Of names and numbers
I was eavesdropping the other day in an undisclosed location when a guy said to his male friends: “My sister has lost her mind. She and her husband are trying to come up with a name for their baby and they’re totally overthinking it. They’re ditching names just because of the initials they make or that it sounds to close to something weird. And she’s only four months pregnant.”
Breaking the Passive Listeners’ Code, I had to interject. “Do you have kids?” I asked him. Surprised by my ambush, he simply answered, “No.” So I told him my theory: naming a child is harder than giving birth. It takes a lot longer to complete, the pain is more prolonged and it has lifelong ramifications.
The guys considered my opinion and continued their conversation and I went back to my writing/listening. One of them said he already knew what he’d name his daughter. It was a beautiful blending of his grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s names but, “best of all, her initials would be R.A.D. How cool would that be? Rad!” he asked the group. Someone else chimed in, “Can you imagine being named Awesome? You could introduce yourself, ‘Hey, nice to meet you. I’m Awesome!'”
Once I got over my shock and amusement of hearing a group of twentysomething single guys discussing baby names, I started remembering the agony of naming our first baby. My husband and I ran through every possible name. We went through family names. There were few contenders among our ancestors. Melvin, Harold, Edwin, Hazel, Florence, Chester, and Marie don’t really say 21st century child. We considered names from our heritage, primarily Swedish and German, but Sigvard Boyne and Reinhold Boyne didn’t sound like our kids. We eliminated all former boyfriends and girlfriends from the running, so the list became substantially shorter. We nixed pop culture names, so we wouldn’t end up like Pamela Anderson Lee naming her boys Brandon and Dylan at the height of the “Beverly Hills 90210” popularity. And then we went through the time-honored tradition of name negotiation.
In the negotiation, the parents-to-be take turns suggesting a name they like. Each party has to respect the power of the absolute veto. Sometimes you just have to say “ick” for no particular reason. If the other doesn’t immediately hate the name, you see how it resonates with the last name, consider the initials, brainstorm all possible nicknames, consider the origins and meanings of the names, search your memory for any negative associations with people you grew up with, worked with, bad movie characters, etc. There’s a lot of give and take, jockeying for position, strategizing, hiring professional consultants, bringing in campaign managers, fundraising. It can get a little out of hand, but eventually something will rise to the top.
We ultimately didn’t decide until we were at the hospital, but other more decisive people know well in advance. Be very cautious about revealing your name choice pre-birth, though, because without a baby tangible, people can be very opinionated. Once it’s born, however, it’s now a little person who has been named and you have to say, “Oh, what an amazing name! He’s sure to grow into a strong boy with the name Valor!”
But even waiting is no guarantee. One of my friend’s mothers refused to call her grandson by his given name because she hated it. “Honestly! How could they name my grandbaby Shane? He sounds like a cowboy. We live in Michigan for Christ’s sake!”
Name trends are interesting. I read a piece in More magazine (a publication for the hip woman over 40, which I read purely for research since I decided to stick at 37), about the demise of an entire genre of names including Linda. Gasp! I’m passe! It noted that you don’t hear anyone calling for Debbie or Susan or Jennifer on the playground anymore. It encouraged a resurgence of these good, solid, quality names by suggesting them to anyone you know who is pregnant. It remarked that if you carry one of these names, you are sure to be identified as “a woman of a certain age.” Oh, Lord, it’s come to this. I’m being labeled by my name.
Linda Boyne is an Edwards resident and a regular columnist for the Vail Trail. E-mail comments about this column to email@example.com.
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