Friday, July 10, 2009

On the Name Game

Last week a friend who is “expecting” called to vent about a conversation she had had with her husband. In the course of their dialogue, she expressed that if the baby is a boy, she’d like to name him Sebastian. Her husband’s response was an emphatic “No.” Well, actually, I believe his specific words were, “Uh, noooo. If we name our child Sebastian, he’ll get his proverbial butt kicked in the schoolyard on a daily basis.” To which she, speedily and with a tone equally laden with sarcasm replied, “No he won’t, because he’ll be playing alongside Wolfgang, Hawk and Finn!” Log one for her side.

In the last ten years, the “naming your child” part of the already daunting task of becoming a parent has seemed to move up in the world of things to lose sleep over. Not to worry, living without sleep and saying goodbye to your freedom forever haven’t lost their appeal as anxiety-provoking favorites…and may I say, not without merit. Nonetheless, I have friends who agonize over name selection while wasting precious hours of their waning days of independence poring over websites, favorite novels, candy wrappers – just about anything – hoping to discover that one-of-a-kind moniker for all to admire. Heck, I’m guilty. I got a “Get Out of Jail Free” card with “Jack” because it’s a family name. But “Cameron” —well, it’s the first name of the youngest writer ever to be published by Rolling Stone Magazine. Of course, I love the name too, but still.

Maybe we’ve just convinced ourselves that people with superbly hip names have no choice but to live up to them. Or better yet, we secretly cling to the notion that our uniquely named kin will rocket to stardom along with riches beyond belief and zippity doo dah, it’s early retirement for the amazing people who spawned such talent.

Speaking of celebrities…they’re the ones who have made unique baby naming so terribly fashionable, and along with leading the trend are fueling the fantasy. Let’s face it. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Apple doesn’t have a chance in hell of being ordinary. Okay, bad example – her parents are multi-millionaires. But what about Penn of the much less famous Penn and Teller comedy team? He named his daughter, “Moxie Crime Fighter.” Had I known so much creative license was at my disposal, I might just have decided to call Jack “Stick.” I can see it now. Personal exchanges would go something like this: “Hi, I’m Tate and this is my son Stick.” “Hmmm, that’s an unusual name, what was your inspiration?” Me. (In my best Bree from Desperate Housewives voice) “Well, I think it was right around labor hour 17 of 33 1/2, when I recall having an overwhelming desire to pierce my doctor in the eye with one. After that, it just kind of stuck.” Pun intended.

I think if we really want our children to have names that are uniquely theirs, we should take a lesson from the centuries old traditions of the Native American culture. I mean, come on – we already know it works. How many “Sitting Bulls” were there? One! And whaddya know, he’s STILL famous! Granted, our interpretation of this distinctive naming tactic may lead to more than our fair share of “Eats his Own Boogers” and “Drools Uncontrollablies,” but the potential is there. And better yet, as parents we’d have all the control. Just think, instead of the intermittent, but well-placed “Do you know that I almost died giving birth to you?” we could ensure they’d never forget what we went through to get them here. For instance, there could be the fabulous pro football player named “Watermelon Seeks Quarter-sized Exit” or a C-section child, “Left my Mom with no Feeling in her Lower Abdomen,” or even the occasional, but on point “Conehead with an Attitude.” Really the only problem I see with this strategy is that we may have to be renamed several times throughout our lives to reflect our various phases. With that said, I’d like to reintroduce my family. My son Jack, “Five Going on Fifty,” my son Cameron, “Five Seconds from an E.R. Visit,” my husband, “Still Can’t Find the Scissors Himself,” And me – “Muddling Through.” Let’s just hope my next iteration isn’t “Next stop: Looney Bin.”