Thursday, February 8, 2007

“Mommy, where do names come from?”

I love S@m’s Club. It’s nothing to look at. I know. It just makes me happy to be there. Color me certifiable if you must. Yesterday I had a chance to take my lunch break there because I needed to pick up a prescription. They have cheaper prescriptions and lunch with a 500 ounce drink for $2.50. Who can beat that?

I had no sooner walked into the warehouse when the loudspeaker came on. Normally I don’t pay attention to that. However, when the person calls your first name, it’s a little disconcerting. When that person is on a loudspeaker, it’s disconcerting and creates paranoia. God? Am I hearing things? Who’s watching me? What have I done? It's the verbal equivalent of having a teacher slam a ruler on your desk when you're trying to hide the fact that you're reading Nancy Drew during geography. During my lunch break, some Jennifer was called no fewer than five times. Therefore, I was startled out of my shopping/eating bliss four more times before I left. Although the signs were right for a relaxing and enjoyable lunch break, that was not one of my better S@m’s Club experiences.

In my age group, Jennifer is probably the most popular female name. The technical meaning of the name, which comes from Genevieve, is “white wave.” In the early to mid-70s it became a generic word for girl. It was like naming your dog “Dog” or your cat “Cat.” Not very creative to say the least. You strap that to a middle name like Ann, Lynn, or Marie and the girl really start to fade into the wallpaper (In my parents’ defense, they were at the head of the charge. It’s not like I was born in 1974 for crying out loud.)

All things being equal, Jennifer is a beautiful name. I think it suits me. I can’t really think of another name that would fit me better. Still, every time someone yells “Jennifer” in a crowd, I stop what I’m doing and turn toward the voice. Very infrequently is that person trying to get my attention. Over time it gets annoying. Even if I legally changed my name I doubt I’d ever lose the “Hey, Jennifer!” reflex. Let’s face it, it’s my curse. The daily cross that I bear.

It is experiences like I had at S@m’s Club that made me not want to name my children with terribly common names. True, I wanted their names to be recognized as names, but out of the ordinary enough that there wouldn’t be a [name] A, [name] B, [name] C, etc. in their class. What I didn’t know at the time was that I would be fighting a futile battle.

When Danny and I first discussed the name Emma, you never heard it. While we were waiting for a child, Jennifer Anniston’s character on Friends named her daughter Emma. I knew right then that the writing was on the wall. Our first child was not yet born, but a female child was already Emma in our hearts. There was no turning back. As it turns out, just as I am a Jennifer, Emma is an Emma. It’s just the way it is. Hopefully Emma and Emily won’t remain as popular as Jennifer was 30 years ago. If it does, Emma will probably be blogging on this subject in the 2030s. Allison isn’t quite as popular, but even her name is becoming moreso, not less.

Unless you’re willing to saddle your child with the life-long agony of having to repeat and/or spell their names for every person they meet, you might as well give up. We are under the control of Collective Unconscious. You think I’m crazy? I have four nieces and nephews who were born in the last 18 months. With the possible exception of Trent, Mallory, Sophia, and Caden (especially when it is spelled with a C instead of a K) are relatively hot names these days. Unless you can demonstrate how my lovely but not famous siblings have started a nationwide craze, the persuasion of the Collective Unconscious is just as rational a theory as anything else.

Parents don’t pick their children’s names independently. I’m not talking about relatives here. They are just pawns in the game. Somewhere in the night the collective unconscious is there whispering sweet names in our ears. When we awake, we can’t part with them. They've become jewels in our hearts. Don’t be fooled by those parents who burn through a thousand names during a pregnancy or wait until the moment before being discharged from the hospital to name the newest member of our universal family either. The CU deals with the fickle in its own way. There is nothing left to chance. The only escape is insanity. Yes, Gwyneth, Courtney, Nicolas, and Ginger Spice. I’m talking about you.

“Oh Lisa, you picked such a beautiful name,” Kristin gushed over the basinet. “I just love Jayden.”

Pshaw. We all know what’s going on here.

1 comment:

Mark said...

There's no way to win. Either you pick a name like Jennifer or Mark (destining them to live by 4,567,444 1/2 people with the same name), something like Shallanya (destining them to a life of spelling their names, and people being surprised they are white), or you (after much effort) find something you feel is somewhat unique but not weird (just to find out that your neighbor chose the same name for the same reason and now hates you forever).