Daily Prompt: Stand by Your Brand

Years ago, I urged the young son of a friend to start using a theme song, as he always seemed to be humming something whenever he entered a room. He was 10 at the time and found it funny that something like this would be noticed, but since most 10-year-olds are egotistical, he loved that someone noticed a quirk. I told him that if he had a theme song, whenever people heard it in his absence they would think of him and wish for him to suddenly appear.

I do not know if my friend’s son now has a theme song that reminds his friends of him. I kind of hope not, since it might be insufferable, instead.

It is easy to brand oneself but it is quite hard to re-brand oneself; I have had several experiences with branding myself, being branded by others, and attempting to re-brand myself. And part of that has to do with having had a “signature beverage,” as the WordPress Daily Prompt for August 22 asks: “Captain Picard was into Earl Grey tea; mention the Dude and we think: White Russians. What’s your signature beverage—and how did it achieve that status?”

Having a signature anything usually infers affection from one’s friends towards you. When I was young, I hated getting labeled, in part because it never seemed affectionate at all and sometimes when I heard it, it meant that the next sound I was going to hear was a fist coming at my face. I started wearing glasses at age eight: “Four eyes.” Starting at about that same age, most years, I outgrew my Christmas clothes by spring, leaving me with exposed ankles for the rest of the school year. For some reason, this look, which revealed something but I do not know what about me—poverty? personal clothing cluelessness?—led to the most violent reactions from my school mates: “High waters!” was the exclamation and shoving me was frequently the action. I do not know why, and to this day I check the cuffs on my pants.

Thus, I loved having a “signature beverage” after I went to college. It was a label and it meant I belonged with some group (any group) somewhere (anywhere). And I controlled it. I picked it. I had friends and I was going places.

I have had bartenders who knew which beer I liked. I have had bartenders who made me the perfect martini: “Bone-dry,” I would say. “Allow the vodka and the vermouth to exchange pleasantries but not mingle or get each other’s phone number.” (I was a wit.) A twist of lemon peel. (“Olives? Do I look hungry?”) I have had liquor store proprietors fetch me my bottle upon seeing me enter.

Towards the end of my drinking era, several friends attempted to stage an intervention on my behalf. There is an expression in recovery that a “alcoholic will get you drunk before you get him sober,” and that sums up the intervention. We all drank. I am rarely a charismatic or convincing individual, but when I need to be …

These same friends, when we now go out to dinner, now order for me. They order a pitcher of whatever for themselves and order a Sprite for me. I can order it for myself, but it is a cool moment for all of us because, as secret as I wanted to keep my consumption years ago, it was no secret to them, and my sober life is no secret now. It is the best damn Sprite I have ever had. Each time.

I have a label—a “signature beverage”—a personal brand I can now enjoy.

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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