Names are the labels we keep with us for life. Yet it is something which is completely out of our control unless, of course, the stage is your calling and no ordinary moniker will do. After all, Norma Jean Dougherty and Archibald Leach aren’t as marquee-worthy as Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant.
As a parent, one of the more important decisions you will make is determining the name of your child. Techniques vary from searching the Social Security registry of names starting from the bottom to assessing the characters of your favorite book to researching the surnames of your ancestors. And all of this hard work can crumble when you see the chosen one stitched onto a faux-fur, bean-bag chair in the latest Restoration Hardware Baby & Child catalogue. Nobody wants their child to be one of ten Olivers in their classroom, or do they? I happen to have a name that was not common until 1973 when both the Allman Brothers and Seals & Crofts released singles titled Jessica. Needless to say, I know a lot of Jessicas.
When I was pregnant, my husband and I procrastinated on choosing a name for our baby. About a week before my due date we had our list narrowed to about 5 strong contenders. Our intention wasn’t to choose one name before the birth; we wanted to meet our little guy before we decided. We went into the delivery room with two finalists. Twenty-four hours after he arrived, with the birth certificate form in our hands, we were forced to finally choose. My husband had his favorite and I had mine. And then lightening struck me.
“It really comes down to what kind of man we think he will become,” I explained to my husband. Each name conjured up a different image, a completely different aura and personality. Would he be a Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, rough and tumble, daredevil, masculine guy? Or, would he be a smooth and polished, debonair, aristocratic, Fitzgeraldian gent?
Did I mention our little one had already completed countless circuits on the Sonoma Raceway at top speed in utero and, despite all medical predictions to the contrary, flipped from breech position at 37 weeks? There was no denying it any longer. He was anointed Wesley, our future fast-driving, risk-taking and daring boy.
A few months later a work colleague inquired as to our little one’s name. “Wesley….Wes Miller. He’s going to be a race car driver,” he replied without prompting. Stunned, I immediately recounted the story of that night in the hospital. A few days later a DVD of The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven and The Thomas Crown Affair arrived at my desk. Outside of a rare whiskey, it was the perfect baby gift.
So what was the other name we considered? Ah, well we’ve locked it away in the event a dashing, gallant and elegant younger brother makes his big debut.