“Why did you name her that?”
I was standing in line at a grocery store while holding and talking to one of my daughters. She is named after a particular past US President. I guess I said her name loudly enough for the stranger in front of us to eavesdrop and comment.
It’s not the first time that I was questioned about my decision to name my daughter a “boy name,” but it was the first time that I was caught off guard by it. I suppose that there is an unspoken agreement between strangers that I subscribe to when standing in line waiting for the cashier. The agreement has two rules. The first rule is no cutting. The second rule is only hey-how-are-you-isn’t-the-weather-shit-outside small talk allowed. Anything that breaches that contract makes you an instant asshole.
But, this situation was different. This situation was personal because my daughter’s little ears were listening. And, what her little ears hear now will set the foundation for what her big ears will believe when she is grown up. So, I decided to acknowledge and educate the curious stranger instead of letting that moment pass us by.
So, I smiled at the curious stranger and explained that my partner and I really liked the name. We liked the way it sounded and we liked the history behind it. We ultimately chose it because it has a lineage to strength, which is something we want our child to grow up with.
“But people might think she’s a boy!”
Now, this one really gets me… so much so that I have to bite the insides of my cheeks before I ever respond to keep from screaming, “SO?!?!?!” and knocking over all of the gum and candy in a fit of rage.
To give the curious stranger the benefit of the doubt, I sort of get the concern. We live in a world peppered with social norms and sometimes it can be hard to see outside of them. These norms exist, in part, to keep order and I get that. At times, I even abide by them–I mean, I’m clearly a fan of waiting in line etiquette! But let’s be clear: They are all made up.
Gender norms, especially, are a giant load of BS. It is the 21st century and we are all human beings. We are citizens of the world and our daily actions are way more important than gender labels. Despite this, they’re everywhere.
Let’s look at skirts versus pants! One is considered feminine while the other is considered masculine. Um… can we all agree that they are *really* the same thing? They are material. They are cloth.
Same with colors. Is pink *really* a girl color and blue *really* a boy color? No. They are just colors.
Is Jane *really* a girl name and John *really* a boy name? No. They are just names.
I needed to respond to the curious stranger’s second question because my daughter’s future big ears needed to understand that she is more than a label. So, I took a deep breath and gently removed my molars from my own flesh. I said to the curious stranger that my daughter’s name is just a name and that I really believe that my child will be whoever she wants to be and that her name will not change or decide that for her.
And then something wonderful happened. The curious stranger stopped and thought about what I just said.
“I like it.”
To be clear, I did not need validation from the curious stranger about my parental decision making. I did, however, need the curious stranger to understand that the train of thinking behind a “boy name” and “girl name” is pretty silly.
We paid for our items and the curious stranger wished us well. We each moved on with our lives. I will probably never see the curious stranger again (another unspoken agreement that I am a big fan of: We don’t have to be forever friends). I do hope that our conversation lives on though and that the curious stranger remembers and tells others about it. More than anything, I hope that my daughter’s little ears remind her big ears one day that her mothers loves whoever she decides to be and that that decision is hers to make. Also, her name is pretty flipping cool!