I sit here at 36 weeks pregnant, enormous and anxious, pouring through books like 800 Bazillion Baby Names and Simply the Best Baby Name Book in This or Any Known Galaxy and No I Swear This Baby Naming Book is Like, Sooooo Much Better Than the Others. My mechanical pencil is at the ready, that I might excitedly scribble sixteen stars with alternating exclamation points around The Name when I find it.
But for some reason I can’t find it.
Or to be more specific, there are names I like. They are simply not available.
It’s a strange beast, this 21st century baby naming business. Back when I was a wee lass (you know, walking to school uphill both ways, fending off drunken Confederate soldiers, etc.) things were much simpler:
You basically named your daughter Jennifer.
It didn’t matter that your best friend had a Jennifer or that you had two cousins with Jennifers or that the celebrity du jour named her child Jennifer. In fact, you were proud to have chosen such a popular, contemporary name and you didn’t even bother to disguise that fact with eunicque spellings like Jynnyfr or J’Ennifer. You just propped yourself up in that hospital bed, wrote J-E-N-N-I-F-E-R on the birth certificate in your anesthetic stupor, and went right on ahead loving your baby Jennifer as if she were the only baby Jennifer in the whole nursery– never having even a clue that she’d grow up to resent being known as Jennifer P or Jennifer R for the rest of her days.
Today, this will simply not do. The new guidelines (surely made by a bunch of Jennifers, seeing as how they now rule the world) dictate that you may not use a baby name that has been taken by anyone you know, anyone you vaguely know, anyone you used to know but haven’t seen since your high school reunion, anyone known by anyone you know or used to know or vaguely know, or, worst of all, anyone who’s ever appeared between the covers of US Weekly.
These new mandates on name ownership evidently have had some impact. If you spend a few moments at the Social Security Administration’s names database (a great place to while away those long third trimester days), you’ll learn that the top 20 names in 1972 comprised 15% of all children. Today, the same top 20 is half that. There’s just a greater pool of names to choose from today, and so, you’re expected to find one that’s gone unclaimed within your social circle.
If you deign to steal a friend’s name (yes, I have heard this actual expression used) in lieu of finding a shiny new one, expect to fend off passive-agressive remarks like “Mind if I refer to her as Chloe II?” Or “How very Swedish of you.”
Therein lies my problem.
In a nutshell, I have friends and family with excellent taste, damn them. Their kids have fantastic names– hardly a clunker in the whole lot. And since I’m getting such a late start on this whole baby business, that leaves me, essentially, with the remnants.
You know things are tough when you flip through the increasingly dog-eared pages of one of the baby name books and realize that in a wholly sober state you circled Isis.
While my readers have been kind enough to offer up their rejects or even their own names (because certainly none of them will offer those of their children) over the past weeks, I have yet to find one with that magical combination of “awesome!” and “wow, I can’t believe no one I know has used that yet.”
And so, I continue to look for inspiration, holding out hope that The Name will come to me before that first contraction starts. I look through lists of Shakespearean names. Poets. Goddesses. I scan IMDB for Oscar Winners of the 1940s. I browse museum websites for favorite artists. I even humor Nate and try to look through the Redskins roster for a name he might go along with besides Clinton Portis. (Or Clintonia Portia, as Jaelithe cleverly suggested.) Then every so often, I think I’m onto something.
“I like the idea of a name from the natural world,” I tell a friend. “Maybe something floral?”
“But I’m afraid the only unclaimed options are Calendula, Nasturtium or Wandering Jew.”
“How about Rose?” she suggests.
“I know two just in our building.”
“Okay, well Lily is sweet.”
“That’s Melissa’s daughter’s name.”
“Dahlia and Thalia…”
“Yeah, that’s not good. Okay, so Fern.”
“Unfortunately Jennifer just named her daughter that last week.”
And so it goes.
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