Name Envy

When DH and I were first together we dreamt about having two children, a boy and a girl, and we chose names for them. Before DD was even born we’d decided on a name. It was my grandmother’s name and for a long time I’d thought it was lovely because of it’s quaint, classic style. What I didn’t know was that her name had recently become popular again. By the time DD was born, it was one of the top five baby girl names in North America. I was running into kids everywhere with the same name, and it began to depress me.

My own name is unusual, and while I went through a phase as a young girl where I wanted “normal” name, for most of my life I’ve liked having something a bit different. It really bothers me that DD’s name is so “generic”. I first started having doubts when she was a toddler, and tried to get into the habit of calling her by her middle name (a Croatian name that is definitely not common here). But I kept forgetting! I considered changing her name, which DH was okay with, but I worried that the family would be upset, specifically my Dad’s side who all seemed very touched that I’d named her after their matriarch (it honestly wasn’t to honour her, she was a nice enough Grandma and all, but nothing to write home about). So I tried to forget about it.

Lately, however, it’s resurfaced again. We have a friend whose daughter is named Cedar. It’s an absolutely lovely name, I think, and I wished so much I’d thought of it for DD. To me, Cedar is a strong female name. Another name I love is Anise. And what prompted me to write this post is that my friend K, who just found out she’s expecting a girl, told me what they’ve decided to name her. I won’t say it here b/c she is keeping it quiet for now, but it is also a very strong, female name and I think it would have been perfectly suited for DD.

When I think of DD’s name, it evokes a sort of Jane Austin image. I can imagine a very feminine girl who is into dresses and princesses, who is graceful and contemplative. DD is none of those things. She couldn’t tell you Snow White from Ariel the Mermaid if a chocolate-chip cookie was riding on it. She is a tomboy-ish girl with strong science interests and many unique aspects to her personality that scream out “strong, female character”. She really doesn’t “fit” her name at all.

And so it is that I sit here wishing I could choose again, regretting my choices, and feeling overall discontent with her name. But it’s too late. DD is her own person now, and I couldn’t change her name without her consent. Assuming she’d even let me (which she wouldn’t) how would I explain that to her? At her age, her name is HER. She connects it with her identity. She has no cultural influences to associate her name with anything other than herself. To suggest she not be “her name” is to suggest she not be her SELF. And that is too frightening a prospect to a child of four. And how would I explain that I wish she had a different name? That I don’t like the name I gave her? There is no way she could hear something like that and not take it personally. I think it would be really damaging to her.

And so I’m left to sit and regret and envy those mothers who took a bit more time to research names and came up with ones that are a tad unusual, and definitely not your garden-variety girly name. Maybe one day DD will decide that she doesn’t like her name, and then she can choose something else. Lots of people do it. But the sad (for me) truth is, I no longer have the ability to make such decisions for her, and I’ll just have to live with it.

I should also mention that I feel very guilty about feeling this way. Like I’m somehow rejecting my daughter. Or just being petty and shallow. But I do feel this way and I’m sad about it.

At least I am really happy with my son’s name!

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One thought on “Name Envy

  1. Anna B

    Nothing is permanent. You have so many options here. The first that I thought of was a naming ceremony. When your daughter reaches womanhood, tell her that a year after, she will have a naming ceremony. She can choose to keep her given name or choose one that she thinks is more ‘her’. By then, she will see that her name is not her identity. (this from the woman whose son wants to be called ‘zoom’.)For that year, she can read Norse mythology, Egyptian history, African royalty tales AND Jane Austen. At the end of the year, she chooses.

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