Mon 5 Jun 2006
i am a name nerd. it’s true.
if Oscar had been a girl, he would have been Eleanor, nicknamed Nell. or maybe Violet, at least until that Affleck baby came along. or Genevieve…or Maude…or Josephine, Josie for short. or Juliet, or Leila, or Lily, or Stella, or Louisa, or Mathilde, or Clara. or Meredith. or Eliza.
i had a list of options about three looseleaf sheets long.
a boy name, on the other hand, was a challenge. i found out, fairly early into the pregnancy, that this one was indubitably a boy…with Finn, ultrasound had been less clear, waffling back and forth on the gender diagnosis. but Oscar was a known male from week sixteen, and i was distraught. not because i didn’t want this little son… though with white males having the worst prognosis as preemies, i had secretly hoped for a girl this time, a safer bet for survival. but it wasn’t entirely his health that weighed on me as i adjusted to the idea of my coming second son. in naming Finn, i had used up the one male name i’d ever particularly given any thought to, and i was fresh out. would it really be all that unkind to name a boy Eleanor?
i’d always thought i’d have girl babies. when i was four, i decided, with the rock-solid conviction of a kindergartener, that i didn’t like little boys and that i myself would not have any. ever. instead, throughout my childhood, i imagined and named families upon families of girl-children, my projected progeny sketched out on paper as my tastes in names evolved. at eight, i thought Kelsi (with the ‘i’ only, mind you) was the heighth of elegance, and bestowed the handle on two separate, consecutive Barbie dolls. at ten, i had a (thankfully) brief romance with the name Chevelle, which i didn’t realize was already claimed by a car. my junior high infatuation with Boy George led me to the Irish Siobhan, his sister’s name, which i mistakenly but lovingly pronounced Sy-o-ban for years until someone finally enlightened me. the Shuh-von pronunciation, however correct, has never won me to the same extent. but i found other favourites. through all my years of waiting to procreate, i never stopped naming my imaginary daughters. my list was like a hope chest, laid away with care and attention.
and all through this pregnancy with Oscar, then, there was this shameful, unmentionable landmine of jealousy each time someone else had a girl…as if something that were meant to be mine had been given to them. and i was floored by the depth of my envy, the immediacy of it…and embarrassed to tears. i, who had held Finn in my arms and would have given all my skin to get him back, was grieving the fact that my impending second-born was a boy. not unhealthy. not endangered. just…a boy. i was mortified by my own triviality. and stumped, at the same time, about what to name him. i wasn’t sure i could find anything i truly loved. it was like having a pantry full of homemade, family-recipe cat treats for the sweet – and much beloved – little dog that unexpectedly followed one home.
in the end, when Oscar came, the longing for him to be anything other than he is dissolved. i’d hoped it would. and we did find a name we loved, despite our families’ polite – and quite reasonable – misgivings. i thought i was free of the green monster. but this past week, when both Brangelina and a former coworker gave birth to baby girls, the jealousy came flooding back. except with Oscar in my arms, i understood it a little better. it wasn’t the girl babies or the fact of their female genitalia that i envied. it wasn’t even the little dresses, or the eventual gender separations. it was the names. it was the chance to name daughters.
the tears snaking hotly down my face weren’t for Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, even if – however hubristic my assumptions – i was sure i could have come up with something better from my list. they were for me, because i wanted to use that damn list. because i’ve been preparing it for a lifetime, and i may never get the chance. because i can never, even if i miraculously spawn female triplets, use all the names i’ve stored up with such care over the last thirty years. and because i want to honour my grandmother by passing on her name…but Eleanor really just doesn’t go on a boy. all these things.
maybe a rose by any old girl’s name wouldn’t smell as sweet as Oscar. i hereby magnanimously forgive the rest of the world their baby girls, and the names they bestow upon them, where they differ from my own particular tastes. :)
maybe i’ll just name the next cat after my grandmother. she’d be alright with that.