what’s in a name?

Sometimes it’s weird being so “granola” as you develop or expunge a fetus from your womb. Granola being the preferred term for people like me who don’t blindly walk into the hospital or OB’s office accepting this is the best and only way to do birth and parenting. Granola being the weirdo who thinks cloth diapers are preferable, wants to nurse until the kid is done with the boob, co-sleeps (maybe more selfishly than unselfishly), and generally tries to avoid the animal stuffs at all costs until it’s inevitable or stupid. Granola who is happy doing everything different than the norm and will babble on and on about all the reasons why these things are awesome and somehow inspire great confidence in others that it’s really not as weird as they thought but damned if they aren’t happy they didn’t try it my way.

But as I said, it gets weird. It gets weird when for some reason you are put on the spot explaining why you haven’t picked a name for your kid… a month after revealing that you’re pregnant (or for that matter, just having a running list because you have a uterus that you, by virtue of your preferred taste in humans, might use at some point). And the weirdness of that lack of a name only increases each day you haven’t settled on a moniker (reaching climatic oddities postpartum). It’s extremely strange to people that I have entered into a pregnancy without a predetermined list of baby names for my kid. They say it is an interesting concept not naming your child before it is born. They say a lot of shit, really.

Personally, I think it’s weird to name any child before it’s born. How can you choose an identity for a person you’ve never met? And, morbidly, what if they die? Does having a name make it easier to pay for the tombstone when all those things are in order? Or is it because the birth certificate and that stupid thing called “protocol” dictates that you must name your child by a certain time… or else? Or is it simply because we’re so obsessed with names that we no longer can think outside the identification card and inevitable track record of human achievement called the birth certificate?

But then, when you do start to “toss” out names into the sphere of forced identity, I’m strange because the names that speak to me are esoteric, anthropological relics of more interesting times. I’ve been told that by naming your kid after a Norse god you are inciting the unrelenting ridicule of years of children less creative than yourself and your offspring. My response is that these supposed future evil kids can suck the hammer of the god I want to name my child after.

Kids will find any reason to be cruel to each other in a never-ending attempt to gain control over the creative expression of life they’ve been denied by parents who don’t seem to acknowledge the autonomous nature of a human being they spawned. Just because a child is the fruit of thy loom does not make it thy fruit or under the dominion of thy loom– it means you are the sacred guardian and keeper of this child’s mental and physical well-being until such time they can venture out onto their own and contribute positively to the world. And also, despite being the guardians of this child, you are inevitably going to imprint your short-comings and oddities onto this person and that, my friends, is why your child will get picked on: not because you name them after a month, city, day, or obscure folk legend. Your child will get picked on because you are weird and other kids will exploit that weirdness in the only way that kids know how which is to pick something obvious (like a name) and brutally massacre the self-esteem of your progeny through this lame manner until such time they find the words and grammar to adequately express why they think this kid is worthy of ridicule (they’re weird).

And like a proper weirdo, the never-ending campaign to name your son after yourself seems to enter into every boy name conversation. No, this child isn’t a junior or a third and the like– this child is a unique person that shouldn’t be expected to follow in the independently arrived at footsteps of their biological or honorable dad. Why the fuck should sons be named after their fathers? This is the epitome of uncreative and egomaniacal baby naming. There are very few reasons why I would imagine the first born son of a first time father should be named after the father. Why? Did the father tragically die and this is a testament to his memory (worthy I suppose)? Did the child bear an uncanny resemblance to the father and you in your infinite bows to patriarchal tradition find it unfair to choose a different name for your child? Or is this just some strange tradition that has seen four or more iterations of the for-named person running about the world (Hi, I’m So-and-So the Eighth.)

While we’re on the topic of patriarchal customs in naming children, people laugh because I don’t want to put my partner’s last name as the surname on the birth certificate. Why is that so weird? What makes it any one person’s right to a last name strictly based off of gender protocols? I don’t give a shit if you’re the “dick” in the relationship, that doesn’t earn you naming rights. And that is part of the name– the surname. It’s strange how the impulse for a deadbeat DNA donor to tack his name onto a child he obviously doesn’t care about past trying to manipulate the mother is seen as tacky and ridiculous but if the father steps up or “puts a ring on it” then he is obviously entitled to the property rights of tacking his name onto the offspring. Well, I say to hell with ambiguities in male entitlement and patriarchal customs, why shouldn’t the mother have the right to naming? She carried and nourished the fetus in her body for at least 9 months (closer to 10 most often) and in a moment of epic pain and ecstasy, released the person into the world at no small cost to herself. Why, pray tell, should the guy who stuck his penis in her 9 months prior for a five minute fun time get to attach his name to the baby? What did he do that is so unique and important that the contribution of this woman, this mother, be devalued to a footnote in the history of the person she birthed? Yeah… fuck your surname, dads. Moms should be allowed to make a determination on naming if they’re so inclined. If they choose to bow to patriarchal customs and attach the father’s moniker, then all the better for dad. If not, then men should shut up and be grateful they were given the opportunity to procreate with such a radical bitch.

For the record, I also disagree that women should be the ones to change their name when a marriage happens. Women aren’t property of men. Marriage- in these more modern times– is founded on the premise that both parties are equal and yet marriage begins with a fundamental inequality that the woman change her name to her partner’s while eradicating her former identity. If you must change your name to acknowledge this new chapter in your life, then why shouldn’t both parties change their name to a mash-up of both surnames or the man, for once, take the woman’s surname? Why do even the most “radical” people turn around and play into this utterly patriarchal tradition of property exchange? And if I take my husband’s name do I get like 10 goats and shit ton of gold and jewels? Because if not, then what’s he good for other than making me into a hydrant his dogged self can pee on? And no, a large wedding, fun honeymoon, or any of the other crap that goes into a modern wedding doesn’t count for a dowry if you want me to change my awesome name.

In essence, however, what’s in a name? Does it really matter what I name my child? Do I really have to name them anything at all? How does the name I choose for my child really influence who they become? Isn’t my ability or inability as a parent more important than the name by which I call this person? And should I put too much thought into this name, would they think their name to be more important than it is while losing themselves to an identity that is really not important to who they are? It is like a tattoo that I give my child– this is who you are. But it’s not who they are– it’s just a name just like a tattoo is just a picture. There may or may not be meaning behind that picture, but in essence, it is just a picture. This person should be allowed to create their own identity and never be afraid to deviate from the parameters of expression that I, in my pressure to conform have set upon them. So does it really matter if I let some patriarchal notions shit upon the naming process, choose something utterly uncreative and bland, something esoteric and awesome, or just name my child after a long line of men with unchecked egos?

Probably not.

Which, in essence makes me weird. Because I will still put as much thought into naming my child appropriately and uniquely knowing how it feels to be one of 3 other so-named kids in a class of 20 while also knowing that at any point it is perfectly legal and appropriate to change your child’s name (or when they’re 18 it is their imperative to do so as well). Because, like the coolest people I’ve met in life, at the end of the day, it’s really what you want to be called that matters (even if that’s Die Hard).

So with that, I leave you with the parting equivocations of one more poetic than myself:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

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