Recently, Arizona’s Senate President labeled me an “open-border anarchist.”
Well, okay, Russell Pearce wasn’t speaking of me, in particular, but as I support the campaign to oust him from office—just like the over 18,000 people who signed the recall petition—he might as well have been.
The same is true for J.D. Hayworth, who last week stopped eating long enough to call supporters of the recall swastika-toting Nazis. And while J.D. is correct in acknowledging that many defenders of the master race live in Mesa, it’s highly unlikely that any of them are open-border anarchists.
Honestly, I had the pleasure of meeting many of those who helped circulate the petitions, and I can’t recall a single one of them wearing any Nazi iconography. Admittedly, I was far too distracted by the garish hammers and sickles they carried around to notice something as inconspicuous as a swastika, so maybe J.D. is right.
Right or not, being called a Nazi would be extremely hurtful if my parents hadn’t prepared me for the cruelties of name-calling. Don’t misunderstand: my parents didn’t teach me all that nonsense about “sticks and stones.” My parents were not sophisticated, but they knew drivel when they heard it.
No, my mom and dad understood the full range of pain a name could cause a child, which is why they took an entirely different approach. To be blunt: they chose to toughen me up by calling me Fart Boy.
Sure, it’s not the meanest name my parents ever called me, nor is it the most vulgar or even the most insulting. For my money, the worst name I’ve ever been called was “Mikey”—as a child, not only did I look like that freckled Life Cereal kid, but I wouldn’t eat anything, either. Back then, “Mikey” was a slur that cut too close to the bone, and anyone who called me that name risked discovering salacious rumors about their mother written on the bathroom walls.
So no, I didn’t mind Fart Boy. Not that any protest on my part would have mattered, because that’s the name my parents and my entire family called me by from the time I was four until my late teens.
Let me be clear: Fart Boy was not a nickname, it was not a running joke in the family, nor was it a moniker my parents only used when I was in trouble. One day when I was four, my dad started calling me Fart Boy, it caught on, and it became my name. If I overslept and was late for school, my mom would shake my shoulder and say, “get up Fart Boy, school starts in 15 minutes.” If a friend called the house looking for me, my brother would yell from the kitchen, “Fart Boy, it’s for you.” And if we were in a grocery store and my dad lost track of me, you could hear his calls for Fart Boy from several aisles over. To this day, I can still imagine confused shoppers glimpsing around corners, hands held tentatively over their noses, eager for the slightest glimpse of the mythical, magical Dark Knight of Flatulence.
“Fart Boy” was how my parents understood me, and it became how I understood myself: the name was as intractable a part of my identity as was my own reflection.
The poet John Ashbery once argued that you can’t truly master a foreign language until you start dreaming in that language. Well, when I went to sleep, “Mike” was as foreign to me as is the Chinese language. No, in my dreams, shadowy figures called me Fart Boy, my friends called me Fart Boy, and Christina Libeck, dressed by my fevered and unconscious mind in nothing but sweat, whispered in a trembling, exhausted voice: “I love you Fart Boy.”
I grew so comfortable with the name, that when one of my high school teachers would call upon me to answer a question, I’d just stare at them. “Mike, I’m talking you. Mike?” they would say, a bewildered look on their face, and I’d just sit there like a blithering idiot wondering what the hell was wrong with that “Mike” kid.
Now with a name like Fart Boy, you might assume that as a child I was some sort of walking whoopee cushion, an adolescent combustion machine whose favorite joke was, “pull my finger.” Actually, it was the exact opposite. Whether through biology or an unconscious effort on my part to challenge my name’s authority—the way one might call a slow-witted person “Einstein” or a really intelligent person “Governor Palin”—I almost never “tuned up the band.” While my friends turned farting into a competitive sport, I’d simply sit back and make gassy noises with my armpits.
This is not to say I was a complete mute; I simply couldn’t fart around others. Of course, you would think that’s a good thing, but you’d be surprised at how many romantic relations this fact has ruined. Seriously, based on my experiences, being comfortable enough to fart around your lover is important to a lot of women.
Let me explain: in every relationship, there are many “first” times: the first time you hold hands, the first kiss, and, yes, the first fart. These “firsts” become cherished, foundation-building memories. That said, the first time a woman cuddles up against you and accidentally lets one rip, you’ve got about a week to return the favor before she starts to wonder why she’s more comfortable with you than you are with her.
It’s like the first time you tell someone you love them; if they don’t say it back, feelings will be hurt, self-doubt will creep in, and you will feel like a fool. And as silly as it sounds, I’ve had several heated arguments with women that began with, “how’s come you’ve never farted around me? I fart around you all the time. What, does that make you better than me?”
Trust me, any answer to that question is the wrong one.
Fortunately, I overcame this problem in my late 20s when I discovered my mother’s method for making the perfect pinto bean soup—a simple but perfect recipe in which a pound of beans, a ham-hock and a slow cooker combine to convert my colon into a nuclear reactor.
Mix in the joys of cheap beer, and I am easily mistaken for an entire high school gym class.
Needless to say, I’ve loosened up quite a bit this past decade and can now regularly offer ladies the affirmation they need. It does help, of course, that it’s been over 20 years since anyone has called me Fart Boy—I believe I was almost 18 when my mother decided I was finally old enough for her to start calling me by any of the seven words you can’t say on TV. Thus, “Fart Boy” was laid to rest.
Because of my experiences, being called a Nazi by J.D. Hayworth doesn’t bother me. And if Russell Pearce wants to brand his opponents as anarchists or cartel members, who cares? I realize Pearce’s supporters will adopt these brands and use them to erase the very real human faces of 18,000 people. After all, it’s a lot easier to hate a word than to hate your neighbor, your friend, or the kids across the street. A label is much easier to dismiss than a person.
I’d hope Pearce’s supporters are smart enough to recognize the duplicitous irony of labeling his opponents as Nazis. But when you consider the fact that the former governor of Alaska is as ignorant of American history as she is, is it wise to expect more from those who support her? No, it is not.
Nor would it be wise to ignore Pearce’s name-calling. It’s like telling someone you “love them,” or, you know, accidentally farting on their leg as you do so: it pretty much demands an in-kind response. For that reason, I’ve spent the night thinking about all the juicy names I could brand Pearce with. I’ve come up with many biting labels and vicious names, all rife with their innuendos of debauchery, avarice and sleaze.
In the end, I scrapped them all. I decided that if you want to call someone a name, you might as well stick with the tried-and-tested classics used by the masters of the craft: kindergartners.
For this reason, I announce to the world that, while I may be Fart Boy, Russell Pearce is a Big, Fat Poopy Head. And who knows, maybe if we call him that enough, put it on enough bumper stickers and roadside signs, he’ll eventually quit being one.
And for the record: If you call me “Mikey,” I’m still writing stuff about your mom on the bathroom walls, but, thanks to my own mother’s love of George Carlin, I’ll do so with a much richer vocabulary than I had when I was 12.
*This column was paid for by the Open-Border Anarchists of Arizona, in conjunction with the Nazi Anchor-Babies Who Think J.D. Hawyworth is a Hershey-Squirt.