Bullies and the First Day of School

I have a girl’s name. Trust me, you’re not the first to notice. I wasn’t even the first to notice. I found out on the first day of first grade. My parents (the perpetrators) never told me, and the other kids I hung around with were having too much trouble learning their own names, let alone mine.

It would be great if parents would sit their kids down on the morning of the first day of school and give them a mission briefing, so to speak:

“Listen, son. You’re off to school. You’re going to learn amazing things. You’ll find out that if Stagecoach A leaves Albuquerque at 9 am doing fifty miles an hour and Stagecoach B leaves Kansas City at 11 am doing seventy miles an hour that nobody gives a shit. It’s why we don’t use stagecoaches anymore.”

“You will meet incredible people. Today is truly the first day of the rest of your life.”

“Oh, and before the day’s over, someone’s going to beat your ass.”

It could be any number of things:

  1. That uncontrollable drooling thing you do.
  2. You’ve got an overbite like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  3. That one crazy eye that’s always looking north.
  4. The hair. Dear God. The hair.


What can I say. Kids are cruel. And don’t worry, honey, those are just your first set of teeth. They’ll grow back. Might actually help with the overbite. And the drooling. Have a great day! (By the way, you have a girl’s name. I’m sure he heard me. Oh well).



In every class, there is a bully. In my case, since I went to Hebrew school, my class bully was the criminal mastermind Hymie Finkelstein. He was skinny and bespectacled. He looked like an accountant. In fact, I think he IS my accountant.

The first day of school, a bunch of defective and dorky kids, including me, got lined up against the wall at recess with our lunch money. The criminal mastermind Hymie Finkelstein walked down the line, doing an inventory. (He’s a great accountant, by the way).

“Hunchback. Give me your lunch money.”

“T. Rex. Nice teeth. Give me your lunch money.”

“Coke bottle glasses.”

“Sweaty pits.”

“Weak bladder.”

“Loose sphincter. Eeew.”

“Clubfoot. Gimme your lunch money.”

He got to me and looked me up and down. “Why are you here?”

Since I had been ordered to the wall with my lunch money, I said, “I thought this was the cafeteria.”

Hymie said, “Oh. You’re an idiot. That’ll work too. Give me your lunch money.”

One of his henchmen, Myron Abramowitz, who was five and a half feet tall in third grade and had a mustache and his own set of descended testicles, whispered my name in his ear.

Hymie Finkelstein laughed his skinny ass off.

“Stacey? That’s your name? What happened? Your mom wanted a girl? No one checked your plumbing? What was she thinking? What’s your dad’s name? Sue?”

I was taking notes as fast as I could. I was happy to give Hymie Finkelstein my lunch money. It was like a consultation.

I got home that day with my list of questions.

“So. Mom. A girl’s name? How could you give me a girl’s name?”

Before I got to the rest of my questions, she gave me what was for her, an answer:

“SSSSSSSStace. I thought you were gonna die.”



I was two months premature. I weighed 2 pounds. My mother says I’ve recovered quite nicely. I’m sure it’s a compliment. I think my mom named me for the nurse that took care of her in delivery.

Here’s the thing. Where was my father? I know when my kids were born their mother and I haggled over names for days. Apparently, my dad was at the track.

Here’s another thing: my middle name is Ryan. So I know she could come up with a boy’s name. She just didn’t feel like it. Or maybe she thought having my ass kicked on a regular basis would build character.


But when I was six years old and enraged, the only consolation she offered was that there were lots of men named Stacey.

“Name five.”

“Stacy Keach.”

“Name four more.”

“Stacy Keach.”

“That’s the same one. Six billion people on the planet, ma. Half of them are men. Surely you can name one more.”

“Stacy Keach.”

I looked it up. Stacy Keach’s real first name is Walter. Ungrateful bastard.


I was talking to a comedian at a gig we did together and he told me that names didn’t really matter.

“Is that so. Tell me something Tabari – how long does it take for you to get through the security line at the airport? You think those pat-downs are some kind of federal hug? The body cavity searches are just some feature of Obamacare that no one likes to talk about?”

Tabari and I have reached an agreement: I’m going to work out my angst over having a girl’s name by writing and speaking about it. He’s going to take his fancy ideas about nomenclature and cram them up his ass.

Where the TSA will find them next time he tries to get on a plane.

He and I are going to be best friends. I can feel it.


I guess by now I’ve come to terms with it. You know how it is – whatever got you teased as a kid fades over time and you get past it. You grow into your batwing ears or your grotesque, misshapen head. Someone eventually comes along with corrective lenses, leg braces, orthodontia, and gallons of soothing brown liquor. It gets better.

The only reminder I have any more is when my daughters, Steve and Phil, come running into the house with the mail.

“Dad! Look what came in the mail! Did you know that after forty, you need to get a mammogram every six months?”

“Victoria Secrets, Dad! You’d look great in this puffy silky thing!”

Apparently I’m way overdue for a pap smear.


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19 thoughts on “Bullies and the First Day of School”

  1. I would have commented earlier but I spent ht last few hours trying to search important men named Stacey… same results as you. For the first time in my 50 years I am glad my name is John.. the name for a bathroom.

    1. Yes, but not just a bathroom …

      The name John comes from the Hebrew “Yochanan,” meaning “God is gracious.”

      (Google was my friend. 😉 )

    2. John – are you saying MY name didn’t come up in the search? That’s disappointing. But your name is absolutely fantastic – according to Kathy Minicozzi, it means “God is gracious.” Also colloquial for a prostitute’s customer. You must lead a great life.

  2. I’m Kathy now, but when I was a kid at home my nickname was “Kitty.” My family still calls me that.

    I wish my Mom had sat me down before my first day of Kindergarten and said something like, “You are going to be with a bunch of dumb, scary 6 year olds and a teacher who was probably certified by mistake. Some of the dumbest kids are going to think your name is funny, and they will go “Here, kittykittykittykitty” at every opportunity, to get a rise out of you. They will find other ways to pick on you, too. Ignore them. When you are all grown up you can write them into a story and make them look really stupid.”

    But she didn’t.

    1. And due to that regrettable oversight, how’s Mother’s Day? Holiday of praise and thanks for your mom, or fake plants and takeout Chinese?

      1. When Mom was still alive, it was a holiday of praise and thanks for her — in my case from long distance, since I live in New York City and she lived in Yakima, Washington!

  3. I love this! Love it. Kids are cruel. It’s always great to make jokes about it.
    Please wear a sun dress when you come up to visit us.

  4. I blame hormones. When I was pregnant, I wanted to name my son Justin.

    Justin Case. Or Justin Thyme. My third choice was Anthony Tony Anthony. I was looking forward to sobbing melodramatically and yelling “Tony, Tony, Tony!” as my son raced away…

    My friends were happy I had a girl

    1. That is awesome! You should have indulged yourself! The years of angst and bitterness for your son would have worn off in a few decades…

  5. I’m glad my name is Ben. But I could have been much funnier with the name Stacey 😉

    1. Yes, Ben. It must feel wonderful to know that people can look at your name on a piece of paper and assume with near-certainty that you have your very own penis. Attached and everything. Must be nice… 🙂 🙂

  6. As a parent of imaginary kids, I’m going to take your advice and sit them down before first day of school and say words to them. Your first post on HO and you’re already helping people! It just doesn’t get any better than that!

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