After I got off the phone, I saw B standing at the door of my office. "What are you doing?" she challenged.
"Oh, just having some fun, suggesting some names for my niece's baby."
B rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh, signaling just how stupid she thinks I am. Then she warned me that you never try to suggest names for someone else's baby. The parents don't need our advice, don't want our advice, and will just resent anything we might offer. And for heaven's sake, I should keep my mouth shut when it comes to our own kids.
Okay, okay, maybe she has a point. I dunno. Have you ever had the temerity to suggest a name for your grandchild?
I remember when my wife and I were having our first child. We knew it was going to be a girl. My dad suggested we name her Penelope. Needless to say, we didn't name her Penelope.
Still, I am dying to suggest some names for these babies. And B is too, she just won't admit it. Let's face it, we know more about pretty much everything than our children and our nieces and nephews do, including the naming of babies, so they could use some help. But, reluctantly, I have to agree that it would only cause trouble, so instead of offering names to our children, I will suggest a few here ... kind of like writing secrets in your diary.
The names we are familiar with are now out of fashion. In the 1950s the most popular names for baby boys were: John, James, Robert, Michael. And for girls they were: Mary, Linda, Deborah, Patricia.
We can't suggest any of those. We're not that square.
Today the most popular boy names are Jackson, Liam, Noah, Aiden. And for girls: Sophie, Olivia, Emma, Ava. We can't suggest any of those. The kids will have already seen the lists. We don't want to be that predictable. And besides, Sophie is the name of our dog.
So we have a nephew who is very hip and cool. He and his wife named their kid August. If August is cool, why not Septima for a girl, or Septimus for a boy. Or if we're going classical, how about Octavia or Octavius. These names are unique, yet there's precedence. Septima Clark was a famous civil-rights leader. Octavia Spencer is a famous movie actress.
Or, if they don't like August, Septima or Octavia, how about another month of the year? April, May and June are all legitimate names, even if they're a little old-fashioned. How about January? As in January Jones, the actress from Mad Men.
But a lot of people these days want a name that's unique. So if naming the kid after a month of the year is not unique enough, maybe Joaquin or Dexter, or Axel or Orion, for a boy. Or Paige or Piper, or Colette or Catalina, for a girl.
But my nephew chose August, not Augustus or Augusta, because it's gender neutral. So how about a gender-neutral name like Blake or Chris or Dana or Leslie? Or some people name their kid after a hometown or favorite place. Brooklyn Decker is a famous model. I had a friend named Dallas when I was a kid. In college I had a girlfriend (briefly) named Cleveland. So maybe we'll end up with grandchildren named Phoenix or Portland, or Newark or Nashville. These work for either a boy or a girl.
If you remember the TV show "Seinfeld" George wanted to name his (non-existent) kid Seven. "It's a beautiful name, for a boy or a girl ... especially a girl, or a boy."
I don't know. This is a tricky business. I guess we'll just have to tell the kids . . . go with Penelope.