This is an excerpt from my pregnancy memoir. Hope you enjoy:
“Have you thought of any names yet?”
Just hearing the question made my butt cheeks clench together. Ever since I started looking pregnant and not just fat—although fat still took up a considerable amount of my total composition—I heard this question at least once a day. Family. Friends. Acquaintances. Co-workers. Clerks. Randoms. It wasn’t necessarily the question that made my body tighten up and my inner lip become raw with anticipatory bites, but the inevitable and lengthy conversation to follow. I could make a flow chart of the conversation before the person would even launch into the formulaic dialog, which painfully included even similar facial expressions. The first part of the flow chart diverged into three paths, depending on my response: One, I tell the person our potential name list. Two, I tell them we’re keeping it on the down low. Three, I lie and tell them we haven’t yet decided. Each one of these paths is treacherous, but after enduring multiple reenactments of each conversation, I’ve settled on three: the lie.
The biggest lesson Ryan and I learned was to absolutely not tell people the names we were considering. I was astonished time and time again at what would spill out of peoples’ seemingly innocent mouths. And about a baby’s potential name! It was practically blasphemous. Granted, when I heard of a co-worker naming their child Merlin, I viciously gossiped behind their back, but I never would have said anything to her face.
What we learned from loved ones and strangers about our names was this: Eleanor is an old lady name. Parker is too WASPy. Laurel will remind people of Laurel and Hardy. Sophia is too popular. Mia is the name of “some bitch” someone went to high school with. Victoria will turn into Icky and/or Sticky Vicky. Morgan is a boy’s name. Madeline is too popular. Nixie is too weird. Noelle is cheesy if the due date is in December. Amelia is from the Amelia Bedilia children’s books. Bunny is a stripper name (and this person held this position even after learning that Bunny was my great aunt’s name who recently had passed away from leukemia. And to be fair, Bunny was only going to be a nickname anyway.) Anyway, little by little, our girl name list shrank.
On top of verbally abusing our treasured list, painstakingly created by going through a name book of 50,001 names—literally one by one—and arguing with each other to near tears, people had the nerve to offer up name suggestions to us. As if their suggestion was inadvertently left out of the 50,001 names recorded in what claimed to be the best baby name book in the history of the world. Really? Madison? I hadn’t thought of that. I should have gone to you in the first place. Silly me; making such a production out of something so simple. Madison it is. Name suggestions came from everyone and anyone. The baffling thing about it was that if you showed anything but sublime reverence for the name offered up, the person was offended. You insulted some imaginary baby’s name. Or rather, you insulted someone’s idea of the perfect name. But that didn’t stop them from letting us know that Gwendolyn was “an ugly girl’s name.”
After this little life lesson, we decided not to tell anyone our name list; to keep it safe from unsolicited opinions and obnoxious nickname generation. We figured we’d tell people once the ink was dry on the birth certificate. Anyone who would say anything after the fact would just be a jerk, hands down.
But trying to tell people that it was secret was nearly as offensive as telling them you weren’t in love with their baby name suggestion. By telling them we were keeping secrets, we were basically admitting that we thought people were acting like jerks. Half of the time, I think actually just calling someone a jerk straight to their face would have been less of an affront. And I, being a person who avoids conflict and hurting peoples’ feelings like the proverbial plague, would predictably offer up cowardly excuses (Oh, my family is being so judgmental, or, I promised Ryan I wouldn’t tell) or even throw them a bone or two, usually in the form of a name we’d rejected a long time ago (Well, we’re not really telling, but I kind of like Quinn or Margot.) My sickening need to please people would then catapult me back into the first path of the flow chart.
It was definitely easier to lie. We may have lost some significant karma points in the cosmic justice bank, but I figure we’ll earn some back by never, ever again torturing any more parents-to-be by offering up name suggestions or trying to come up with a schoolyard rhyme about their great grandfather’s name to show them how wrong they are for choosing it.