My husband and I are both what we like to call, euphemistically, “decisionally challenged.” I’ve been known to become paralyzed when faced with the cereal aisle in the supermarket. He won’t commit to a vacation destination until we’ve looked at a map and exhaustively researched all continents. So it came as no surprise to anyone that two days after our daughter was born we still hadn’t chosen a name.
Sure we had discussed the topic endlessly during the forty weeks of my pregnancy, had read Beyond Ava & Aiden out loud to each other, had plenty of time to come to a mutually agreeable option, but somehow the only thing that had stuck was a nickname. Pippi. Short for pipsqueak. Cute, but I wasn’t putting that on a birth certificate.
In our defense, we were working with too many restrictions. My husband is of Indian descent and was born and raised in London. I’m a Jew from New York. It turned out we had very different ears when it came to names. Oddly, he was into initials–think, EJ, CJ–which to me were more appropriate for a boy growing up on a farm in the Midwest, not a biracial girl being raised in London. Ironically, despite being the American in the couple, I tended towards names popular in England—think Grace, Amelia, Cecilia.
Add to the problems created by our differing ears and accents the fact that I wanted to honor my late mother, Elizabeth, with an E name (or if we got desperate, I was willing to go for an L for Liz). In my novels, I had already used a couple of my favorite E names (Emily, Ellie) for my main characters, so those were off the table. One more rule, as if we didn’t have enough already: both of us thought it would be nice if the name had an Indian feel to it.
Of course, the first name that we came across that we both loved—Skylar (spelled Skylar if I had my choice, Sklyer, if my husband had his way) — fit none of our criteria. Not Indian. Not an E or an L name. Every family member from both sides was unimpressed, and yet, we were in complete agreement, a rare thing in a decisionally-challenged couple. We were decided…until we weren’t.
Yes, I knew the golden rule of never telling people the name you pick until after the baby is born, but I figured that didn’t apply to the lady who was selling me a cell-phone. So what if she had a friend in the sixth grade named Skylar who she hated? There was no way she could ruin the name for me, right? Wrong. Her response when I said I was naming my still in-utero daughter Skylar?: “Great name. When I was a stripper, I wanted to use that as my stripping name, but one of the other dancers got there first.”
So Skyler wasn’t only a stripper name, but a popular stripper name? Crap. I pictured my baby dancing diaper-less on a pole. Name officially ruined. Back to the drawing board.
We both loved Skye instead, but that seemed a bit too hippie for her to take through life. And then one day, trolling on the internet, we found an E name that neither of us had ever heard before on a random list of Indian baby names: Elili. Hmm. Elili Skye. E name. Check. Indian sounding. Check. Interesting and different and not altered by our different ears, since neither of us had ever heard it before? Check. Had we found a name for our daughter? Maybe.
My husband’s parents, the ones rooting for an Indian name, were not thrilled. They too had never heard it , and weren’t so convinced that it was Indian after all. (“It’s definitely not Panjabi,” they said.) My family, too, wasn’t in love. “E-Lilly?” my dad asked, “Like E-mail?” “No,” I corrected him, “‘Eh-Lilly’ like ‘E-lizabeth’ but with Lily instead of the ‘Lizabeth.’” Weird seemed to be the general consensus.
And yet, two days after our daughter was born, when she screamed like crazy whenever we changed her diaper, when she seemed to have more fight in her than such a tiny package would allow, we decided she could handle a weird name, one that other people might stumble over and ask us to repeat. Because it was beautiful and complex and we loved it, just like her. And thus she became Elili Skye Flore.
When we finally announced our decision to our families, the reaction was unanimous, proving once and for all that our decisionally challenged-ness was completely genetic: “Think about it a little more. What’s the rush?”
Julie Buxbaum, today’s guest blogger, is the author of the novel THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE, which has been optioned to film by Twentieth Century Fox with Anne Hathaway set to star. Her newest book, AFTER YOU, hits stores in paperback June 1st.