Monday, July 9, 2007

Meet My New Girlfriend

By Lars Trodson

O, I can’t wait for the jokes at the office. Can’t wait for the emails and the little cracks and, yes, even the prospect of coming into work one day and finding an inflatable doll at my desk.

O, joy! O, rapture!, as the scarecrow once said.

My anticipation for such hijinx stems from the imminent release of the new movie, “Lars and the Real Girl.” Apparently Lars, in the movie, tries to forge a relationship with an inflatable sex doll. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental. OK, OK. I did know a guy once who had a fake vagina -- he didn’t have it on him, not on his person -- it was in his apartment, but I’ve never known anyone to have the whole fake body.

The names given to children today are so unusual and extreme that Lars is downright conventional. It was not always so. When I was born, in 1959, it truly was a wilderness of Joes and Bobs and Jeffs and Sues and Nancys. That’s all I ever knew, growing up. Lars was way, way out of the mainstream.

I remember going to the Mammoth Mart or W.T. Grants or the old Outlet store in Providence and in their toy departments they always had a little carousel that held miniature license plates for your bike. The plates had all the usual names, the Nancys and Bills and the blah blah blahs, but never any Lars. I always looked, out of eternal hope, but I never had a license plate for my bike.

I know what you’re thinking: Cry me a river.

I remember then on the old “Phyllis” TV show, the Mary Tyler Moore spinoff starring Cloris Leachman -- whom I’ve always adored -- the character Phyllis was married to a guy named Lars. But, in one of those weird TV sitcom deals they do every once in a while -- like only showing the next door neighbor’s hat on “Home Improvement” -- you never saw this guy Lars. He was always away on some business trip. That was their little schtick. Ha ha.

Then Metallica came along, and Lars Ulrich made the name famous, and I think there is a comic strip somewhere that has a character named Lars, and of course the famously iconoclastic movie director Lars Von Trier is there to always add a little more color to it.

I have been asked consistently throughout my life if Lars is short for something. It isn’t, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to elongate it. We love our nicknames, and we can’t stand to leave a name well enough alone, so I have always been “Larsy” or “LT” or “Laaaaahz” or whatever else anybody could come up. Independently, dozens of people at one time or another have called me “Mr. Lars.” It’s just one of those things.

The other question I have always been asked is if the name is Swedish or Norwegian. My heritage happens to be Swedish, so I say the name is Swedish. But some people have said back to me, “Oh, no, that’s a Norwegian name.” Whatever. Norwegian or Swedish, it still never made it onto the bike license plate list.

Movies of course can have a profound affect on culture, extending of course to the popularity, or unpopularity, of certain names. There is a woman I know named Tina -- after Tina Louise, the actress. I think the movie “Splash” spawned a generation of little girls named “Madison.” On the other hand, I don’t think there are a lot of Dweezils or Moon Units (after the Zappas), or Apples, which is what Gwyneth Paltrow named her child, was it not?

I can imagine Britney and Justin and Christina have unleashed a whole new crop of inspiration for young mothers and fathers everywhere.

But for some reason I don’t think that this new flick, “Lars and the Real Girl” is going to inspire daddies to name their kid Lars. Can you picture the conversations?

“Hey, Al, where’d you come up with the name Lars? It’s a great name!”

“Are you gonna tell me you didn’t see ‘Lars and the Real Girl’? The movie about the guy who falls in love with an inflatable sex toy? The wife and I love that movie! We love that guy! And, what the hell, we thought we’d name the little bambino after our celluloid hero. Why, are you thinking of naming your new kid Lars?”

“Well, we kinda were, but maybe, you know... .”

“Let me get you the copy of our DVD.”

Now I don’t want to cast aspersions on the new movie. It has a likable cast (including the expert Ryan Gosling), but even so, I know a few of you out there are going to have your fun.

I, for one, can’t wait. Oh, yeah, actually I can.