My last name is Sexton. I started Kindergarten a year early, so I was always younger than my classmates. With an extra year on their side, most of my classmates towered over me. In fourth grade, we played kickball in gym class, and whenever I would sock the ball real well and it would soar far, my stubby nine-year old legs worked their way around the diamond fast, while a group of my classmates would begin to chant, tons-of-sex, tons-of-sex.
Traditionally, a sexton is someone responsible for the upkeep of a church or synagogue, tasked with maintaining things like rectories and graveyards. But this is seldom known by malevolent fourth graders. And even if it were a fact most ten-year-olds were privy to, it would undoubtedly be overshadowed by the fact that my last name contains the words sex and ton, sequentially, which makes the name’s owner an easy target for any mean-spirited tween with a newfound knowledge of the birds-and-the-bees.
If you think about it, someone who takes care of a church, a sexton in its original usage, is probably pretty devout. It takes a lot of courage, born by faith, to navigate misty graveyards in the middle of the night. It’s almost ironic that a last name that’s supposed to signal a degree of piety can be taken, spun around, and launched, like a nominal missile, by ten-year-olds.
My surname isn’t the only part of my name that depraved little preteens have managed to take, distort, and hurl back at me. My middle name is Benedict. My father is Catholic, and thought Benedict, which derives from the Latin word for “blessed,” would be an auspice, but when he decided on the name, he failed to acknowledge the horrible potential of 6th grade minds.
There was a particularly clever (and evil) girl that I knew in 6th grade who, upon finding out my middle name, revived the name-calling, which had luckily died down for most of 5th grade. If you mangle the syllables, then, at least according to the logic of this 12-year-old girl, Benedict sounds awfully similar to “Bend-a-d*ck.”
Luckily, this girl attended another school, so I did not have to deal with her everyday. But at least a couple times a week, I’d see her at recess, and with corrals of little children playing tag and hanging off the monkey bars around me, from across the crowded playground I’d be beckoned with a, “Hey! Bend-a-d*ck!”
Early in high school, someone took to calling me Sextape, which, looking at it in a positive light, probably signaled some maturity. If the person must say something, I think it’s more tasteful for him to at least call me a distinct object, in lieu of chiding me with the old, haha, sex.
Luckily, by the time I graduated high school, it appeared my name was the same as almost everyone else’s: nothing more than an identifier that could be traced back to ancient ancestors of whose stories and lives I know nothing. The difference with my surname is that there is a good deal of people, still alive, to whom I feel connected, even though our names, orthographically, are completely different.
There was a girl in my elementary school, who was a few grades lower than I was, with the last name Butts. To an extent, she felt like a kindred spirit. Nowadays, when I encounter someone named Dick, or someone with the name Gaylord or the surname Seaman, I know the position he or she was in during 6th grade. If a mean eleven-year-old will read your name and laugh, let’s commiserate.
My full name is Nicholas Benedict Sexton, not Nick Bend-a-d*ck Sextape, and I’m quite thankful that the world is not run by tweens.