Sunday, March 2, 2008

Wife Rule #24: Baby Names are Never Boring

I don't know why it is, but my wife and I just have a terrible time picking out baby names. You'd think that since we're facing the task for the fifth time, we would have figured it out by now, but we haven't. Thus far, our track record is a perfect four-for-four of not deciding what to name our kid until we've looked into his or her face directly.

Don't ask me why the task suddenly becomes easier after the child is born. Since all newborn babies kind of look like grumpy, wrinkly, old men for the first couple of days, you'd figure we'd have given all our kids, whether male or female, names like "Herbert," "Clyde," or "Lester." But somehow, we have managed to come up with sensible, attractive names for each of our four children.

I honestly think the impetus to make The Big Decision finally comes when the paperwork comes due to register the child on government records. There is only one thing scarier than making a life-long commitment to a particular name, in a gamble that will result in either our child's approval or disappointment in our choice during the duration of mortality: the prospect of having to file additional government paperwork due to delaying the decision. Thus, we always choose a name right before leaving the hospital to come home. This is usually some time between packing my wife's bags and eating the last bite we can stomach of the cafeteria pudding that came with lunch, in an attempt to squeeze the last possible seconds out of our procrastination ("Think of a name yet?" "Can't talk about it wight now, my mouf iv full of pudding!").

So we know our routine. But it's not like we don't discuss baby names until we get to the hospital. No, an important part of the pregnancy tradition is spending literally months agonizing over our list of possibilities (usually short), trying to find the happy medium where our two personal preferences intersect.

Boy names are especially daunting, since I issue an automatic veto for (1) most modern-sounding names, (2) any name of any boy that was ever a jerk to me growing up, which constitutes a long list of the non-modern-sounding names, and (3) any name that sounds like a city in Texas, Wyoming, or Montana ("Butte" is definitely out). There's nothing wrong with most of these names; they're just not for me.

Girl names carry much less baggage, since my wife doesn't have too many spoiler memories of girls she grew up with, and since I don't have too many negative associations with specific girl names ("Britney," "Spears," and "Madonna" excepted, of course).

So, we usually have three or four names that have reached the top of our list, long before the baby is due. We both know that the likelihood of any newcomer to the list becoming a serious contender, kind of like Ralph Nader gaining traction in any political race except for the Czar of Mars, is remote. But that doesn't stop us from spending hours trying to drum up new life in our hopeless quest to resolve The Big Decision before we go to the hospital.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me (casually): "Soooo, what have you been thinking about lately as names for the baby?"

My Wife: "Oh, the usual," and she lists of the predictable three or four names already on the list.

Me: "Let me reiterate, I don't really like [names two and three]. [Name one] is livable, but [name four] is my favorite."

My Wife: "Well, that's a bummer, because let me remind you again that [name four] is my least favorite of the bunch. I really prefer [name two]." It's at this point that we realize that absolutely nothing has changed since the last time we discussed it. So we are forced to either give up the conversation, or start improvising the script:

Me (grasping at straws): "How about Shadrach? That's a good, solid, biblical name."

My Wife: "This baby is a girl."

Me: "Oh yeah. Well, I suppose Jezebel and Bath Sheba are both out, then. No harlot names."

And thus begins the immediate downward spiral in our conversation that we both knew was coming.

"Grenelda!" "Nancy Lou!" "Sissy!" "Bubba! No, wait, Bubbette!" "Hannah Montana!" "Renelda the Disco Queen!" The possibilities flow out like water from a leaky toilet. At least we're having a good time with it--this part of the conversation is never boring.

We apparently have the same problem as the legendary Mrs. McCave of Dr. Seuss's profound cultural masterpiece, Too Many Daves:

"Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn't a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, 'Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!' she doesn't get ONE.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!"

So begins the epic saga. He goes on to list a variety of zany names that the ill-fated Mrs. McCave wishes she had used instead of "Dave," which conveniently rhyme:

"And often she wishes that, when they were born,
She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn
And one of them Hoos-Foos. And one of them Snimm.
And one of them Hot-Shot. And one Sunny Jim."

And thus it goes. By the time Dr. Seuss gets around in the poem to "Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face" and "Oliver Boliver Butt," he has finally sunk to the name-quality-level attained in the conversations my wife and I have, when discussing what to name our dear little one. Life is tough when you can only agree on one name, and it's already been used on a previous child.

So, we have our work cut out for us. We only have one month to go before the deadline. But don't worry--I'm sure we'll pull it off again. Or, we'll have some serious explaining to do when our little Grenelda starts to grow up.


Amy said...

You always get me laughing with these great posts! And it completely sounds like Brian and me, when we're expecting. Which we're not.

LuckyMatt said...

Congratulations on not expecting! This is one of those topics that is so common to so many couples, but I still knew we would forget someday down the road if I didn't write it down now. Glad you enjoyed it.