If you watch Disney's Dumbo from the beginning, you find that the cute little flying elephant's name is actually, Jumbo, Jr. When he is born, his mother proudly shows him off to the other elephants and introduces him by name. But suddenly, baby sneezes and his huge abnormal ears flop out into plain view. The elephants react in horror and one matriarch sneers, "Jumbo, Jr.? His name should be Dumbo." And that horrid nick-name stuck.
But Dumbo, as he is called, rises above that epithet to become the star attraction, and saves the failing circus with his flying elephant act.
George, the piano player at our old folks home, dutifully plays Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer at Christmas time because other people like it so, but he hates it. Why? Because all the other reindeer shun and isolate Rudolf until they need him to guide the sleigh. Then they accept him, when they need him. George feels that is very unfair.
When I began teaching high school back in 1950, it was the custom of the high school I started my career in, for the senior class to name the incoming sophomore class with a name as demeaning as possible. The object of this offically approved hazing was to inspire the Sophomores to accept the epithet and rise above it, and make it something to be proud of.
And guess what. It worked. The class usually accepted the ridiculous name and carried it proudly through their three years at Polytechnic High in Riverside, CA. I wonder if that tradition still survives in this more politically correct society.
During my tenure there, the classes were serially named the Geeks, the Slurps, the Burbots. The Geeks and the Slurps proudly graduated while I was there and the Burbots remained to name the next class I know not what gross name.
I am not sure what started me on this memoir, but the message seems to be: by proud of who you are, and not what others try to make of you.