Are you expecting a baby? Or are you planning on expecting a baby? Don't shake your head at me, old man! Medical science has not yet tested its limits -- you could be pregnant any day now!
You, dear reader, may soon be expecting a baby. Every one of you.
There are already hundreds of books on pregnancy (What to Expect When You're Expecting has sold about forty fewer copies than the King James Bible), and in recent years there have even been dozens of hard-truth books for the dad-to-be on coping with his wife's pregnancy. (They tend to have chapter titles like "You're Not Going to Want to Bring That Up Right Now" and "Get Your Own Damn Coffee Cake!") The current literature pretty much has the pregnancy thing covered.
As a man, I can't really speak to what a woman is going through during pregnancy. But from watching my own beautiful wife go through it twice (with mesmerizing fortitude, I have to say), I can say that it appears to be a bit of a trying time. (I'm not sure we men have anything to compare it to, really -- maybe imagine running a marathon wearing an iron lung while strangers and sketchy co-workers race alongside you, trying to palm your belly like a basketball and cheerfully calling you euphemisms for "crazy fat.")
But I have been through The Child Naming Process. And when you get to this point in your life, my future-parent friends, you have just wandered into one hell of a minefield.
To spare you from the disaster that awaits you, I'm going to go ahead and give you 8 Rules for Naming Your Future Child. Ignore them at your peril.
1. Don't be diplomatic. I know you want to please your wife/husband. It's admirable! But this is not the time. Husbands, your wife is charged full of hormones, and you're going to find that one evening after watching the Sunday night movie on Lifetime she's going to walk into the kitchen, take a cleansing breath, and inform you that you will be naming your son The Notebook.
Wives, you must be similarly vigilant, because every man on the planet is just aching to name his son either "Magnus" or "Pete Townsend." (If he denies it he's a damn liar and you ought to start questioning every other thing he's ever told you.) You have veto power, parents-to-be: Use it!
2. Never, ever share the name with ANYONE. If you are absolutely forced to share the name of your unborn child with the grandparents, for example, have a prepared script that you can hand them to read, word for word, upon your disclosure of the name. This script will read thusly:
"I LOVE that name!! You have chosen the perfect name. You will notice that I am not furrowing my eyebrows and saying "Hmmm..." as if contemplating it, nor am I offering an alternative suggestion. This is because I understand that we are not discussing what color to paint the laundry room, but rather the name of your child. If the name is Charlotte I shall say "Beautiful! Classic!!" rather than wrinkling my nose and saying "You mean like Sex in the City?" Nor shall I choose this moment to mention how my ex-boyfriend was named "Nathaniel," and that he turned out to be a total dirtbag. I shall do none of these things because I am not part of this decision. I am only here to support you -- and I do. You are brilliant. Adieu."
3. Don't name a child after anyone in the public arena. Unless, of course, it's a common enough name that you can pretend it was named after somebody else (William, for example). If you have already made this mistake, and your baby is named O.J. or something, you can tell people "Actually, he's named after the composer," which will get you out of any situation because it makes you sound smart and nobody wants to admit they don't know the famous composer, O.J. Backenhof.
4. Don't avoid names because you're afraid of what it rhymes with. Who cares that Carter rhymes with Farter? Kids are creative -- believe me, they'll find a reason to tease kids with or without name-rhyming. Just remember the Golden Rule: If you have a boy, don't name him a name that is unmistakably a girl's name, like "Cindy Lou" or "Girly Estrogella." (This rule doesn't apply to girls, for some reason. Girls with boy's names just sound awesome.)
5. Don't name your son after your super rich uncle in hopes that he'll leave you some inheritance. First of all, no kid wants to be named "Salvador the Rat." Second of all, there's a decent chance that uncle will end up dying in federal prison from a gut wound.
6. Don't give them weird spellings. Who does this help? Certainly not your daughter, who is frankly getting pretty tired of having to correct the spelling of "Kim" five times a day. ("It's actually 'Kighm.'") Listen -- Kighm can be original all on her own, I promise you. Have a little faith, and save her the lifetime of frustration.
7. Don't make rash decisions. Figure out the name before you go into the maternity ward. Studies show that if you don't already have the name picked out, it's about 3 to 1 that the kid is coming out of the hospital with a name like "Epidural" or "Freedom!!"
8. If you're a hippy, take a few months off from being a hippy. Come live like the rest of us, just until the baby is born. No kid deserves to be named "Blown Glass" because you decided to get all high and go to Colonial Williamsburg.
As for me, I was named Conor in 1974 (the Irish spelling of that name, with one 'n') by my Irish father and worldly mother, at a time when that name didn't exist as a first name. I got the same question every day: Is Conor your first name or your last name? And one memorable day in Kindergarten I came home crying, furious at my father because the other kids had made fun of my unusual name.
So my father, the Irish poet Eamon Grennan, told me the story of the first Conor -- Conor mac Nessa, the legendary Irish king. He told me how Conor was born the same day as Christ himself, how he became king when he was just 7 years old ("That's in two years, lad!") and how he became the greatest ruler in the history of Ulster.
I still hated my name. But those stories, that meaning, made it a little easier to bear. It told me that my parents weren't just punishing me. It told me that they knew what they were doing. That they had been purposeful in their choice. That they had named me -- the goofy, red-haired, ill-mannered, walking-temper-tantrum of a boy -- after a King.