsored “Sam the Metal Messiah” and went with just “CDills” or sometimes “DJ Dills”. Not everyone called me CDills, to most people I was still Sam. But to the vocal few I was undoubtedly Dills.

A nickname is more than a name, it becomes a persona, a caricature that is simultaneously freeing and infuriating. Some people fight against their nickname for good reason, as people start using it to drag along a collection of bad associations. Soon they feel trapped, in that everyone views them through the lens of their nickname and at no point do their actions change anyone’s opinion.

I got a reputation as being a long-winded bullshit artist by some, but other than that I had no regrets over who Bacon or CDills became. They had stories and adventures, and their simple recitation provokes smiles and laughter in many. They summarize my existence in the two most mature social circles I’ve fallen into.

I’ve moved a lot. Discounting technicalities, I’ve moved a total of 12 times that are clumped into about 9 distinct social landscapes. Each landscape necessitates creating a new social presence and a new group of friends. Each time and without effort the group creates a new persona for you, a set of known consistencies and nuances that provide them an ability to put you in continual context.

I can’t bring Bacon or CDills with me, and I wouldn’t want to. Bacon and CDills aren’t people and aren’t even nicknames. They’re a social construct shared by a group of people so that we can all build an image of who someone is. The reason why a nickname is hard to lose is because it becomes synonymous with people’s expectations of you. I know someone who lost a nickname once. He had a hell of a time with it, and his still has to work hard at convincing people he isn’t that guy anymore.

Nicknames and social constructs can be a scary idea. They are almost immutable once they exist long enough, and sometimes the only sure way to escape them is to start again. The solution is to always be the person you want to be. This is often easier said than done.

Bacon and CDills might not be dead, but Sam plans on living forever.

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