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Davis, California

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Column: White like the color

Sometimes when I’m bored, I practice my signature. It’s exciting to scribble my name as though someone who cares is asking me to. I get to imagine that I’m famous, like an actor who has “sex appeal,” as I scrawl my name at the imagined request of an adoring fan. “My signature, for you? But of course! Would you also like to touch my muscles?”

Reality is usually far less glamorous. However, imagining an admiring audience makes it easier for me when the night shift cashier at IHOP remains silent throughout our interaction. “They were probably star struck,” I tell myself, pretending of course not to notice they’d had their phone out the whole time, “or maybe they were texting a friend to say ‘Oh. My. God. You won’t believe who I just met.'”

It’s fun imagining myself as someone who enters a room and makes people mutter excitedly about my appearance. Realistically though, when people finally notice that I’ve arrived somewhere, they seem to wonder if perhaps I’ve got the wrong address. “Who is he, did you say? Did you invite him?”

I think it’s my lack of a dazzling physique. For example, over summer I didn’t wear a shirt much in my apartment – a practice that existed largely without incident until one afternoon when I let the cat sit on my lap as I was reading. After a few uneventful moments spent staring up at my chest, he raised his paw and began to bat at my nipples with his claws. He was gentle, but even so.

There’s a sense of tragedy in realizing the only living thing even remotely interested in you is a creature fascinated by the prospect of batting at your nipples. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. It hurt a little. Emotionally, I mean.

Maybe that’s why I was so flattered recently when a cashier looked at a receipt I’d just signed and said, “Your signature is beautiful.” I looked up at the suddenly gorgeous woman, surprised, my face breaking into a smile. “Thank you.” I said, pushing my shoulders back a little. It seemed as though her words had validated some significant portion of my life… like all of it.

“Thank you so, so much,” I said, trying to tell her in five words everything I’d spent a lifetime wishing for. She looked surprised. Then she said, somewhat apologetically, “I said, you need to print your name, also.”

I’m not sure how I misheard that, but I’ll admit I was probably setting myself up for disappointment. Though as humbling as that’d been, I find it even more difficult to rekindle pride when someone else writes my name down. I’ll give it to the apartment’s leasing agent, say, and then watch as two words I’ve never associated with “Evan White” are written down.

The “a,” in my first name, for example, seems to throw almost everyone for a loop. It’s a rule of thumb now that I get “Even,” which I find hard not to take personally.

The first time I saw a “Y” involved, I was surprised to realize the word that contained it was my last name. The Oxford Dictionary spells it w-h-i-t-e, but I realized a while ago that saying to someone, “have you ever seen ‘white’ written that way? Read a dictionary douche bag,” comes off sounding discourteous. So instead, I include a clear referent. “Like the color,” I’ll say, “It’s white like the color.”

If I’m with friends when I say that, they usually laugh. For a long time I wasn’t sure I understood why. “What’s so funny about specificity?” I’d say. Though as time’s gone on and the list of film roles I’m not offered grows, I’ve come to assume it’s because it makes me sound like a bigger deal than I am.

Despite their pessimism about my future, though, I’m holding out for when my messy signature, so long perfected in old notebooks, references a name more often seen in bright, shining lights. A name calling to mind someone who won’t have squandered so much of his life poring over pages and pages of autographs both to and from himself.

Someone who, above all, wasn’t wasting his time when he rehearsed looking flattered in the bathroom mirror. Saying aloud over and over again, “Really, it’s no trouble at all if you’d like me to sign your boobs.”

EVAN WHITE can be reached at emwhite@ucdavis.edu.


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