Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Junior League

For sixty-two years, I had the same name as my father—except with a diminutive tacked on at the end. 

I was a junior.  Or, as normally depicted, "Jr."
His name was Richard C. Goodman. My name was Richard C. Goodman, Jr.  Being a junior made me feel like I everything I did, or had, was smaller.  My brain, my accomplishments, my room, my penis—you name it. 
After all, what does the word “junior” mean?  “Of lower rank or standing,” says my dictionary.  Even more than that was that I didn’t have my own unique name.  My brother John did; my sister Mary did; my mother Marianna did; even my dog Nikki did.   
Though I hated writing my name with “Jr.” at the end, I hated saying it even more.  My mouth would tighten when I got to the end of my name, like I was masticating glue. 

“What’s your name?” someone would ask in any number of daily situations.  
“My name?”  
“Yes.  What…is…your…name?”
“Richard Goodman…Ju…Ju…”
“What?  I can’t hear you.”
“JUNIOR, Godammit!  JUNIOR!!  Richard Goodman, JUNIOR!!   There!  Now, are you happy????”
At least—thank God for small favors!—they didn’t call my father Big Richard and me Little Richard.  Imagine the taunts, living in the 1950s South, as I did:  “You’re Little Richard! Well, Whop-bop-a-looma-a-whop-boom-bam!”
Here’s the worst, though:  My father’s nickname was Dick.  Lord, it almost makes me insane to contemplate Big Dick and Little Dick.  You may laugh, but my own aunt was called Little Elsa and her mother—my grandmother—Big Elsa.  It happens, I assure you, and not just in Tennessee Williams plays.  
From time to time, I would look around for role models, for other Jr’s I might identify with and gather strength from.  It was always a “he,” of course.  A mother doesn’t put “Jr” after her daughter’s name if she names her daughter after herself.  
I looked and saw—William F. Buckley, Jr.  I didn’t want to be like him.  He seemed to hate everybody, and he always sounded thirsty.  I was glad to see that he gave his son a unique name--Christopher--and didn’t make him William F. Buckley, III.  
Then I thought of Cal Ripken, Jr, the great baseball player.  But even his name sounded ridiculous to me because of all the mighty things he did on the field.  How, I wondered, can you call the man who broke Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive games played Junior?

Then there is Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  A distinguished Harvard scholar is a Junior?  And don't get me started on Frank Sinatra, Jr.  What a weight to bear.
Parents, take ten minutes out of your day and give your newborn child his own frickin' name!  What is it with this bloated ego-mania determination to give your kid your name?  Quell that.  He's not like a building you want named after yourself.  Or a boat.  He's probably not even going to be anything like you.  You're a Republican businessman?  Well, he'll probably end up acting off-Broadway, voting for whatever Bernie-like candidate who's running and picketing your company.  By that time, you'll want him to have a different name. So do it now and save yourself the trouble.  Or just do it because you've had your own name and he should have his.  

Hey, Junior!


  1. Thanks for writing this. I'm named after my mother (first and middle names) and wonder why anyone would do that. Just don't get it. Your child is someone else. You have your own life and name to muddle through.

  2. I'm glad someone else feels the same way. Thanks for taking the time to write.