Sunday, November 23, 2014

IMs & Nicknames

Like many couples, Jilly and I often gave each other nicknames.  Some slipped away, some stuck, and some one just stuck out.

When we made the collective decision for Jill to retire from Wash U a couple years ago, our goal was for her to have the ability focus on herself, on her own well being.  Eat well, exercise, get together w/ friends, meditate - all the good stuff.  Some of these had a tighter grip than others.

What I didn't expect was the daily barrage of instant messages (IMs) I'd receive during my work day.

I can remember on more than one occasion where I would literally be mid sentence - mid word - in phone presentation, intently focused on a slide on my computer screen, when my "Jillschmill' IM would pop up...

"How much do you love Mrs. Landingham?  What a unique and singular character, right?"

Mrs. Landingham, of course, was President Bartlett's secretary in NBC's the West Wing.  And yes, absolutely, Mrs. Landingham was a dynamite character, adding a much needed personal dimension to the White House.  But, midway thru an important presentation (they're all important), do I need to be contemplating the merits of a fictional character created by Aaron Sorkin?  The correct answer is no.

And while these interruptions occurred more regularly than I care to admit - clearly throwing me off my presentation game for all those on the line, the quiet truth of it all is that I loved them all.

I loved them b/c they were reminders to me that Jilly was right where she wanted to be - home, comfortable, and in this case, snuggled up w/ Jed, CJ, Josh, Toby, Leo, Charlie, Sam, and Donna.  (All West Wing characters.  Come on - know this.)  And she wanted to share this joy w/ me.

Quite simple, these IMs were pop-up reminders to me that Jill was content.


The IM platform was a perfect test space for nicknames - more so for me than for Jilly.  Over the years, I tried many on to see what fit.  Jill being Jill was accepting of all most of them.   And as I noted, one in particular stuck out.

It was a brief, meaningful back-and-forth one afternoon.  Jill's at home.  I'm at work.  I type out something like, "I need to get back to it, muffin top."  ('It' being work.)

Now, I had used 'muffin top' for several weeks.  It felt good.  It sounded good.  It was - in my estimation - endearing, loving.  I mean, it was the muffin top...not the stump.  Everyone wants the top.  Let's be honest - the stump is superfluous pastry.

At any rate, Jill responds to me, "You know what muffin top means, right?"

I pick up the phone.  Jill answers cheerfully, "Yeeeeeeees?"

"Muffin top means something?"

Jill proceeds to tell me the more common - and quite rude, though admittedly clever - definition often used to describe an overweight woman.  Well, obviously to both Jill and me, I had no clue.  She knew I meant no harm w/ this nickname.  She knew I was simply ignorant (on this topic...alright, and on many others).

We decided in that 2-3 minute conversation to come up w/ another iteration of 'muffin top' that would ideally be less offensive.  We threw a few options out - said them aloud, tried them on in mock conversation, and moved on to the next option as needed.

What we landed on was gold - pure and simple gold.

Fatty McMuffin Top.

Now, wait...just wait.  On the surface, sure, this may not appear to be as harmless and loving as a nickname between best friends ought to be.  But, that's just it.  It was.  It was ours and it worked.  Why?  Very simply, it made us smile when we said it.  And not just smile; it often made us giggle.
Seriously, try it.  Find a close friend, a spouse, a family member (maybe not a coworker).  Work it into the conversation or just blurt it out w/o context.  While I can't guarantee satisfaction from both parties, I have to think you will at least crack a smile.

Fatty McMuffin Top is our relationship in a nutshell.  It's quirky, unique, unexpected, and doesn't always make much sense...but it freaking works.  It fits.  We fit.

(As I'm typing this, I'm realizing these IMs are now in my rearview.  The links to rescue dogs for sale, updates on Gilmore Girls' plot lines, and Rory's school reminders, will no longer hit my screen (...until Ro learns to IM.  No rush.)  It's a new gap, one of many that I'll (un)knowingly confront for the rest of my life.  But, I think holding onto the bright spots - the Fatty McMuffin Tops - are the pieces that will help me navigate these gaps.)

If you have your own version of Fatty McMuffin top, hold onto it.  Value it.  Don't let it go.
If you don't, find it.  It's worth it.

Fatty McMuffin Top Forever

Always,

J, J, & r


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