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Greetings From the Desk of "Sally Buttons*
(*Not My Real Name)
One of my old nicknames is “Sally Buttons.”
The backstory is that in the late 80s, when I first worked as a reporter at Women’s Wear Daily, the photo editor thought that was my actual name. This despite my byline appearing in the paper’s pages a couple of times each week.
When one of the staff photographers was sent to meet me on assignment, he pulled me aside and asked, “How the hell do you pronounce your name? Because I read it in the paper and it says ‘Sari Botton,’ but Anita in Photo keeps telling me to “go meet ‘Sally Buttons.’”
One night soon after, when I was out with a bunch of friends whom I considered my East Village “found family,” I told the story. At the time it seemed hilarious. We all laughed, and the name stuck. The watercolor painting above is by one of those friends, Peter, from a birthday card he made for me in October, 1994, when I turned 29.
People get my slightly unusual name wrong all the time, often settling on the nearest approximation that is more familiar to them—Sarah Bottom, Shari Barton, Sherry Bolton—which is why on Twitter I explain that my name rhymes with “Larry Cotton.” But none of those permutations ever stuck the way “Sally Buttons” has.
One friend got creative, calling me Buttons, Buttonomics, Buttonology, and other variations, nearly ever time we spoke. I found it very endearing. Some other friends defaulted to calling me “Sally,” which was also endearing, because it was my late grandmother, Sara Cohen Botton’s nickname, and I am named for her. (She passed away two years before I was was born.)
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Thinking back on those East Village days, I realize how much I’ve drifted apart from people I was once so close with that I ate multiple meals with them around the neighborhood several days a week. We went to movies together, and to hear music, and we hung out in parks. We played poker on the weekends. We sometimes traveled together—a handful of us went to the Berlin Film Festival together to support the director, editor, and star of The Cruise, who were all part of our circle. I introduced a bunch of them to each other, and they got married, and relocated. Some of them paired off and moved on their own.
They’re all people I’m still in touch with, to varying degrees, and of whom I am still quite fond. Our lives just took us in different directions, and we’re not intimate anymore—which now strikes me as totally okay, and normal. The older I get, the more I realize how fluid and cyclical friendship can be. There are periods it’s natural and organic to be close with a particular friend, and others when it’s not, and the more all parties recognize that, the easier it is to go back and forth.
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