Naming the Baby
Choosing a name for your baby is like choosing contestants for a TV reality show.
Day 2 after giving birth in the Maternity ward. I and the love of my life are all over our newborn and still have no idea what to name him. We’re tired and weary and understand that we must come to a decision now because soon, the baby naming window will close and he will be given a state-issued name. It’s not that the Interior Ministry representative is knocking at the door – we’ve had a long day and the baby has just finished suckling, which leaves us about 13 minutes before he wakes up again and gets the whole department on its feet with him.
We were sure that deciding the name will be easy. Before the birth we had a few favorite names in mind and were sure that once Baby comes out, one of the names would be a natural, depending on his facial features, hair color, or whatever – a name will stand out with his help. Although we implemented this method for the first birth, in the end, an angel came to Babe in a dream and whispered into her ear a name that was not on the list. She deliberated among herself and unanimously decided to scrap the list that we had prepared and to take her angel’s advice. But let’s not try this method again.
Unfortunately, in this birth we encountered a new problem. The problem was not that the pre-selected names were incompatible, but that all the names suited this new person with the cute little face packed in the knit Smurf hat. We had several options and he fit them all. He fit the modern version, the Biblical version, the unisex version, the seasonal weather version and the ancestral version that would give him a direct link to his forefathers from centuries back. Although I haven’t heard of many people who climbed Everest or skied to the North Pole or sold their startup for 50 million dollars with the name of Mordechai, that granddad, like those before him, was a good man, wise and successful, so this was OK for both of us.
…At the end of the first stage, most chances are that you find yourselves with a small list of high quality names that should be good for all purposes, unless you have a septet.
Selecting the names before birth was quite easy. Just like in a TV reality show; you first register the contestants, then start a preliminary screening process, and then you go through the second phase of closer examination of potentials and life stories. Here too, in our contest of names, the ones with a more colorful or even tragic background, had a good chance to make it. All this was done with the hope that as soon as the child was born, he would already have a rich and appealing life story – it didn’t matter that all he could do now was eat, belch and defecate, not necessarily in this order.
As we said, the first stage included collecting and absorbing names, also from random situations. For example, you realize that the thieving green grocer, who sells a mango for $15, has a really cool name, and he makes the list. Then you delve into name books influenced by Kabala and numerology and even one published by the coffee readers association. After you bag a healthy respectable list of names, you start screening out the names that sound like close relatives, neighbors in a range of three floors up and down, and of course, names of children of close friends who decided to spawn within months of our wedding and stole the best names for the years 2014-2016.
At the end of the first stage, most chances are that you find yourselves with a small list of high quality names that should be good for all purposes, unless you have a septet. Now you need to start screening again, but more selectively, and figure out the meaning of each name. A quick search on the internet will bring you myriads of sites that allege to know the future awaiting the newborn because of his name. All is fine and dandy, except these sites are almost unanimous in predicting that the baby will be “charismatic, creative, likeable, opinionated, hedonistic,” so you’re again on your own. Let’s get real now. It doesn’t really interest us that the kid will be likeable and smiling, because that is temporary; when he reaches his teenage years, he will be rude and obnoxious like all teens. What is important, though, is that he gets good grades. Right now, the future of Amit, which means a friend in Hebrew, is the least of my worries. I want to know if he has gas or will have a serious flatulence issue in the coming two years.
I would expect the pages describing the future Amit to be informative, something like this:
Amit (for boy) – usually is born weighing 9 pounds, cries only at night, a solid digestive tract that befits a construction worker. In high school, Amit will hang out with juvenile delinquents and fall into drug use. After military service (mandatory here), he will move to Berlin, marry, divorce and end up being short and bald.
Amit (for a girl) – likeable, patient, loves everybody, will fall into prostitution. At age 30, she’ll play the role of a corpse in an American police TV drama. She will establish a safe home for working moms from the porn industry. She will also like drawing, pottery and playing with fire.
As said before, at the end of the process, we remain with a shortlist, a very short one, but still don’t know what to choose. We didn’t have much time, so we choose simple statistics. We recalled names of people we know – smart, successful or just plain good – with names that happen to be on our shortlist. On the other hand, we also looked for people who aren’t so lucky yet appear on the list with the purpose of being thrown out. It helps us to be selective and to remain with a few good names. That fellow is a Ph.D. and runs a successful law office. He’s in. The other fellow has a bodyweight and odor problem. He’s out.
We ended up with two really good names. But what are we to do now with two names and only one baby? We cannot alternate names weekly: it works only with military cooks in the Israeli army.
Time is short and there’s a lot to do. We deepened our investigation and started to check which name in our list is prominent among Air Force squadron commanders, Nobel Prize winners, inventors, entrepreneurs, soap opera stars, but again came to a draw. For each great General with one name, we had an Olympian champion who had the other. We were a bit clueless and also somewhat disheartened and decided to do the only logical act we could do under these circumstances: throw a coin.
Indeed it’s a bit weird that a coin toss will be how you choose a name for your child, but we’re not simpletons, after all. We decided to toss a coin because greater and smarter people than us have figured out that when you toss a coin, from the moment the coin ascends and until it hits the floor, in that split of a second before the coin lies heads or tails up, you suddenly realize what is your true inclination. You know whether you want heads or tails. In other words, you make a decision.
So we threw the coin and it fell down. My right hand covered the coin in my left hand. I didn’t move it; didn’t dare to. We both fell into silence. I looked at Babe and she looked back at me. We took a deep breath and decided to say out loud the name of our heart’s content. We were in no hurry, and then we each said the name. Happily, luckily, it was the same name. We were relieved: we finally decided! We hugged and we kissed for passing another stage of parenthood together. We were still embracing, glad we chose the name and even gladder that our little baby had not woken up yet. Then Babe gave me a little shove, held my shoulders and looked at me alarmingly. What have I done? Nothing. “We haven’t yet chosen a second name,” she said.