All of my V1 work since they started their fancy new website can be found here. The particular article I'm reprinting can be found here.
An Army of Me(s)
reflections of an apparently common-named person
Pretend, for a moment, that you have been invited to a party. The type of party really does not matter, so feel free to select of the following hypothetical party reasons the one that best fits your social inclinations – Halloween/Arbor Day/Parole Just Ended/Acne Cleared Up/whatever. So, a few days before the party, one of your friends says, “Hey, friend, I hear Eric Rasmussen is going to be at this party!” You think to yourself, “I think I know who that is – he’s that Volume One guy who teaches at Memorial. He might be cool, or he might be a complete buttface. We’ll just have to see.”
But, the party arrives, you are introduced to this Mr. Rasmussen, and you are totally confused, because he does not write for Volume One, nor is he a teacher! Your extremities start to tingle and you fight the urge to flee, because this obviously uncomfortable situation does not make sense.
Let me step in here and try to solve your imaginary angst. There are two Eric Rasmussens that live in Eau Claire. You must have met the other one. And I can’t even complain about him stealing my name, because, if the internet is correct, he’s older than I am. So, if the other Eau Claire Eric Rasmussen is reading this, hey, how’s it going? Sorry I stole your name. It sure is a good one, as far as monikers go, huh? Anyway, take care.
For some reason, sharing my name bothers me tremendously. I obsessively Google myself, and all of the other Eric Rasmussens out there are doing really fascinating things that make me jealous. One was a professional baseball player, another a hockey player, and another is some sort of ultimate fighter. One has written several books about Shakespeare (I teach Shakespeare! Weird!), and another is a professor of early childhood music. There’s one in Madison who is a doctor of prosthodontics. I don’t even know what that means! I think it’s a type of dinosaur, so this guy is a doctor of some awesome huge extinct lizard, and I don’t even show up until page five of an Eric Rasmussen Google search.
If you can’t tell, I think about names a lot, and although my particular designation situation occasionally leaves me a little glum, recent developments have filled me with hope. Quite a few of the contributors around here at Volume One have recently reached child-producing age (culturally and socially, not biologically), and, if I do say so myself, we are hitting these kids’ names out of the park. Just to highlight a few, we’ve got a Keegan, Tristan, River, Simon, Gordon (my kid), Eva, Hope, Jillian, and the newest ace-in-hole handle, Sullivan. Doesn’t that sound like a fascinating bunch of people who will never, ever face Google shame?
I can’t wait for 30 or so years from now, when a lot of us have retired to Volume One’s private island in the Florida Keys, and all the V1-lings come to visit. That will be quite the party, resplendent with stories of medical breakthroughs, bestselling novels, space exploration, and record-setting competitive eating victories.
At least, I used to enjoy that little fantasy, until an article was printed in Social Science Quarterly and reported widely in the national media that unique names are tied to increased rates of juvenile delinquency. The study, of course, did not prove that names caused trouble with the law, but something about going through life with a distinct title, maybe being teased, maybe constantly having your name mispronounced, does correlate with crime. They even put together a top ten list of “bad boy” names, which contained one of the names I was keeping in my arsenal for potential son number two: Walter. Seriously, how many criminals do you know named Walter?
Maybe I put way too much emphasis on names. It is fairly ridiculous to assume that a kid’s name is going to trump upbringing and all that and lead the kid to trouble. But maybe it’s also ridiculous to assume that sharing my name with all sorts of other happening dudes somehow detracts from my use of it. Either way, I am going to err on the side of creativity, because, whether we’re talking about kids, parks, schools, roads, or whatever, the unique names are the ones that stick out.
Of our middle and high schools, for example, which one will never be confused for another school in a different city? Not South, or North, or Memorial … but DeLong! What a great name! In fact, this city is full of great names, which I will be adding to my kid name arsenal. How about Putnam Rasmussen? Or Carson Rasmussen? How about … wait for it … Barstow Rasmussen? Those sound like some great guys, even if they have a slightly increased penchant for trouble.