Still Sunflower

Copyright August 22, 2005
by Matthew Haldeman-Time

I am writing about men having sex with other men.  You must be eighteen or older to read my fiction.  This site is for consenting, responsible adults only.

            I used to tell every new person I met to call me Joe.

            My name isn’t Joe.  I’ve always wished that it were.  Joe Smith, maybe.  Or John.  John Jones.  “There goes Johnny Jones,” people would say.  Or, “There’s that nice John Jones.”  They wouldn’t even have to call me nice.  They could call me mean, rude, or stupid.  As long as they call me Joe, I’ll be happy.

            Do you know what people call me?

            Sunny.  They call me Sunny.

            Why, you ask?

            Because my name is Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows.

            After you get over your disbelief and stop laughing, you’ll come to one of the following conclusions: that my mother either hates me, or is on drugs.  Truth be told, my mother loves me dearly, and I’m grateful for it.  And, as long as I’ve known her, which has been for over twenty-five years now, she’s never abused any sort of drug.

            Then why am I saddled with this unbearable name?

            My mother loves flowers.  Flowers of all kinds.  She owns a flower shop and spends her time off either gardening or painting flowers.  She wanted a daughter she could name Daisy.  When she realized that she was having a son, she decided to stick with Daisy anyway.

            My father loves music.  Especially classical music.  Especially Mozart.  He always said that if he had a son, he’d name the child Amadeus; he was willing to shorten it to Amy for a girl.

            Had I been a girl, they could have argued over Daisy or Amy.  Reasonable names, I think…for a girl.

            I, of course, am a boy.

            My mother insisted that Daisy was a fine boy’s name; it had even been the nickname of the main character in David Copperfield, and wouldn’t it be great to have a child named after a major literary work?

            My father insisted that he would never, ever, ever have a son named Daisy.  I agree with him up until there.  Where our opinions part ways is when he clung stubbornly to Amadeus.

            My mother refused to have a son named Amadeus.

            My father refused to have a son named Daisy.  He said, fine, if you’re naming him Daisy, I’ll name him Wolfgang.

            Properly offended (but taking her argument in the wrong direction, I think), my mother said, fine, if you’re naming him Wolfgang, I’ll name him Sunflower.

            They argued over it every single day for the last month of her pregnancy.

            There were a few complications during labor.  When it was time to sign the birth certificate, they were so happy to have their healthy little baby boy, they generously allowed each other to have their way.  My mother said that my father could name me Wolfgang Amadeus; my father said that my mother could name me Daisy Sunflower.  At yet another impasse, they wrote all four names down on scraps of paper and chose two at random.

            So, here I am.  Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows.

            It didn’t take me long to figure out how ludicrous my name was.  Every time I was introduced to someone new, I found myself laughed at and disbelieved.  I begged my parents to change my name, often.  For several years, that was the only thing that I asked for at Christmastime.  When asked what I wanted for my birthday, I’d immediately reply, “A new name.”

            But my parents wouldn’t budge.  An unusual name is a blessing.  It builds character.  It promotes individuality.  Or so they said.  Personally, I wouldn’t have minded a little less individuality.  Sometimes it’s nice to blend in.

            Sunflower is not a name that I’m willing to use.

            Sunny Meadows sounds ridiculous.  Even if people think that it’s spelled like “Sonny,” it still sounds like “Sunny,” and suddenly, I’m introducing myself as the title of a landscape painting.

            Sun sounds like Son.  I don’t want to be Son Meadows.  It makes me wonder where Father Meadows and Daughter Meadows are.

            Wolfgang is slightly better.  I tried being Wolf for several years, and eventually it caught on.  I don’t look like a “Wolf,” I’m not the brooding or rebellious type, but it’s better than Sunflower.

            Then, of course, halfway through my college education, someone told me that “Wolf Meadows” brings to mind wolves on the chase, possibly on the verge of taking down prey.

            At that point, I was on the verge of trying Gang or even Flower, since I’d gone through every other possibility.

            And then I met Jimmy Hayes.

            Jimmy Hayes is a great name.  I understand that you may not be impressed, but I think that James Michael Hayes sounds just about perfect.

            As it turns out, Jimmy Hayes himself is just about perfect.  He has soft, thick, light brown hair that has shimmering gold highlights in the sun.  He has blue eyes that shine with Jimmy’s inner light.  And he has the most amazing, happy smile.

            I’ve been deeply, madly, soulfully, passionately, deliciously in love with him for five years now.  He’s in love with me, too, although he fell in love the day we met and I didn’t fall in love until three weeks later when I finally told him my complete, legal name and he didn’t make fun of it.  After I made my terrible confession, that I wasn’t a Wolf but a Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows, he paused for a second, gave me that quizzical head-tilt eye-squint look that he tends to give the refrigerator whenever he opens it and whatever he wants to eat isn’t in there, and then he said, “Why don’t you go by Sunflower?”

            Here’s the kicker.  It was an honest question.  He really wanted to know.  Jimmy thinks that Sunflower is a perfectly good name.

            When I explained to him that Sunflower Meadows sounds like a description of nature, he wasn’t at all dissuaded.  Sunflower, he explained to me, is a great name, and if my parents were good enough people to give it to me, I shouldn’t waste their efforts by not using it.

            I tried to explain that Sunflower isn’t even necessarily a good name for a horse or a cat or a girl, much less a guy, but he disagreed.  Then he asked me if he could call me Sunflower, even if I stuck with Wolf for everyone else.

            Hell, he was cute, and I wanted to get him in bed, and even if I thought that he was out of his mind for liking my name, I’d already fallen in love with him for it.  I said okay.

            From that day forward, Jimmy has called me Sunflower.  Sometimes it’s shortened to Sun, for convenience; sometimes it’s just Flower.  I clung to Wolf for a little while longer, until I finally got him in bed, and hearing him moan my name like that, in that breathy needy tone he has when he’s absolutely loving everything I’m doing to him, damn, it got to me.

            After that, I made everybody call me Sunflower.

            Post-college graduation, when I went for job interviews, after explaining that my resume wasn’t a joke and that Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows actually was my name, I’d be asked what I preferred to go by.  Personally, I still preferred Joe, but I went ahead and said, “Sunflower.”  Which earned me a few chuckles and raised eyebrows and amused, “All rights,” but Jimmy was invariably pleased when I told him later.  And really, making Jimmy happy tends to stay at the top of my priority list.

            Sunflower didn’t actually last, at least not with the majority of people I’m in contact with now.  Everyone at work has shortened it to Sunny.  My father calls me Wolf and Wolfgang.  My mother calls me Daisy.  I love her for it, I think.  She’s a special woman.

            When Jimmy and I got married last month, I put a lot of thought into changing my name.  I know, I know, make fun of me all you want, but can you blame me?  This was my chance!

            I thought more about my new name than about anything else, from the night Jimmy proposed and straight through the next ten weeks.

            Here were my choices: Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows (clearly unacceptable, as twenty-five years of life had taught me), Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows Hayes (tacking a decent last name on the end was not a drastic enough improvement), Sunflower Wolfgang Hayes (Sunny Hayes sounded too much like sunny days, and there was no way that I’d blow my big name-changing chance with that mistake), Joseph Jonathan Hayes.  Perfect.  Maybe, maybe, as a concession, I’d go with Joseph Wolfgang Hayes.

            After coming to that decision, I asked Jimmy what he thought.

            Jimmy’s answer?  “I proposed to Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows.  I’m going to marry Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows.  I don’t know Joseph Wolfgang Hayes, and if he shows up at the altar or in my bed, I’m getting rid of him.”

            I tried to reason with him.  I tried to make him see the light.

            Jimmy is a terrific, amazing, fantastic guy.  He can also be a kindly, firmly, frustratingly stubborn guy.

            I’m an intelligent, creative, independent-minded person.  I’m also a weak little pushover when it comes to Jimmy.  After three weeks of increasingly feeble protests, I gave in.

            As a result of my weakness for Jimmy (he’s stubborn, he’s gorgeous, he’s persuasive, and he knows that I can’t live without him), I’m still Sunflower Wolfgang Meadows.  I’m resigned to it, now.

            After our wedding, a sweet older woman Jimmy works with asked him when everyone at the office would get to meet that sweet Sunflower he’d married; she was just sure that I had to be the prettiest girl - - and blond, of course?  He explained to her that “pretty, sweet Sunflower” was that sexy guy who’d come to take him to lunch the day before - - the blond, of course.  (He probably didn’t say “sexy,” but I’m sure that he was thinking it.)  So, yes, my name is still an ongoing point of interest in my life.  Our lives, now, together, Jimmy’s and mine.

            Our lives?  Our life.  Not that we live the exact same life, obviously, but our two lives have blended into one shared life.

            Maybe, in another few years, I’ll ask him if that shared life can mean not only a shared home, a shared bed, and a shared responsibility to keep each other happy, sane, and on the right path, but shared names, too.  Maybe I’ll get to be Jimmy Hayes for a while, and he can be Sunny Meadows.

            It’s worth a shot.

            Well, I didn’t wait a few years; I waited a few days.  He was willing to try it, the sneaky little #*$&.  He called me Jimmy; I called him Sunflower all during dinner, Sun after dinner, and Flower while we got ready for bed.

            Then we got into bed.

            There is no possible way for me to call out ‘Sunflower’ in bed.  I physically am incapable.  Damn it.

            It was nice to be Jimmy for a few hours.

            But, and don’t ever tell anyone that I admitted this…  I’m glad to be Sunflower again.

            There’s just something about the way that Jimmy says it…
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