Monday, April 30, 2012

Call Me Al

In 1986 Paul Simon release a song called, "Call me Al." It has special meaning to me because although few people use that nickname for me today, some of those dearest to my heart call me Al. I had a geography teacher in 8th grade who called me Al and in that class was a person with whom I would form a lifelong friendship and whose family would eventually come to call me one of their own.

They call me "Al".

Al Franken
People sometimes ask me, "Is it Al or Alvin?" I usually say I don't mind either one but my parents named me intentionally so I try to show them the respect of introducing myself as Alvin. My mother (who was deaf and not able to overhear the banter between me and my school chums) once expressed disappointment when she saw a note that a friend had left when we went out. It said something like, "Gone for a bike ride," and was signed, "Jim and Al." After reading it she told me she didn't like people calling me "Al" but I guess she soon accepted that it comes with the name.

Al Gore
As for me, I don't mind a bit if people shorten my name. It makes me think of similar names that are likewise shortened: Mel for Melvin and Marv for Marvin. And of course many variants are shortened to Al: Albert, Alfred, Alexander, Allen. In fact, I usually take liberties myself when I meet an Allen, Albert or Alexander. I never ask, "May I call you Al," since I don't mind it myself and I assume they don't. I even give the females the "Al" treatment if they're named Allison or Alice or something similar

Al Pacino
Al Kaline
I suspect that some people I've met over the years think that I'm embarrassed by my given name since it's often been used in popular culture for nerd-like characters, bespectacled oddballs and weirdos. One can imagine a man cleaning up the pieces of his smashed pumkin on his porch the day after Halloween while he listens to his neighbor saying, "Oh no, Mr. Perkins. My little Alvin would never do anything like that." That's another reason I use my full name when introducing myself; I don't want to give anyone the idea that I'm ashamed by it and that therefore I shorten it before they can find out my full name. There are plenty of famous (and infamous) Alvins so I don't have anything to hide.
Al Capone

Incidentally, throughout my life, everyone I've ever met named Mel calls me Al. I assume it's because they prefer Mel to Melvin and they assume I also prefer the shortened version of my own name.

Back in 1986 when Simon's Graceland was popular, I dated a girl briefly who's mother was named Betty. One day this girl and I were talking and she told me we couldn't get together the next day since it was her mother's birthday. So before we parted I said to her, "Be sure to wish Betty a happy birthday. And tell her that when I call her Betty, she can . . . . well . . . you know."

Al Molinaro
Al Sharpton

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