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Stupid Stories: The Girl Who Thought My Name Was Harold

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It started innocent enough.....

Margaret Halbert;Margaret Truman Photo by Peter Stackpole/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Many pranks start on a whim. That’s what happened here. There was no plan. There was only an instant, a joke I expected would end as quickly as it began. It did not.

This is a college story.

We all had those friends in college who were the “attractive ones”. You’d go to a party, and every girl in the place would be interested in them. They had many dates. They had many girlfriends.

One such friend, whom we’ll call “Brian”, showed up at one of our college parties with a brand new girlfriend, Vicki. When Brian introduced us, on the spur of the moment, I held out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Harold.”

Brian didn’t correct me. Didn’t say a word. I talked to her for a few minutes. She was very nice, very pretty. Then I left the conversation. I went over to a couple other friends and told them I’d introduced myself as Harold, and we could have fun if they’d call me Harold for the rest of the night.

They did. Everyone else did too. The ruse continued whenever Vicki was around. It wasn’t just parties. It was around campus. If she walked up to me at the Student Union, she’d say, “Hi Harold” in a very pleasant manner and we’d have a nice conversation. People who knew me understood I was a prankster, so they all went along with it.

It went on for a lot longer than I expected, two months perhaps. Everywhere I went whenever she was around every one of my friends switched to calling me Harold. I wondered whether I should tell her but it was too tempting to see how long we could maintain the joke.

Then one night at a party she walked up to me and without warning slapped me extremely hard in the face. Then she slapped me again. And again. She slapped me at least six or seven times, probably until her hand hurt or she got tired. I did not try to stop her. I didn’t put my hands up. I just stood there and let her slap me. I knew I deserved it.

She said nothing. She didn’t need to. She was extremely angry, and when she was done, she turned around and walked out. I don’t recall ever seeing her again. I certainly didn’t talk to her.

Looking back, I can imagine how embarrassed she felt when she found out. She was fooled for a long period by several people who were all in on the joke.

Pranks have consequences. My consequence was being slapped very hard in the face in front of a crowd of people. I’ve always believed that you should suck it up and deal with the consequences. Never had much respect for those that can dish it out but not take it when it comes back to bite them.

Or maybe that’s just an excuse I tell myself for having been a horrible person at times all these years.