My brother called yesterday at lunch.
“My boss read your book,” he reported. “Now he’s calling me Russ.”
I had to think about that for a minute. “What was he calling you before?”
I could hear the eye roll from 150 miles away. “My actual name? Aaron?!”
See, the thing is, I forget my brother’s name. It’s not that we aren’t close. On the contrary, we talk several times a week and I consider him one of my best pals.
But from the time we were very young, everyone in the family called each other by the names of the characters in National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. Though my parents will answer to Clark and Ellen and I perk up if someone yells Audrey, the name stuck most solidly for my brother.
There are times I forget his name isn’t Russ. My mom will tell me she talked to Aaron and I’ll say “who?” and she’ll make an exasperated noise and say, “your BROTHER?!” and I’ll feel like a dumbass.
Which is why I chose to thank him as Russ in the acknowledgements for Making Waves. To my credit, I gave his real name as well.
And in my defense, I’m not the only sibling who does this. To the best of my knowledge, my brother has called me nothing but Butthead since before either of us hit puberty.
There are times I forget that’s not my name.
Some of that may be a guy thing. Very few of my brother’s friends are called by their real names, but cheerfully respond to endearing monikers like Slimer or Aboo or Dirty.
Most memorably, my brother once spent an entire college term working on a project with a buddy he called Pecker. When Pecker failed to show on the day the project was due, my brother was dismayed to realize he didn’t know Pecker’s real name.
I still laugh picturing that professor grading a term paper submitted by Aaron Fenske and Pecker.
All that to say, I don’t feel too bad about my brother’s boss calling him Russ. Frankly, it’d be a lot easier for me if everyone called him that.
Wait, does that mean I have to start signing books as Audrey or Butthead? If that’s the case, what embarrassing nickname shall I use when signing the book for you?