Name Game (A guest blog by the Husband)
I accompany the Wife on about half of her OB/GYN jaunts. Usually I go when there’s a milestone, like first ultrasound or genetic counseling. The last visit was the big one, though: this was the day we would find if our child was a he or a she.
If the fetus is a “she”, the ultrasound tech has to be a lot smarter than the parents. Here’s why: Tech moves the gooey sensor head around the Wife’s belly, then says things like, “arms are the right length… aspect ratio of the head is fine… proportions are excellent… size is right on the mark for twenty weeks… and there’s the hoo-hoo!1 ” Tech points to smudge on the screen for proof. Wife and Husband squint at said smudge in amazement that this million-dollar high-resolution doorstop is divining any information of the sort to its emissary. “Uhh, oh yeah, there it is!” parents nod up and down in enthusiastic but ultimately unsubstantiated assent, conceding privately that it’s not that they see a “hoo-hoo” so much as they don’t see a “hee-hee”, and holding out for the possibility that maybe the tech was guessing too, were it not for the fact that she sounded so convincing when she said it was there. Still kinda looks like a smudge to us, though, even magnified at 100x (see inset).
We’re guessing the tech knows her stuff, though, so it looks like we’re having a girl. And therein lies my first challenge: in exchange for agreeing to include the Wife’s surname on our baby girl’s birth certificate, I get to pick her first name. And I’m in a world of hurt. It’s easier naming boys. Maybe it’s because people like to name boys in honor of recently deceased family (or in the case of the Wife’s side of the family, dead presidents and Civil War generals), and someone’s always got a dead dad, grandpa or uncle around to get a name recycled. William (my dad) Payne (Wife’s ancestral name though not her own)2 was to be our son’s first and middle name, respectively, and it was conceived in about three minutes, or a little less time than it took to, uhh, err, umm, conceive.
Girl names, on the other hand, are a lot tougher. In the process of naming your girl, you have to come to terms with every last piece of your own emotional baggage along the way. You have to pick a name void of unpleasant association so that you don’t have to live with said association ‘till the day you die, or worse, live in fear that someday your daughter may embody said association. That means every tramp the Wife hated in high school, every skank you or your wife’s best friends remember with disdain, every woman done the Husband wrong in the past, every by-name-declared woman the Husband has slept with before the here and now, every fondly-remembered Maxim cover girl, every woman that reminds the Wife (or the Husband, for that matter) of a G1rls Gone W1ld commercial, every female either of you remembered as a druggie, alkie, whack job, ballbreaker, white-trash loser or slut is tied inextricably with a name that you will never, ever be able to give your little girl.
Unfortunately, the baggage doesn’t really surface until the names are tried out. Here is a series of actual conversations that took place between me and the Wife:
Husband: “I suppose I’m okay with ‘Cassandra’.”
Wife: “I was too, but Norma’s daughter is named ‘Cassandra’. Too close.”
Husband regroups and comes back the next day: “Well, there’s ‘Melanie’…”
Wife: “No, I knew a ‘Melanie’ in high school. Total hose beast.”
Husband waits a couple of days, then: “Okay, ‘Claudia’…”
Wife (checks the baby book): “Latin for ‘Lame’, and we’ll never get Debi to sit for us because of that ‘Claudia’ she despised long ago. Forget it.”
Husband (with his backup name in hand): “Okay, how about ‘Madeline’?”
Wife: “Didn’t you used to f*ck someone by that name???”
Husband (exasperated): “No, just someone long ago I wanted to f*ck.”
Wife: “You’re in trouble.”
Veto power cuts both ways, though:
Wife: “Are we still good with ‘Lillian’?”
Husband: “Naah, I’m having a bit of buyer’s remorse over it.”
Wife (later): “I think we should name her ‘Beulah’.”
Husband: “I think you’re on crack. I’d rather name her ‘Aqua Netta’.”
Wife (later): “How about ‘Elaine’?”
Husband: “I think it’s delightful, but you should know that’s my mom’s middle name.” Wife then gives Husband a dirty look which pretty much ends that thread.
When it was said and done, we counted 17,314 enjoined names between us. Unfortunately the baby-name book stopped counting at 12,500.
The Wife’s desperation to declare our daughter was getting pretty thick at this point because we only have 122 days left to come up with a name before due date, and besides, the Wife doesn’t understand what underlying emotional issues the Husband has that’s keeping him from naming his daughter as quickly as he did his would-be son. So getting tired of looking page-by-page through the (admittedly mostly useless 3 ) baby-name book, I took an easier tack: I looked at the “top 100” list, and checked the names that I liked. I then gave the book to the Wife, who I instructed to do the same thing.
From there, we culled a short list from the 100 names: Grace, Julia, Lily, Lillian, Audrey, Evelyn, Maya, Amelia. All but two, Julia and Maya, were already prior short-list candidates. Julia seemed a bit off in retrospect, and the rest we’ve sort-of liked but had waffled a bit over them.
That left Maya. And the fact that my eyes kept wandering back toward the name told me we had a winner. No bad juju with the history, sounds good in context (interestingly, I was watching Sideways when reviewing the list), and it has the added bonus being a name the other school kids won’t beat her up for having4.
Now all we need is a middle name, and I think I’m even more particular about that than the first name. I’m looking into middle names with three or more syllables, with a stress on the second syllable, consonant for the first letter (but not an ‘M”), and preferably (but not necessarily) a glottal or labial stop at the front. Sounds a bit anal (and it is), but aside from scanning well with “Maya” middle names meeting these criteria serve a useful purpose. See, parents only use a kid’s middle name for two reasons: to fill out on a birth certificate and to get across to the child that s/he is in serious trouble. I figure, the more syllables, the more effective the middle name will be in getting our daughter’s attention when Dad has to use his “outdoor voice” indoors:
“Maya Penelope, don’t make me open up my can of Whup-Ass!”
“Maya Fiona, stop drinking out of the dog bowl!”
“Maya Cassandra, I will turn the car around if you don’t stop fussing this instant!”
“Maya Sharona,…” uhh, never mind.
Anyway, I’m leading with Fiona, but we’re open to suggestions. Any takers?
1 Okay, she said something more clinical than “hoo-hoo”, but this is my little girl we’re talking about, and “hoo hoo” is all I can handle right now.
2 It was either “William Payne”, or “Ulysses Tecumseh Stonewall Lee”. But a cursory check of the Wife’s family history showed that the latter was already taken. Drat
3 Shaqueita, Sabiya, Lolotea, Khadijah, Cinderella, Quanika, Umeko, Yseult, and Zipporah are a sampling of names in this book that prove the author had too much time on his hands.
4 Shaqueita, Sabiya, Lolotea, Khadijah, Cinderella, Quanika, Umeko, Yseult, and Zipporah are a sampling of names that are sure to get your kid beat up in school if she’s got one of ‘em.
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