They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Never is this more true than when it comes to baby names. Not only do parents have to navigate completely different tastes and sensibilities, but also what they hope to accomplish or convey by bestowing a particular name upon their child. What do you do when one parent wants a name that sounds great with “Esquire” at the end of it, and the other is hoping to nurture a Bohemian?
Gone are the days where everyone chose from the same, like, 15 names and that was it. Now parents have a panoply of choice, which can be both liberating and the cause of much discussion and debate before your little one makes their entrance. When it comes down to it, everyone has their own criteria for naming a child, so two people naming a child often creates a kind of Venn Diagram with extremely little overlap. Or you’re both totally on the same page when it comes to girl names, but your opinions of boy names are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
This is actually what happened when my husband and I tried to name a baby together: We could have had 900 girls and agreed upon every single name for each of them, but we have,
to date, found exactly three boy names we mutually agree are at the very least acceptable. Even the name we wound up choosing for our son required a little convincing on my end. (I win not only because I got the name I wanted, but now my husband really likes it and agrees the child was perfectly named. #duh #toldyouso)
Here are some of the struggles most parents who have faced (or are currently facing) this choice can relate to:
“You’re Boring.”/ “You’re Weird.”
Inevitably, one of you will wind up liking names like Cate, Kyle, Sarah, and Andrew while the other prefers Sequoia, Desdemona, Wolfgang, and Persimmon. Team Normal Name will be accused of mindlessly and cowardly sticking to convention and encouraging their future offspring to live an ordinary life devoid of independent thought or creativity. Team Unique Name will be accused of being an actual insane person with no regard for common sense who wants their child to be mocked and unemployable.
“You’re Too Picky.”
Both parties will be accused of this and accuse the other person of this. This is generally hurled at someone when one person thinks they’ve come up with a really incredible name that their partner is going to love, but then they say it and their partner either immediately shuts it down or makes this face:
And it’s like “OMG HOW COULD YOU NOT LOVE THIS NAME THAT I ALSO LOVE?! YOU’RE SO PICKY!”
“That’s Too Trendy.”
At least one of you is going to like at least five names in
The Top 20. It’s, like, science or something. In addition to the classic standbys that have basically never not been among the most popular names in the country (William, James, and Michael, Elizabeth, Emily, etc.), the Top 20 list also contains names that will automatically tell people the approximate birth year of the person with that name. That’s not to say these names are bad or anything—they’re popular for a reason—but they will almost assuredly be “of their time.” Aiden, Jayden, Jackson, Madison, Harper, Ava, and others are riding the crest of their popularity in the past few years. And just as one of you will be happily riding that wave and dream of meeting your little Harper Madison or Aiden Jackson, one of you will inevitable reply to that dream with... “There Are Going To Be 5 Other Kids In Their Class With That Name.”
When I was growing up, I lived in a classic suburban neighborhood. I (Jamie) lived next to my best friend Kelly. On the next street lived another Kelly and Jaime. On one street flanking ours lived Becky, and on the other, Rebecca. We were like an ‘80s Babies Trifecta. Of course, every Jennifer you know has a story about being in a class with Jennifer B., Jennifer K., Jenny, Jen L. and Jen R. including herself, and the psychic trauma that accompanied needing a suffix on your name. While this can be a valid concern with some of the more popular names, rest assured that in terms of one monolithic name,
The Age of The Jennifer is over. But one of you will be haunted by the fear that your child will be one of seven other kids with the same name. “That’s An Old Person Name.”
What’s old is new again in the world of baby names, which one of you will love and one of you will loathe. For example:
Emma, the current Queen of Girl Names, was #13 in 1900 and then gradually went down (at one point as low as #450) before bouncing back up and hitting the #13 spot 100 years later. It’s now been in one of the Top Three spots for 12 years. Other bastillions of the Edwardian era: Rose, Phineas, Jasper, and Lydia are all on the upswing. One of you will see these names as darling classics. The other: geriatric and fogeyish. “That’s Not Even A Name.”
You will have wildly different opinions on what constitutes a “real” name. One of you will only be happy with traditional names. The other, perhaps a fan of fantasy or science fiction, is more liberal with where they are willing to draw inspiration. BUT NO MATTER WHAT MY HUSBAND TELLS YOU, “
THEON” IS A REAL NAME! AND IT’S AWESOME, EVEN IF THE CHARACTER HIMSELF IS AN ASSHOLE! ALL CAPS BECAUSE I’M SHOUTING! *sigh* I’m just going to have to get a dog and name him Theon... “No, We’re Naming Them After My Loved One.”
This is a toughie. Your partner wants your child’s middle name to be “Leo” after their grandfather. You want it to be “Philip,” after
your grandfather. Both good names. Both good men. Who will win out? Honestly, I recommend some sort of duel to settle this one. Duels are always a good fallback plan in a marriage. “But I’ve Always Wanted A Child Named…”
Another toughie, because no one wants to step on another person’s dream. But the other person is like, “Well, maybe have less stupidly named dreams. We’re not naming our kid Maynard.”
“I Hate The Shortened Version Of That Name.” Them: I love the name Theodore. You: But Teddy is awful. Them: So we won’t call him Teddy. You: But we’re not the only ones who get to decide that. Them: I mean, if we don’t call him Teddy then he won’t call himself Teddy and then, chances are, no one is going to call him Teddy. You: But you don’t know that. Them: But we can play the odds. You: Too risky. Them: But what if we gave him another nickname to head that off at the pass. Like, what if we called him Theo? You: If we’re going to call him Theo we should just name him Theo. Them: But I like Theodore! You: But then people will call him Teddy! Both: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! “My Friend/Cousin/Sibling Just Named A Baby That.”
I feel like everyone feels the line is different for when you’re “stealing” a baby name. Personally, I think the concept is absolutely absurd. If my best friend, brother, sister, and next door neighbor could all name their kid the same thing and it was a name I’d had my heart set on, that wouldn’t stop me. No one
owns a name. Other people think my position is positively monstrous. A friend of mine from college very sweetly contacted me when she was pregnant with her second and asked if it was okay if she also used my son’s name. At which point I was like 1) we live 1,500 miles apart 2) it was the second most popular name in the country the year he was born and 3) of course, yes, you doll! But you have two different people with two very different attitudes naming a single child, things get thorny fast. “I Knew A Really Horrible Person With That Name.”
And, really, you’re going to meet so many terrible people in your life that a lot of names are going to be ruined for you, making a situation that is already hard to meet a consensus even harder. So here’s hoping literally all the awful people you meet have equally awful names.
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