Every so often, I'm an unwilling participant in the phenomenon that I refer to as the Unisex Name Drop. What is this intriguingly named yet undeniably real event? Here's an example:
I'm ready to pay for something at a store or a restaurant, and the cashier looks down at my credit card and cannot resist commenting that he or she has a family member or a friend or an ex named Courtney. Of course, the Courtney they know is a guy, which makes them chuckle good-naturedly while they relate this story.
I realize that the person is probably just trying to make small talk while waiting for me to sign a receipt, but I'm absolutely baffled regarding how I'm expected to respond. There's nowhere to go from "I know a man with that name." I usually end up forcing a polite smile and saying something like, "Yeah? That's interesting."
But you know what? It's really not. People who have unisex names (even rarely used ones like mine) are fully aware that there are human beings of the opposite gender running around with the same moniker. And when you bring it up, it's awkward. There's nothing relevant to say because it's a completely irrelevant comment.
Unless, like me, they're sometimes mistaken for the opposite gender by myopic people who can't understand that some women have short hair and are 5'10". In that case, it's a bit of an insult, since you seem to be comparing us to your nephew or your male cousin or your brother's best friend.
If you're ever tempted to broach this topic with a complete stranger, may I suggest using any one of the following phrases instead: 1) "That's a nice name." 2) "Have a nice day." 3) Nothing at all.
I once asked a friend what he thought I should say in these scenarios, and he gave me the most hilarious quip I could have wished for. I have it in reserve as my standard response.
A couple weeks ago, I met some friends (a husband and wife) for dinner and a movie at a local mall. As I was walking in from the parking lot, I saw the following scrap of paper lying on the sidewalk. Since it featured profanity, of course I picked it up.
It made me laugh, but the content was a bit mystifying. When I got inside, the wife was standing outside the restaurant, saying we had just a short wait and her husband had gone to buy the movie tickets. I pulled out the note to get her assessment, and she immediately commented that perhaps someone had stuck it on a car windshield as a rebuke for bad parking.
She then told me that she'd given her husband a hard time for a haphazard parking job that very evening.
I don't know which of us had the brainstorm, since it's hard to pinpoint the origin of evil schemes when this much serendipity is involved. Suffice it to say that, when we sat down to eat, I presented the note to her husband, telling him I had parked near them and found it on their car.
I don't regret it. What I do regret is not having my phone out to capture his reaction on video. He stared first at the note, then at me, then back at the note, then at his wife, mouth agape, completely and utterly flabbergasted.
I think his wife might have kept him going all night with tongue-in-cheek variations on "I told you so," but I burst out laughing and quickly confessed. I couldn't let the poor guy think that retribution was so impossibly swift, or quite so aligned with his wife's views. That would have made me the asshole.
I wrote this story in third or fourth grade. It's fairly self-explanatory, but I would like to say three things. 1) Yes, I'm a super huge nerd. 2) Trischoolatops High would make a great band name. 3) I think I drew some pretty kickass punk dinosaurs toward the end. Thank you.