Over the years, I've had several nicknames. Some annoyed me; others I enjoyed and still hear to this day.
In college, I met a group of guys that lived around the corner from my dorm. The first time we ever hung out, one of the guys did not realize the people in the room were calling me by my last name: Elia. For whatever reason, probably the case of beer he'd finished throughout the course of the day, he heard, "Eli," and proceeded to call me that. Moments later, others in the room tried to correct him, but he was too drunk to understand. For the next week, all of us laughing, he continued to call me Eli, thought a joke was being played on him when his roommate tried to correct him, and when I showed him my student ID, he responded, "That's cool, Eli," and that nickname stuck with me throughout college. I wouldn't be surprised if most people I ran into then and now still think my name is Eli, as not a soul on campus ever called me Steve unless they were a professor. That's a nickname I loved.
I also had an absurd nickname in high school, which my closest friends called me as a joke: Satan. It usually came up when someone needed a laugh. One night while hanging out at our friend's house, our core group of six did what we did best; we made fun of each other. Several nicknames rose from that night and would stick until our graduation. One guy wound up with Rat, because he was small and squinted and twitched his nose. Another was Head, because we thought he had an unusually large head and it was referenced to the MTV cartoon. Another was Raptor, because of the length and shape of his fingernails. My nickname was Satan because someone joked I looked like Damien from The Omen, then the term snowballed, tacked to anything I did when I was angry, depressed, my artwork, fiction, my taste in movies or music, the color of my clothes...basically, anything I did or didn't do.
One nickname I hated was Cheeks. It lasted throughout my childhood, coined by my brother and sister to taunt me. The picture where the name was derived from still hangs in the hallway of my parent's house, despite several attempts to get them to take it down as well as the rare occasion when I took it down on my own. While my sister's photo is her laughing on our swing set and my brother's photo is him standing on top of the slide, my photo is me at the age of two running through the yard, crying. My face is bunched and puffy, and I was a chubby baby. Thus, Cheeks. The worst of the torment came when I was a teenager. A friend would call the house. My sister answered from her bedroom and bellowed, "Cheeks!" to get me to pick up the phone. Every day for about eight years, when I picked up the phone it was to the sound of laughter on the other end.
Still, that's not the nickname that angered me the most. In college, I went with a friend to visit her sister at Ithaca. While there we drank with her sister's roommate. After a long conversation about the movie Office Space and how weird David Herman, who played Michael Bolton, looked, the roommate turned to me and said, "You know, you look like Michael Bolton." Everyone but me got a kick out of it; the roommate and my friend's sister called me that all weekend and every weekend after that when I visited. Today on Facebook, it was referenced again--over a decade has passed, and it infuriates me. The only time I didn't take offense was when the sister gave me a Michael Bolton (singer) shirt, and I turned it into my Halloween costume, going as Michael Bolton's only fan.
A common occurrence in groups, nicknames can be fun or a curse, and I've found the ones you hate, the ones you try to fight, stick the longest.