To: newsletter
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: The Ballad of Sexboy

Hi, all,

      I've seen a bit more evidence for the great wheel of karma: what came around has finally gone around. When I was in high school, a teacher I liked gave me a nickname I didn't, and it soon completely replaced my real name. Until I went away to college, only family called me "Peter," and to this day one old friend's mother doesn't know who I am if I use my real name on the phone. I even got to like the nickname before too long. Well, a few months ago, when I taught sixth graders at a local elementary school for the first and so far only time, one kid responded to everything I said by shouting, "sex." Finally, trying to derail the distraction, I named him "Sexboy." All the other kids and his teacher, a matronly woman in her fifties who speaks no English, jumped on it, and so he could no longer shout "sex" every few minutes without being buried in a laughing chorus of "Sexboy!" He wasn't humiliated, but the feedback forced him to contain himself. Clever solution, no? No. I neglected the fact that a couple of months later Sexboy would become a first-year student at Go-chu and I'd have to deal with him twice a week. I also neglected the fact that the least fortunate nicknames can be the most enduring. Little Tatsuya has a new name. Among the other students at his elementary school, he had become known mostly as "Sexboy," and once at Go-chu it caught on with the teachers, too. This isn't too damaging, as this kid is extremely outgoing (which in this context should be read as "undermedicated") and seems proud of his distinction, but I don't want the nickname to reinforce the excessive acting out that led me to invent it; I've found he's been responding more calmly and positively to me since I started making a point of using his real name, but this time my example doesn't seem to be catching on. Oh, well--six more years as "Sexboy," then he can go away to college.

O genki de,


(addendum: it's two years later, and Sexboy is now a second year at Go-chu. He's still a bit wacky, but he's one of my very favorite kids. When I can summon the stamina to bike to Shirayama, I eat and drink at his family's izakaya, Inaho, before the long fast glide down the mountain to home. Oh, yes, "Sexboy": the name died out a few weeks after he started at Go-chu; I guess if I wasn't going to use it, it wasn't fun anymore).


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