One of my aims here is to demonstrate myself beyond embarrassment. A couple of weeks ago, though heartbreakingly few read it, I wrote at length about my hemorrhoid. But today I will go farther still, and reveal the various pet names by which the women I have loved over the course of my adulthood have called me, and what I have called them.
My first adult girlfriend, the first woman with whom I ever cohabitated, called me Poon. I would like to be able to tell you that it was a derivation of a Sanskrit word meaning one of whom I am fond, but I would be lying. It just popped out of her one day, and sounded affectionate. It became Our Word. In formal situations, I called her Big Patti, leading people to expect someone much larger than she was. I explained that she loomed large in my legend, which I’d gotten from A Hard Day’s Night. She called me Poonificent at one point, but I later gave her ample reason to detest me.
Her successor called me Nuzzo, pronounced Nutso, a reference to my mental health issues. Around three years into our relationship, she decided that I needed a surname, and added Fuzzo, pronouncing it to rhyme with Nuzzo. I, in turn, called her The Nib. The first several weeks after she left her husband to take up with me, acquaintances of the formerly happy couple were calling every 10 minutes to find out what had gotten into her. I took to answering the phone, “Her Nibs’ residence,” which I later singularized for no good reason. I think I’d gotten Her Nibs from someone referring Elton John as His Nibs.
I famously called my first wife Lobsterhead, for reasons that our families and acquaintances tried in vain for years to divine. The problem was that there was no reason. I think I’d heard of a San Diego punk group called The Lobsterheads shortly before we got together, and it just came out one day, to the mutual amusement. She threatened at one point to call me Cat Saliva retaliatorily, but never did. She addressed me instead as M’love, which I think she’d gotten from a Daffy Duck cartoon.
My Bay Area girlfriend of almost 11 years, the koala keeper at the San Francisco Zoo, called me Scooter. When we first got together, my little girl Brigitte wasn’t yet four, and it gave me pleasure to imagine her as a trapeze act, The Flying Brigitsky Sisters. Nancy changed Brigitsky to Brigitscu, reasons not known, and then began calling me by that last syllable. I think she added the ter part to make the name same more American, she herself being a descendant of persons who’d come over on the Mayflower. Her last name was Rumsey, and I called her Little Rumso, which I thought quite splendid for a rosy-cheeked little scamp in a 1930s children’s book. She was actually the tallest of my gals.
For the first couple of years of our relationship, my second, and present wife, Claire, and I referred to each other as The Big Yank and The Little Brit, as per our respective nationalities. We included The because when Captain Beefheart had said, “That’s right, The Mascara Snake,” on Trout Mask Replica, it had amused me enormously. Then my dominatrix friend Mistress Antoinette visited, and asked Claire, in an idle moment, if, beneath my thick veneer of cynicism and misanthropy, I am really a cuddlebear. I found that hilarious, and demanded that Claire begin both addressing and thinking of me as The Cuddlebear.
This has led to some awkward moments. When you become accustomed to calling someone by a certain name, you lose sight of how the rest of the world may hear it. You should see some of the looks we get on public transportation, for instance, when she advises me, “This is our stop, The Cuddlebear.” Of course, it’s nothing I didn’t go through with Lobsterhead.
One of our favorite little games is imagining how we will perpetrate this or that bit of mischief, and then…run away! At those moments, we’re a couple of little kids, in recognition of which I now address her as The Little Dickens when we’re alone together, saving The Little Brit for state dinners and other formal occasions. Sometimes, too, we address each other as Spousie because it’s kind of nauseating in a way that amuses both of us.
I don’t think I could ever love a woman who addressed me as hon or babe.