The ugly, hyphenated truth behind my byline**

Oh, if only my name was as simple as this nameplate...

HARLEM — We had just gotten back from lunch recess when a girl in my class got up to use the old pencil sharpener bolted to the wall. This was as a mini-event in our class, because if you turned the handle of the sharpener fast enough, the grinding of metal blades shaving down wooden pencils was loud enough to drown out our teacher’s voice.

For easily-entertained fifth graders, this was good times.

But not this time. At least, not for me.

Before the girl could even start turning the pencil sharpener, she stopped in her tracks and turned to face the entire class.

“Marc,” the girl said. “Lester?”

“Your name’s Marclester*?”

For five-straight years, I managed to keep my secret hidden away from my classmates, dodging detection even when I should have been caught. The first day of school, field trip sign-ups, back-to-school night, they all came and went and my secret remained safe. I was lucky.

But for some reason, which I have yet to figure out and suspect never will, my teacher posted a full copy of the roll sheet on the wall. And he made sure to put it in one the most conspicuous spots possible, just above the pencil sharpener.

“Oh my god,” the girl said, now realizing the full destructive power of her discovery.

“Your name is… Marclester!”

Yeah, that made for a really shitty week.

Somehow, I got through high school without an issue. But in college, I once got too sick to pick up a prescription. A friend of mine volunteered to run the errand. I thought it was a nice thing until I realized that the doctor used my fill name. So when my buddy dropped off my medicine, he couldn’t resist:

“Clesta Cless!”

A few years later, at a conference I attended when I was still in college, somebody in the group found out. Yeah, there’s nothing like hearing an Ivy League honors student laugh hysterically as she put it all together:


One day, I asked my mother the obvious question: Why? I expected a decent explanation, maybe a funny story. Instead, she shrugged, lit a menthol, and phoned a friend.

Good talk, mom. Thanks!

* Technically, my birth certificate reads Marc-Lester, two words, hyphenated. But somewhere down the line, some negligent school clerk decided to mash the two together, and nobody bothered to change it. And I doubt it’s ever been right on any driver’s license I’ve ever had. Whenever I fill out the application with a hyphen — Marc-Lester — it gets dropped so it’s just Marc Lester. But that damn school clerk must have gotten a job working for the Nevada DMV, because in the Silver State I was again Marclester. Of course, dad could have fixed this nonsense by making me Franklin Jr. Instead, that honor went to my kid brother, who we called J.R. and eventually, just Jay. Good name. Not that I’m bitter or anything, pops.

** I once considered changing my byline to sound snottier. The choices were M.L. Carig or M. Lester Carig. I thought the latter sounded appropriately snotty, except I couldn’t shake its resemblance to “Molester!”




Filed under Random

12 responses to “The ugly, hyphenated truth behind my byline**

  1. That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

    Really? Well, Romeo didn’t have to live with the moniker, Larry, or Lester. I do what I can to make being Larry cool, but it’s futile. Whenever a Larry appears on screen I count the seconds before the audience discovers he’s dragging toilet paper on his shoe. It’s inevitable. Can anyone imagine a world where a handsome, debonair character being asked his name, replies. Bond,… LARRY, Bond. ? .only if that was immediately proceeded by Larry tripping over his untied shoelace and spilling his martini on the woman of his dreams. I hear you Lester.

  2. Jay

    M.L. Carig does sound a little lofty for sports writing, but it would probably look good on the cover of a book.

    My last name is the problem. Gargiulo. No one knows how to pronounce it (Gar-jew-low) and there ain’t shit I can do to hide it.

  3. Drama Boy

    Yes…I made the blog. And for the record, I had the whole ride down Appian Way and Interstate 80 to think of that. I was way into Bustah Ryhmes at the time. (Busta Bust).
    Side note: when my friends found out my middle name was Lawrence, I was soon nicknamed Big Lar’. Friends suck.

  4. Drama Boy

    Oh yah. I hope there is a follow up about being misidentified as Mark Craig your entire life.

  5. Jackie Lou

    I ended up with an accidental space in my name. So sometimes my middle name is Lou Torres. However, Lester is not as bad as some of the names my cousins have. My cousin Rich legally changed his name to Richard after a few decades of being Dick. And some of my cousins have real Filipino names…Geordinno, Bonifacio, Edelfonso to name a few.

  6. I’m not sure you’re getting the conference reference correct. Didn’t the nickname actually end up as ‘Molesta’? And was it an Ivy League kid who came up with the name? I swear it was Olivia who came up with the name, and she went to UPenn, right? Or did UPenn become an Ivy League school??? Get it straight Mark Craig!

  7. A loyal Quaker, I be. So no dissing UPenn. Not harvard, yale, or princeton. But a place for smart, normal people. Lots of smart women, too.

    As a loyal Quacker, too, you might wonder how I became the Duck. Named Lorin by Mom for some reason. Kidded unmercifully because at the time it was more a girls name. Even got women’s products in the mail. People called me Warren, not believing I could be a Lorin. And my last name is Duckman.

  8. At least its Marc-Lester, not Maurice (Mo)-Lester

  9. Reminds me of this Filipino kid I knew in 6th grade. His name was Francis but always hid his full name, which was Lord Francis. I don’t know why he hid it because that’s pretty cool…to me at least.

  10. Pingback: Welcome to the not so all-new | Marc-Lester Carig | Off The Record

  11. Ya learn something new eevradyy. It\’s true I guess!

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