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Opinion: No, a cockroach does not deserve to be named after your ex

A tug of war-style "Divorce" machine is seen in the "Novelty Automation" gallery on February 15, 2017, in London.
Leon Neal
Getty Images
A tug of war-style "Divorce" machine is seen in the "Novelty Automation" gallery on February 15, 2017, in London.

A deadline approaches. Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, in which our family has spent happy hours strolling between penguins, zebras, and fellow-primates, has a Monday deadline for people to make a $15 contribution - in exchange for which the zoo will name a Madagascar hissing cockroach "in honor of that un-special (or special) someone in your life...your ex..." for Valentine's Day.

On February 14th they'll be put on full display - first names only - on the zoo's Cockroach Naming Board.

In full disclosure, our family used to name our daughter's Betta fish after some of my wife's past loves. Daniel Craig and Antonio Banderas were outstanding Betta fish.

But a Hissing Cockroach Naming board seems ... unseemly.

"It's in questionable taste to invite people to call out their exes by enticing them to name a cockroach after them," Amy Dickinson, the famed advice columnist known as Ask Amy told us. "The intent seems to be to insult people."

My mother could have bought naming rights to a small army of cockroaches. She was married three times, divorced once, widowed once, and died while married to her third husband. She was charming and funny and did not lack for companionship.

Which is not to say she didn't get lonely. Or meet some cads, and have some regrets. Or occasionally hurt someone herself.

But I grew to admire how my mother kept regard simmering in her heart for all her exes. She sent cheerful or consoling cards to former loves when she heard they got married; or suffered a loss; or just to share a joke. And although she might gripe about an ex, or tell a funny story at their expense, she spoke well of them all — or most all of them — to me.

As I look back on it now, I think my mother knew I would learn about love from whatever I saw in her. She wanted me to see that even love that sours should include respect and courtesy. The love we've held for someone reflects us, too. Hissing Cockroaches, bless them, tend to fall for other Hissing Cockroaches.

"Mainly I believe this name scheme insults and demeans cockroaches," Amy Dickinson added. "This ancient class of insects were on this planet millions of years before humans. Surely, they'll get the last laugh."

Maybe naming a Hissing Cockroach for an ex can be seen as a kind of testimonial. The relationship may not last. But we learn, endure, and love all over again.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

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