My name is Michele Wojciechowski. But you can call me Wojo. Lots of people do.
While I was in high school, someone dubbed me “Wojo,” short for my last name, and it stuck. I carried the name through college, and, at some point, people began saying, “Oh, yeah. Like that guy from Barney Miller.”
My co-workers took to my nickname right away, and I wasn’t referred to as the young, little one anymore.
“Um, no,” I’d correct them. “His name is Wojciehowicz, prounounced Woe-juh-how-witz.” Mine is for Wojciechowski, pronounced sort of like ‘Where’s Your House Key?’” That always gets a laugh.
At my first job post college in public relations, my nickname followed. There was another Michele, and co-workers kept calling her “Big Michele” and me “Little Michele.” Or old and young. Neither of us liked it, so I told them to call me Wojo. My co-workers took to it right away, and I wasn’t referred to as the young, little one anymore…although, if you called me either of those now, I’d agree completely.
Taking It To The Grave
I kept my last name when I got married in my late 20s. I’d joke with people saying, “If I had to learn to spell it in kindergarten, I’m taking it to the grave.” But it’s more than that. Wojo is part of who I am.
Clients often love calling me Wojo. I don’t know if they feel like they’re in a secret club or what.
Now that I’m in my 40s, I still have and use this nickname. It’s absolutely awesome! Seriously. Being known as Wojo gives me a more personal connection with people—and they always remember me.
I use my nickname in both my personal and professional lives. Surprisingly, I’ve found that many new clients often love calling me Wojo. I don’t know if they feel like they’re in a secret club or what. But I’m glad they embrace it because as the badass, middle-aged woman I am, it tells me they see me as I see myself.
That Rock Star Feeling
When you show up at a national writers’ conference, and people literally yell, “Wojo!” across a crowded ballroom, it makes you feel like a rock star. Like J. Lo or Fergie.
Colleagues and clients introduce me as Wojo all the time. Sometimes, people look at me strangely, so I tell them my full name. But they usually jump right on the Wojo bandwagon in no time. I mean if you had the choice between “Wojciechowski” and “Wojo” wouldn’t you?
“I can recall in detail the first time that newer friends called me by my nickname.”
When I won my first national magazine award, the person presenting it stopped when she went to say my name. “Um, I’ve always called her Wojo,” she said. That was fine by me. When a room full of people applaud for you and call you by a special nickname, you feel the love.
Some may think that using a nickname as you age is childish, but for me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m funny, I’m edgy, I’m confident—I wear glitter Chuck Taylors to meetings for crying out loud—and my nickname is all part of that. I plan on being Wojo for the rest of my life.
Fluffy and Bee
I asked some Facebook friends with nicknames how they feel about them. Jennifer Martz, 46, says that one morning, she mentioned she thought she was overweight. Her fiancé disagreed and said she was beautiful. “Thank you,” she said, “but you have to admit, I am fluffy.”
“He already has a Mom, but I can be his friend. I’m his Fluffy!”
Fluffy stuck. Her fiancé and his 10-year-old son both call her Fluffy, and she loves it. “The best thing about my nickname is that it gives my soon-to-be stepson and me a connection. He loves me like another parent, and he is absolutely like one of my own children. He already has a Mom, but I can be his friend. I’m his Fluffy!”
Because she wasn’t fond of her given name, Brenda Prevas, 54, let her friends call her B-da, which was shortened to Bee. While she is introduced to people as Brenda, her close friends call her Bee. “I can recall in detail the first time that newer friends called me Bee,” she says. “It’s so memorable because it means that they have reached a level of comfort, a closeness.” At work, she’s become known as the “Bee Lady” because her office is decorated in bee miscellany.
Feit Club and EJ
Other women use nicknames at work like I do. For Debbie Feit, 50, it came as part of the job. While working at an ad agency, a co-worker began calling her “Feit Club,” a play off the movie Fight Club. Co-workers liked it, and so did she. “I actually found it endearing; this select group of people that I worked with had a special name for me that no other people in my life called me.”
“I am adamant that I do not like nicknames for Elizabeth, yet here I am answering to EJ all day long at work.”
Elizabeth Johnson, 54, wanted no nicknames as an adult—no Beth, no Liz, no Betty, no Betsy. But at work, people started calling her “EJ” because that’s how she signs off on her emails. Surprisingly, she likes it. “It’s kind of fun and breezy. I do have to laugh at myself, though. I am adamant that I do not like nicknames for Elizabeth, yet here I am answering to EJ all day long at work!” she says.
Nicknames, when you like them, are all about connections and love. People don’t give you a nickname if they don’t like you. Or they might, but they probably wouldn’t call you it to your face. Nicknames reflect part of who we and what we mean to other people.
So, if you ever meet me, feel free to call me Wojo. I’ll definitely answer.