Name Stigma

I have always been fascinated with people. Ever since I was a child, I’d watch people’s behaviors and actions and would subconsciously find ways to classify or sort them. Everyone does this, really, but I made it into a quiet hobby. It was thrilling for me to discover into my young adulthood that things like quality of tattoos, hairstyles, fidgeting, and names could all carry some weight (however small) in how a person developed. Some things were inconsequential, but others seemed to resonate easily with me. Names seem to have broad impact on people, so I was quite particular when selecting my eight and six-year olds’ names at birth. I even went through the trouble of selecting names that were traditional and modern so that they could choose to go by their first or middle name if it suited their personality better.

Yes, I’m a classic analyzer. And I’m pretty good with it until it’s time for me to date, but that’s another story….fact is, when someone introduces themself by name we may or may not have a connection that strikes positive or negative. Just like with a song, that name can cause a person’s eyes to soften in relative comfort or glaze over. It’s amazing how subtly or obvious a human reacts to a difference in name like Isabel versus Kiki.

Between my 3,500 high school student body, life, work, and all kinds of situations that required me to know a name and face, I felt like I got a good feel of my name game. Now, to be clear, while I do put some stock in my name analysis, it is NOT to the extent that I write someone off or immediately love them on that basis.

As the months rolled by during my pregnancy with my third child, I still sat down and heavily pondered the name I knew he’d only have (legally) for about six months. My social worker had mentioned that sometimes adoptive parents kept the birth mother’s chosen name in some form, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. In fact, within five minutes of the baby being born the adoptive parents were standing confused among my immediate family’s open-mouthed stares in response to not only their selected first name for the baby, but their last name as well.

As it so happened, there were a few coinky dinks….the adoptive parents (whose last name had previously been under lock and key) have the same uncommon last name as my stepfather and his family. This was a pleasant surprise and seemed like a “good omen”. However, the first name left me quickly interrupting my very outspoken mother to say, “MOM, don’t you say ANYTHING!”

My mom, dad, sisters, children, and a friend of mine were all in on the obvious taboo that occurred with their totally innocent selection. They had inadvertently named the baby after the abusive monster I’d run away from while pregnant with my now six-year-old. There was known contempt for the name with the baby’s biological father as well. To say that I hated the name was a severe understatement. But their reaction to my hushing my mother and the fallen faces of six people seemed to hurt them a little and I never mentioned to them why we reacted that way.

On top of a range personal connections with other men/boys with this name, I couldn’t recall anyone notable with the name that was anything that I’d like to link to a child. The name broadly aligned with pretentious, egotistical, and unsavory individuals.

Over the next day or so after delivery, I swallowed my pride and put on a smile. I decided to put faith in the fact that these two people who would raise my baby were honest and good people who would prove my name analyzing to be mere superstition. As time continues to tick by, I find myself thinking about his name more. Especially with the oddly timed resurfacing of the ultimate negative namesake…the circumstances of him contacting me didn’t make me feel any better, either. In fact, his callous demands made me all the more positive that I wouldn’t be able to call Max by his new name without flinching.

Sometimes the mental battle seems childish, and in others, I seemed to get further confirmation that I didn’t want the baby to be affected negatively by a moniker that seemed to be connected to a lot of men who went out of their way to present themselves upwardly and were actually dishonest, mean-spirited, and ruthless. No matter how I feel, I wouldn’t chance insulting anyone for their decision. For all I know, the name was chosen after someone in either of their families and I certainly don’t want to run the risk of insulting a loved one’s character.

Usually my name game has nothing more than superficial meaning/weight to me…but in regard to a child it’s immediately far more serious. I refer to my first two with their modern first names and traditional middle names and see two children who don’t fit any broad mold. Strangers don’t ask their names and immediately connect them to someone else they knew/know, but aren’t so thrown off by the names to think them strange. To me, it seems they have the ability to carve out who they are. Unlike with me…I have a name that has a lot of connotations readily attached. Anyone over the age of 45 immediately knows what my mother’s favorite motion picture was. Due to subconscious and outward assessment of names, people and society tend to place notions and expectations on people based on a slew of letters and sounds. I openly accept my use of name analysis, but I rarely make outward assessments of those names or change my behavior toward someone without any further grounds.

Though “Max” is a common name, the full name I gave him is of English origin. Phonetically, it was natural sounding enough to seem average, but was uncommon enough for there to be little chance of familiarity…good OR bad. When introduced, I think it’s important for someone to have to rely more on what’s in front of them than what they have learned by association over time. I wholeheartedly hope my little one can grow into his own and not the shadow of all the so-and-sos of past and present….because that’s just plain scary.

Or maybe this is classic me (my namesake coincidentally has this awful habit as well) over thinking the situation. I’ll resist the urge to toss in a Shakespeare quote about roses and names….

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3 thoughts on “Name Stigma

  1. Allow me to guess at the a-parents’ choice. Bruce? Charles? Marcus? Ivan? Conan?

    I can’t imagine calling my son by his new name either. I really hate the name they chose and I’m sure he will be teased for it.

    • purpletexan says:

      None of those are his first, but his middle is Benedict. The whole thing together screams “think of me as someone else you’ve heard of before” and is pretentious, but it’s not my choice…and I have to deal with it.

      And we’re just going to avoid talking about my fear of his potential teasing… 😦

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