Smelly just had a baby girl and named her after a chandelier. I don’t know if she realizes it or not. I tell all expecting parents to paw their way through the Pottery Barn catalog for a good baby name. So Marlowe was named after a bookcase and Remy’s a chandelier. Big whoop.
As Jews, we name our babies after dead people. We snag the first initial of a departed relative and name our daughter after a man who accused us of replacing his GE light bulbs with Kmart brand. It’s tradition. Though I don’t know how I’ll one day explain to my son that he was named after a woman who’s goal in life was to own a Cadillac, a huge diamond rock, and a mink.
A name for a baby can mean many things. You can go through all the trouble to pick the “right” name, the perfect meaning to reflect her demeanor, nothing that will commit him to a lifetime of being called upon last (Oh, but I love the name Zachary!). You can ensure the name you select doesn’t rhyme with any offensive adjectives or nouns like “knucklehead” or “diarrhea,” but the bottom line is, if kids don’t like you, they’ll find a way, without rhyme or reason, to let you know it. Not much rhymes with Stephanie, unless you find “bo-befanie” vulgar, yet as safe as my name is, kids still slapped me but good with the merciless moniker “Moose.”
When it came to choosing names for our unborn twins, of whom we refused to find out the sex(es), my husband and I set out to agree upon three sets of names (if it was two girls, two boys, or one of each). We couldn’t very well name two girls “Gabby” and “Abby,” but if I birthed a boy and a girl, either name was fair game. It was all about the combination, and as with most couples we know, we couldn’t agree on a single name, not even their intended surname.
“We’re not giving them first, middle, and two last names, with or without a hyphen. It’s ridiculous,” my husband said.
“What if we blended our two last names?”
“Are you high?”
“Well, why do you assume just because convention says so, that I have to give up my last name?” I didn’t think of it at the time, but that question ought to have been phrased differently. It wasn’t about relinquishing my name, but rather fighting for our children to retain a concrete connection to their ancestors, right there on a dotted line, even if it was a blend.
“What, you want to chop them off right here?” My husband found the notion of our children taking my name—in any manner—emasculating, despite my argument that many a machismo Latino retained his mother’s last name without ever passing it on.
“Yeah, that’s because the mothers weren’t sure who the father really was.”
“Hey, smartass, biblical times aside, they still do it today, even with Judge Judy paternity tests.” But as soon as I said it, I realized that “they still do it” translated to “follow tradition,” an argument I was trying to foil.
I tried to bargain, insisting that if I gave up my last name, in turn, I’d get to choose their first names. But each time I’d offer a suggestion, my husband insisted I was picking stripper names. “Emmanuelle? You’re kidding right?”
“How about Savannah,” I swooned, “and we’ll call her Savvy, for short.”
“That’s not just a porn name, it’s a city—a city, I might add, that refers to the civil war as ‘The War Of Northern Aggression.’”
“Yeah, but it’s pretty,” and really, who can argue with that?
“Okay, I have an idea. Why don’t we name it Smithers?”
“Both of them.”
“Like ‘Thing 1’ and ‘Thing 2’ only with a Simpson’s flair. I dig ya.”
My husband continued to refer to our unborn twins as “Smithers,” insisting because the name ended in an “s” it was automatically plural. Eventually, I maintained that the best way to come upon names we both liked was to paw our way through a Pottery Barn catalogue.
“They’re onto something here,” I said as I surveyed the names of their ottomans and bureaus. “How about Wynn, Stratton, or Pearce?”
“Pearce?! As a general rule, I think we should avoid all names that double as verbs.”
“What about Campton?”
“No way is a kid named Campton not getting his ass handed to him on the playground.”
“Oooh, ooooh, here’s one. Ready? How about…”
“It’s not gonna improve with time, honey.”
He ruminated then replied with an unwavering “Yes.”
“Really?!” I squealed.
“Sure, I can picture it now, our little Porter climbing onto my lap. ‘Poppa, where did I get my name?’ I can’t wait to tell him he was named after a lateral file cabinet.”
“How about Mercer or Cole?”
“Let me guess, console tables?”
“Please, I’m not perverse!”
“Earthenware, then? A high-quality outdoor collection?”
“Ah, I’ve got it. A set of stylish sconces.”
“How do you even know what a sconce is?”
“You going to tell me? What?… What was that?… A little louder. I can’t quite hear you.”
“Bathroom fixtures, all right?!”
“Bathroom fixtures, I might have known.”
“Well, they do have solid brass knobs, and what boy could want for more than that?”
“It would’ve been a stronger sell if you told me they were glasses blown by hand.”
“Ugh, you’re such a sectional.”
“Wanna go mess around?”
“Sure, then I officially won’t know who the father is, and they’ll have to take my last name.”