The name game

In a conversation with some long-married friends the other day, my wife made a statement along the lines of, “No marriage is perfect. All couples encounter issues that threaten to tear them apart. I guess it’s inevitable. But we’ve been married five and a half years and still haven’t experienced anything like that yet. Sometimes I wonder what it’s going to be.” Our long-married friends pretty much simultaneously said, “Kids.”

Our marriage hasn’t been entirely free of conflict. We’ve had to work through deep misunderstandings, seriously injured feelings, and cherished but opposite ideas about how the world should function. But like Mrs. Happy said, we’ve never had to deal with an issue that shook our foundation. If that’s ever going to happen, though, it will probably happen some time near the birth of our first child.

I say that because the first argument we ever had concerned the naming of children, and it occurred before we even thought about each other romantically. For some reason, we started talking about names that we liked, and I took the opportunity to share my thoughts about naming children. I love my name because I’m named after people in my family. My first name comes from my father’s oldest brother, my middle name comes from a great grandfather who died before I was born but who my mother speaks very fondly of, and my initials match the initials of my grandfather, whose entire name consists solely of those initials. I’d like for my children to have names like that. A special bond forms between a child and his namesake. My uncle and grandfather are both still alive, and I’m sure that my bearing their names means as much to them as it does to me. I never knew my great grandfather, but I knew his wife, and I think I may have held a special place in her heart because the name everyone calls me was the name she called her husband. My name also gives me a feeling of connection to my family and my past that I might never have had otherwise. So I’d like to name my kids after family members.

When I explained my well-thought-out, deeply significant philosophy about naming children, the Happy Friend looked upon me with a mixture of pity, horror, and abject sympathy for any woman unfortunate enough to one day become my wife. “What are some of your family members’ names?” she asked. I listed a few, none of which seemed acceptable to her. She shook her head sadly. “You can’t just make a decision like that. You’re leaving your wife out of the whole process entirely. You’re so set on this that she won’t have a choice,” she said, continuing to shake her head. I tried to point out that I wasn’t locked into any particular name. Once I’m married, my wife and I will have two entire families’ names to choose from. Surely we would be able to find something that we agree on. I failed to convince her, and she didn’t stop shaking her head for several minutes.

“Okay, fine,” I said. “How are you going to decide on a name for your kids?” She got sort of a blissful look on her face, as if she had put a lot of thought into it and arrived at a perfect conclusion. She said, “I’ve always wanted to have a girl and name her Laura.” I laughed for the rest of the day.

Now that we’re married, Mrs. Happy has become the object of her own previous pity. We talk about names every once in a while and never reach any sort of agreement. She wants our kids to have nice, pretty names that somewhere include Laura. I would still like to draw names from our families, even though I admit that our families do have some pretty strange names. We haven’t had any truly serious arguments about it, but then again we haven’t conceived a child yet. Since we know it’s an issue, hopefully we’ll be able to work it out before it before it turns into a conflict.

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