I have many curious problems. I am phobic of telephones; I would go to great lengths to avoid mailing a package; I’m so terrified of mustard that even typing the word gives me an infarction. But today I have a new problem, and I am writing this entry to ask for your help.
I’m currently writing a book, a non-fiction collection of essays called Outlaw Quaker Girl. I would be the outlaw, in case you were confused by my earnestness and commitment to fair trade. I’m doing a great deal of research, both original writing and secondary, and there are a few first-rate Quaker historians. One of my professors in seminary, John Punshon, wrote what was considered, for many years, the definitive history of Quakerism. But there’s a new man in the corral, and his books are critical to my research. As far as I can tell he owns Quaker scholarship, both in England and in America. In my introductory chapter he is mentioned almost immediately, and this is where my problem arises.
His name is . . . . I can’t do it. SEE? SEE HOW DIFFICULT THIS IS? His name is Pink Dandelion. If I remember correctly from the time he spent at the Earlham School of Religion while I was in seminary, that was his given name. However, when I knew him he was called “Ben” Pink Dandelion – the quotation marks were part of the name, so at least when one ran in to him in the common room one could say, “Hey, ‘Ben’.” But all of his books are now published under the name Pink, so he dropped the “Ben.” Imagine that. You decide to drop one of those three names and you choose the one that is not only normal, attractive, and manly, but comes with its own quotation marks, as if his name is really quoting someone else’s name. It’s a puzzle.
For the record, this is a pink dandelion:
What a pretty little thing.
Now, I am going to describe my dilemma and then I would like for you to vote on how best to handle it. In the introduction, when I first mention his name, one of two things will happen:
1. People will assume I am making a joke (even though I am a deadly serious person), and so to prevent that I will have to offer SOME aside, explaining that Pink Dandelion is really his name, and he is a man with immaculate credentials and the best Quaker scholar currently at work, and so please to let us get on with the book and no giggling about Pink Dandelion. Do you see the problem with this? I am drawing attention to the name and suggesting that OF COURSE people are going to be deeply confused, will giggle, and perhaps will even begin having symptoms of the ague.
2. I mention his name for the first time and say nothing. Ergo, everyone will assume I am making him up, like he is my imaginary Quaker historian friend who lives in the wall of the barn and tells me secrets about the Restoration period in British history.
3. I say SOMETHING, but it is humble and respectful. But little Jebus, what would that be?
4. I contact Pink Dandelion and ask his advice as to how best deal with the introduction of his name in what is sure to be an absurd book anyway; have mercy I’m just an awful Quaker. Lazy, uninvolved, only convinced about half the time, secretly critical of the testimony of some other Quakers because I feel superior to them and think what they’re saying is self-evident or facile – you get it. And from ME, an IDIOT, he receives a question that PRESUPPOSES there is something heinously wrong with his name and he must help me so my book isn’t ruined.
And there you have it. That’s all I’ve got. I insult him, or I insult him, or I insult him, or finally, I insult him. Someone else – a good person, someone totally unlike me – fix this and tell me what to do. I will owe you a small token of gratitude (I haven’t gotten as far as what it would be) and it’s also possible you’d never receive it, so thank you DOUBLY for your generosity.