This is Part 7 of a 12 column series. If you’re just joining in, start at the beginning!
Okay dear Autostraddle readers, we need your help! This baby could come in as little as a month, and she doesn’t have a name! Simone and I have been talking about names off and on for years now, but we’ve yet to settle on something. I think maybe my commitment-phobia is rearing its head.
Simone says choosing a name is not unlike choosing a sperm donor. It’s this big, totally subjective decision we have make together for our future child that will be with her for life. Well, or not, as it’s actually not that hard to change your name, whereas changing your sperm donor retroactively is actually biologically impossible.
I think maybe other people don’t find these decisions as hard as we do.
How does a person go about naming someone they’ve never met? What did you do, readers who’ve done it? (Or maybe you just named yourself, tell me about that, too.) We started in the abstract several years ago when we were thinking about baby making, compiling a list of names – boy, girl, and gender neutral – that we thought we liked. We considered all the family names we could think of, but none quite landed. Eventually I bought a couple baby name books and we began looking through those, too.
As, ahem, you’ve probably gathered, Simone and I have very strong opinions about things, and they are not always shared opinions. One of her favorite names is the name of a super shitty ex of a friend of mine, and I have such negative associations with the name that I couldn’t possibly give it to my child. One of my favorite names is the name of her ex-girlfriend’s cat. Damnit. Or there’s the name of that person who was kind of a bully in high school. Or a former lover. Or too similar to the name of someone very close to us.
That’s the thing about names — they carry a lot of subjective weight based on when and how (and if) we’ve encountered them. Or whether they’re suddenly at the forefront of popular culture; Dora and Olivia come to mind. There’s also the more aesthetic qualities. The sound of the name, what imagery it conjures. How delightful it is to say, how easy to spell. Does it jive with our last name?
I think Juniper is an awesome and adorable name, but I’m pretty sure Juniper Jude sounds like a cartoon character, and probably not in a good way. We considered and rejected a fair number of J names because of this. So that’s our first criteria, readers, the name shouldn’t begin with J. I think. Unless you have a really good idea, then give it to me anyway. Oh, also, the baby’s middle name will probably be Everhart, which is the maiden name of my paternal grandmother, so take that into account. __________ Everhart Jude.
June, a name we both like (shocking!!) was also rejected, though not so much because it begins with J, but more because it’s only one syllable. Something about having two one syllable names can make it sound terse, or incomplete. I confirmed this with a friend with two one-syllable names. People often say huh? like they missed something, when he introduces himself, even though his first name is simply John. But now that I think of it Miles Jude has a pretty nice ring to it, though I’d probably want that name more for a boy. So in any case that’s our second criteria, more than one syllable in the name.
Speaking of Miles, that brings us to gender. When Simone and I were first considering names, we thought we should err towards the gender neutral side of the girl-name spectrum. We know a good number of masculine-identifying women and so many trans men who haven’t liked their more feminine given names. But that’s the problem with “gender neutral.” It mostly has just come to mean sort-of masculine. Lover of femininity that I am, was I really willing to write off all the beautiful feminine names because our kid might not be femme?
We decided no, we wouldn’t do that. Our kid can change her name if and when she wants, and in the meantime, we will call her a name we love, even if that’s feminine! In any case, I have friends who’ve later changed their names not because of gender at all, but just because they wanted to be called something else, so there really are no guarantees. After wrapping her mind around it a bit, turns out Simone really loves some of the more feminine names, and we seem to gravitate towards old fashioned elegance or southern flair with our lists these days. Names like Adeline or Eloise or Loretta. Bring on the powerful, feminine names, people!
We also like feminine names with a more andro nickname though, as it seems nice to have that available. Josephine has been on and off our short list for a while, and I like that it is feminine and elegant but has a simple and more boyish nickname (Jo) as well. An androgynous nickname is not an absolute criteria, but it’s an added bonus if available. In general, actually, we prefer names with nicknames, which is sort of funny because neither Simone nor Haley have clear nicknames at all. But nicknames are so cute! We love them! I call Simone Simone-y, and we have approximately 405 nicknames for our dog. Vivian, with so many cute nicknames – Viv, Vivi, simply Vee – is currently a front runner.
Part of thinking about nicknames, and about the gender presentation of the name (is that weird to say, that a name has a gender presentation?) is wanting a name that feels versatile. Which brings up all sorts of feelings. I love frou frou names and once had the thought, “Can a Tallulah be a CEO?” How fucked up is that? Why couldn’t a Tallulah be a CEO? And since when do I hope my daughter will be a CEO anyway?! Clementine Jude could be a badass artist, certainly, but what if she just wants to be boring and mainstream? (Just kidding, darling, I’ll never think you’re boring, do whatever you want in life!)
I tend to think names change, our interpretation of them changes at least, depending on who’s wearing them. I always thought of Simone as quite a feminine name before I met my Simone. She’s quick to point out, though, that’s it’s actually a boy’s name in some parts of the world. Simone thinks names have a strong power, almost as if we are pre-determining a trajectory for our child based on the name we give her. That’s some serious stuff. How can we possibly decide?!
I don’t fully agree with Simone about pre-determining trajectory, but I do think names have power, and I do think it’s quite a decision to make for another person. I kind of want to meet her before we decide. Not that her personality or some essential essence of her will be revealed in the first 24 hours or anything. But I don’t know, maybe something will become clear. The look in her eyes or her tiny face or the way she enters the world giving us some clue into who she is and how we should name her. The next of many honors, little one, letting us choose your name. Well I guess she’s not letting us exactly (Tiny can’t really consent yet!) but it’s something we get to do as parents, something we have to do.
Something we have to do very soon!! So please help us. Send us all your favorite name ideas. More than one syllable, unique but not trendy or too out there (whatever the heck that means!), sounds good with Jude, versatile and pretty and powerful. I know she’s going to be quite the gal, and she needs a name that can match her ferocity or tenderness or whatever it is she turns out to be.
Tell me the story of how you got your name, and if you like it. Have you always liked it? Or do you kinda hate the name your parents gave you? Tell me that too, and why. Write your suggestions in the comments. And if we choose your name, you totally get a prize. We just haven’t decided what that is yet.