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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

You Have The Right to Remain Silent: # 6 Upon Your Choice of Child Name

Please excuse the delay in getting this blog out; this little character announced her arrival two weeks ago...

I really like my name. I'm pretty sure I always have. Lots of people haven't, however, or didn't around the time of my birth. Interestingly, they felt the need to say this to my mum.

In the early 80s Emily, Charlotte and the usual chart toppers were reigning supreme as much as they still seem to now (less so Anne but then she always was the slightly less awesome Bronte sister). So Mum tried to do what I since have sought to: call her baby a more unusual name. And as so often with all things baby, the various responses to both of our choices came thick and fast; some positive but of course some negative. 

Why negative, though? I remember being struck, even as a kid, by how rude I thought it was that anyone would openly feel the need to disapprove of your choice, whether that same name belonged to some imbecile they once knew or whether it just wasn't their cup of tea. The issue here is not how those people feel; I don't think anyone - me included- can claim that they haven't disliked someone else's baby name idea for either reason (and I'm always utterly convinced of how very right my opinions are). But there is public and private dislike, surely, and to tell someone you didn't like their choice would be like telling them you thought their outfit was ugly.  And for us English, this would be unspeakably rude. 

Or would it? It was during my first pregnancy that I mused over this parallel and considered that the cheek of the comment lay not so much in its openness as in its timing. That is, was it a comment made during the time of choosing (while pregnant / in the changing room) or once the choice was irreversible (some time after the naming / after the purchase)? 

It was here that I remembered fashion guru Gok Wan, no less. His shiny nugget of wisdom is this: when clothes shopping, always do it alone. Seek no-one's opinion because you know what you like and what suits you and, pre-purchase, you don't need friends clogging up the changing room trying to convince you otherwise. Not only that, post-purchase with you wearing said outfit/item, nobody would be a big enough arsehole to tell you that it looked foul upon you, for what good could possibly come of that? Needless to say if they did say this, well, then an arsehole they surely were and where you went from there would be your call.*

Ah Gok, the reach of your advice knows no bounds. 

I was much heartened by this nugget, since once or twice I myself had made the mistake of spilling the name beans when people had asked about my bump. Well, no more. By the end of that first pregnancy, Husband and I had decided to adopt Gok's philosophy and it has been empowering ever since. 


Don't tell people before the birth: if you like the name then why should you care what they think or, worse, be made to have second thoughts? 

Only tell them after: they have the right to an opinion but they also have the right to remain silent, which they should exercise unless

a) their comments are positive
b) they are an arsehole
c) they are a close friend/confidante/mentor with whom this kind of candidness is acceptable, even desirable (though you both should still double check the criteria for b) before proceeding)
d) they are someone who mistakes themselves for c) when they are in fact b).

Someone told me recently that upon using Gok's advice with her own baby's naming, her mother still retorted: 'you've called her that? Well I don't like that name.' 

A note about d) people: they are often relatives. Let's face it, if this sounds familiar then this aspect of your relationship is probably the least of your worries. 

And not even Gok can help you with that one.


*I added that last sentence myself, though I'm sure it's what Gok himself would conclude in a nice way.

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Twitter:  @ericajbarlow
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