I was confused. "Did what?" I asked, as he handed my son's newly-printed NYS Safe Child Card back to me.
"Tried to combine your name and your dad's name to make his name." He looked at my son with a sad smile and shook his head. At first, I smiled back and laughed, assuming he was joking. When he continued to shake his head, however, as I explained the reasons as to why I named Equis the way I did, I cut the conversation short and pushed my stroller away from him.
Any negative commentary on my son's name always shocks me. I was raised to be polite, especially when broaching a sensitive topic: it is kind to tell someone they have spinach in their teeth; it is helpful to tuck someone's blouse tag back in; and it is loving to hand a stick of gum to a friend if they really need it. IT IS NEVER OKAY TO TELL A PARENT YOU DISAPPROVE OF THEIR CHILD'S NAME (no matter how ugly, weird, non-Biblical, "un-American" or long you think it is).
I found that even the Baby Name books and sites had frustrating advice for parents-to-be: ...
My Baby Naming Project goals were profoundly different from such suggestions. Firstly, I wanted my son's full name to be meaningful while uniquely reflecting his Yemeni and Puerto Rican heritages. I also determined that his name should somehow include my father's name; and I preferred that it match my own name by starting with an X and having a similar meaning.
Telling people my name ideas, though, was always a gamble against my sanity and pride. Only a few people, including my best friend, were extremely supportive, encouraging me to choose his name as I wished. Mostly, though, people either loved my son's name or hated it. Although people's reactions to his name were based in their personal life experiences as well as social and cultural biases, all of them felt that their opinion was an objective truth. Typical conversations proceeded as follows:
Person 1 - "Ew, no, you know how many people are going to mispronounce and misspell his name?"
Me - "You're right, but people mispronounce and misspell my name too. I still love it."
Person 2 - "Wait, why aren't you giving him his father's last name?"
Me - "It makes my life easier."
Person 2, confused - "Okay..."
Person 1 - "But why don't you name him something more common? You should give him a biblical name like Michael or David!"
Me - "I don't want teachers to have to call him Michael M. to distinguish him from Michael Z. in class."
Person 3 - "Just don't name him after a fruit or something. Papaya Maldonado would be too weird."
Person 2 - "No, no, something unique and Greek like Icarus."
Person 1 - "I still think Michael would be more appropriate..."
The discussion would inevitably continue without me. I would simply become silent and smile to hide my exasperation.
When others judge my naming decision now, even after my son's birth, it deeply upsets me because I know how much TIME and THOUGHT went into selecting my son's name during my pregnancy. I spent months poring through a thick, sour-smelling Baby Names book borrowed from the New York Public Library. I clicked through the Baby Names website for days, taking hours just to get through the A names. I stayed awake throughout summer nights, contemplating various versions of my son's name as he pressed painfully against my sciatic nerve. I swam my swollen belly around a NYC public pool, repeating these versions aloud to hear how they sounded in the evening air. I reminded myself, "A name is a gift for life! It will forever shape his identity! People are going to judge him based on his name!" Honestly, it was a harrowing decision.
I wrote a letter to Equis when I was about six months pregnant, explaining the name conundrum. In closing, I wrote: "I just hope that no matter what names I ultimately choose, YOU like your name, your full name, and are happy and proud of it. No matter what, you should wear your name with pride because, believe me, it will be carefully chosen (and chosen with love) after all these months of agonizing."
Thirteen months later, this letter accurately reflects the way I feel about the conclusion to my Baby Naming Project. If someone does not like it, they can keep their unkind comments locked inside, or they can fully expect me to walk away from them. Equis' name is too important to me; and he'll probably agree it is epic.