A recent column in The Atlantic contends that women assign nicknames to the multiple men they're dating because it helps keep things casual. The idea is, the second we start referring to the man we're dating by their real name to our friends — as opposed to "Hot Hat-Wearing Balding Guy" and "Formerly Fat Chris" — the relationship takes on a real quality that was previously absent.
Sometimes the nicknames are creative: The Crusader (super religious with a wild side in the bed), HGB (short for Hot Gym Boy), and The Meatball (round, stubby, and Italian). One woman told me, "one of my favorites is the guy my friend is dating now-he was formerly a bit of a slut, so we call him TRW, for The Repentant Whore." Then there's the self-explanatory: Hot Hat-Wearing Balding Guy, or Formerly Fat Chris. And the more generic ones that still serve their purpose: The Writer, The Brit, The Professor, SoCal. As time goes by, and there's more than one guy who could be described by a particular nickname, we feel the need to affix new descriptors for clarification purposes (i.e. The Brit Without the Maniacal Laugh). Some even have formulas for nicknames, such as taking their real first name and adding the bar or location in which they met as their last name.
Or maybe, like in many facets of life for both sexes, nicknames are simply excellent memory aids. And I'm not convinced that people give nicknames like "The Meatball" to folks they're casually dating. I don't know anyone who gets that clever. It's more, "I'm hanging out with Jim tonight, that dude I met at Starbucks," or "I can't come to feminist book club this week because I'm having drinks with Larry, Balki's cousin."
There are exceptions, obviously. Once I casually dated someone whose name was Bob but he went by his middle name, Alex. I called him AlBo with my friends, and to his face. This might be the reason we're still not together.
Nicknames are more about function than flare — a utilitarian memory aid, rather than a fun way to detach ourselves emotionally. If you become invested in the person you're seeing and they disappear — it doesn't matter if they're "Hot Meatball Sub" or "Tony", it still fucking hurts. And perhaps the people who brush these things off with their friends aren't addressing and sharing their real feelings. The Atlantic's piece contends that women love to "over-share" (puke), but maybe the crushing weight of multiple rejections is a much more difficult thing to process than the fact that "Olive Garden Breadstick"'s penis looks like an Olive Garden breadstick.
Or am I wrong? Do you come up with pithy names for the men you're dating as a defense mechanism to keep them at arm's length? Are you more likely to refer to a dude as "Hot Gym Guy" than "Chris — you know, the dude I met at the gym."? Because I'm fairly certain it's the latter, no matter how many trend pieces want to turn all dating women into a caricature of Samantha Jones.