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My Son’s Middle Name Kicks Your Son’s Middle Name’s Ass

Some quick back-story before we set off on this particular five year mission:
I have never worn a Star Trek uniform. And I actually can’t remember if the barren world Khan was found on was Seti-Alpha 5 or 7. Also: I don’t agree with the statement that you have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.

All this said, I really do love me some Star Trek. And in particular, I adore the character of James T. Kirk as rendered into emphatic, pause-filled life by William Shatner. Sure Picard was noble and Sisko had the gravitas, but Kirk was the captain that taught everyone else how to be captain. Strong, confident and with side-burns like tornadoes striking at his jaw line, Captain James T. Kirk is simply unmatched in leadership, charisma and general swagger. My appreciation of Kirk was magnified considerably by my wife’s unwavering affection for him. Like me, she didn’t attend cons, argue breaches in the Prime Directive, or complain that The Nexus in Generations was a weak plot device. Yet her appreciation of Kirk’s outright refusal to lose led her to say on more than one occasion, “God, he rules.”

Indeed, he does rule and he rules over EVERYTHING. Over computers, like when he faced the no-win situation of The Kobiyashi Maru while in Starfleet Academy and cheated by rigging the simulator so he could win. Over the ladies, like when he showed up in the 1950’s and got Joan Collins to fall in love with him after TWO DATES. And even over death, as he sacrificed his life not once, BUT TWICE to save countless others. Eat your heart out, Spock. One death just doesn’t impress when Captain Kirk’s on the bridge.

So yeah…I knew I loved James T. Kirk. Hell, I love Kirk so much that I’d watch just about anything William Shatner acts in. While it’s not Priceline commercials on an endless loop, that entire first season of “Sh*t My Dad Says” would test just about any true fan’s mettle. Still, I never realized how much I love James T. Kirk until one day during the middle of my wife’s pregnancy with our first child, little J.T.

Now I get that naming your first child isn’t something to be taken lightly, so when people learn the middle name of my son, the resultant crooked smiles and raised eyebrows are telling. They’re either confused because they don’t understand where the name comes from, or they think my wife and I are nuts because they do. Either way I get a kick out of it, because with a name like Justin Tiberius Santo, my son had buckets of personality even before he left the comfy confines of his mother’s belly.

What’s in a name? That which we call Tiberius by any other name would be as Kick-ass?

Well, yes and no. While I have to admit that a name is just a name, and that factors such as genetics and environment will play a larger role in my son’s development, it has to be conceded that when a kid’s walking around with a handle that pays homage to the greatest starship captain ever, he’s likely going to be affected. People were treating J.T. a little different as soon as they saw his sonograms online.

“OMG…he has your ears…my little Starship Captain JT!!!” exclaimed my mother on Facebook, making mention of my Spock-like ears for double-reference points.

“Tiberius. Excellent,” approved an old high-school acquaintance.
“He better grow up to be a starship captain, someday,” a fellow Trek-fan grinned as he typed.

“That’s clearly a karate move,” claimed a close friend when viewing an ultrasound showing J.T.’s five clearly defined fingers in mid-chopsocky.

“I predict the child’s first word will be ‘Cylon,’” cracked another buddy.

That last one speaks volumes about what life’s been like ever since J.T. was announced to the world. While you’d expect all comments to be Star Trek-flavored, truth be told, this kid’s been swaddled in science fiction/horror references. Probably compounding matters was the fact that his mother and I frequently called him a “pod person” while he was still in the oven. And the influx of hilarious baby paraphernalia from friends and family drills the point home. Of course the boy has all manner of Star Trek items including two gold Captain Kirk onesies, but among J.T.’s vast treasure of genre kitch is a bib that reads “Zombie Snack,” a one-piece with “Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper?” written on it, and a pacifier adorned with vampire teeth. Hell, one of his baby showers was Trek-themed, with several of my co-workers dressed in Starfleet t-shirts and wearing Vulcan ears. How many kids without the middle name Tiberius can say that?

As one might expect, his mother and I are proud of all this. After all, we’re the ones that named him and then decorated his room entirely with glow-in-the dark stars, planets, spaceships and aliens. And our love for Shatner almost ran so deep that we considered reversing the boy’s name so he would be Tiberius Justin Santo – or T.J. Santo – a tribute to Shatner’s years spent patrolling the mean streets of Los Angeles as T.J. Hooker. I think we can all agree Heather Locklear never had it so good.

None of this name business seemed particularly out of the ordinary to us. We had long known we liked the name Justin and that we wanted a middle name that began with “T.” J.T. Santo. It sounds good. He could be a writer, or a baseball player or, y’know… something great like the first guy to snow blow his way to the North Pole or whatever. No matter what he decides to do with his life, that name will sound great, strong and memorable.

But originally the “T” was to be “Timothy.” My wife and I weren’t sold on that middle name because it didn’t mean anything to us. Then one day we were mulling over “T” names and I laughed as I suggested “Tiberius.” Yes,I was joking at first—having caught a glimpse of the Bones, Spock and Kirk magnets on our fridge—but as our laughter quickly abated we both realized we had found the answer. Now… our little boy could be anything, but he was on the fast-track to becoming a starship captain! And if we wanted a strong name, I sure think we found it. Tiberius? It sounds like something someone says while picking up a house and throwing it.

But well, yeah… we were a little nervous about the potential stigma our little one might face. I mean, people have been naming their kids “Luke” for years because of “Star Wars,” but naming your kid after a character in “Star Trek” is probably equivalent to saying “Set phasers on stun” out loud every time a cute girl walks by. “Trek” has just never been all that cool. In fact it’s often been seen as positively wack. And though my wife and I were OK with people thinking we’re nerds, we feared for J.T.

A quick look at the etymology of “Tiberius” did nothing to dispel worry. It literally means “Of the Tiber” – a river that flows through Rome and supposedly is historic and scenic and what have you. Means zilch to me. Also, the only person in history with the name of any renown was the second Roman emperor, Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus – a great military general but, y’know, did he get busy with green-skinned space babes? Doubtful. So if people ask what the name means, I pretty much have to tell them the truth: I named my kid after a character in a fifty year-old science fiction franchise that’s universally seen as one of the pinnacles of nerd-core.

And then there was the ultimate bad thought: What if he hates Trek? It would be like if my parents were totally into NASCAR and made my middle name Earnhardt. I shiver. I shiver a lot.

But y’know what? Following a lesson laid down by Kirk – and indeed the man William Shatner himself – we did what we believed was right in our gut. Yeah there will be jerks that’ll give him a hard time for his middle name, but who cares? We adore Trek. We love the message of the show – the ideas of exploration, unity, and women in very, very short skirts. We’re avid fans of the political allegories and thoughtfulness of the storytelling. And yes, we swoon for Captain James T. Kirk – a total bad-ass in a skin-tight gold shirt that commands his crew with confidence, considers danger with a sardonic grin and looks at the universe laid out before him through eyes that squint not with fear, but with curiosity. That right there is someone worthy of naming your boy after. That right there is the real deal.

In true Captain Kirk fashion, J.T.’s first moments were dramatic and memorable. Upon being brought into this world, the little guy immediately pooped all over the doctors and nurses, letting everyone know that he was here and he was ready to stir shit up. Not to get too scatological, but right away he also proved himself to be a little Shat-ner.

He has, as one would expect, been a handful. Petulant, passionate, and impatient, I sometimes wonder if he takes more after his namesake than either of his parents. When he’s awake, everyone within earshot is under his command. And yet he enchants you despite his claim over your every move. He’ll pull one of these full body smiles, no-toothed and impossibly wide and just like William Shatner, you’re under control without knowing what happened.

And the ladies? You should see the way women flock around this kid. I wish there was some kind of insurance policy that could protect me from what I expect will be countless paternity suits when he’s old enough to use his charms. Thank goodness too we haven’t yet found intelligent life on other planets as I’d like it if my grand kids actually have no more than four limbs.

I’m sure everyone believes they bestowed upon their child an appellation destined to make their kid a total rock star, but my certainty that my boy will derive power from his name like Scotty does from Dilithium has already been validated. Not to be too boastful, but do you know of any other 4 month-old kids with Twitter accounts not run by their parents? CaptJTSanto waxes awesome periodically about beer, boobs and his future as an interstellar space adventurer, musings cooked up by a couple of my buddies that I can’t wait to share with him when he’s old enough to understand them. And his photo? None other than Shatner’s Kirk staring back at you stern and strong. I specify Shatner’s Kirk because let’s be real – do you really think that Chris Pine guy’s got what it takes to get kids named after him?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

So ultimately, everything really does come back to William Shatner. Without his portrayal of Kirk as a fearless outer-space pioneer and intergalactic Lothario, it’s unlikely my wife and I ever would have considered the name Tiberius. Because Kirk on paper is arrogant, presumptuous and brash, he needs Shatner’s genial charm and sly playfulness to keep him in good standing with audiences. Yet he then also sprinkles in a swash-buckling brand of courage, genuine sentiment and moving selflessness that others wish they could portray with 1/10 his earnestness. And as I think about it now, I wonder if maybe it’s Shatner/Kirk’s courage that rubbed off on my wife and I in naming our boy. No doubt he’ll face adversity, but I think when he learns where his name comes from he’ll realize how cool it really is, and how cool it makes him in his parents’ eyes.

And that, my friends, could very well be his first step in boldly going where no one has gone before.

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