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Popular Baby Names: Be careful what you wish for

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Guest blogger Emily Van Do grew up longing to find a pencil with her name on it and then–whoops!–she tells us how she felt when Emily became #1. 

 When I was a kid, I hated my name.

I always associated the name Emily with older women.  When I say older, I mean women in their fifties.  To a five- year-old, that was ancient!  One of the Emilys I knew was my aunt.  The other involved a scarecrow, a tin man, a lion and some very impressive tornado effects.

I grew up in the 80′s and my name was not common.  In 1970, the year I was born, Emily was the 173rd most popular name, as per the social security stats.  When I discovered that, I was surprised it was as high as 173.

At number 173, you would expect to hear someone else named Emily — not necessarily in the same class, but somewhere in the school!  Yet, as a kid, I never heard anyone calling out for another little girl named Emily.

Throughout grammar school, I would sit in class and daydream about being a Michelle, a Stacy…or a Jennifer!  If I were a Jennifer, I would have two other girls named Jennifer in class.  The teacher would have to add an initial when she called on me.  I would have an eraser with Jennifer written on it!

I would go into a store and look for my name on those “name” kiosks.  I wanted a toothbrush, a notebook, a pencil –  anything!  There was never anything!

Oh, how I longed to be common.

For years I would tell my mother it would be her last year with a daughter named Emily.  I was finally going to change my name.

For years, my mother would tell me it’s “coming back.”

Then things started to change.

In 1989, my first year of college, Emily moved up the ranks to #13!  I walked into an English Literature class.  The professor took attendance and called out Emily – with two different last names!  I remember being completely amazed.

My name started showing up on merchandise.  Suddenly, I could buy as many Emily pencil sharpeners as I wanted!

I would be in a store and someone would call out, “EmilyEmily!”  I would turn around and realize I wasn’t the Emily they wanted. Before I knew it, Emily turned up on yearly baby name lists as one of the most popular names for girls.  In 1996, for the first time, Emily was the most popular girls’ name.

Suddenly, Emily was common.  Emily was very common.

Somehow, I wasn’t so happy about the sudden emergence of my name (or what felt like the sudden emergence of my name).  For years, I wanted to have a mainstream type of existence.  I wanted to be like everyone else.  When you’re young, you want to blend into the room like wallpaper.

In college, I realized how great it was to NOT be like everyone else.  I began to treasure my differences.  I liked my curly hair.  I embraced my curvy figure!  I was happy that I didn’t know anyone else who liked The Indigo Girls.  Yes, I actually liked my name!

Oh, how I longed to be…uncommon.

Emily Van Do is the author of Mama Never Told Me…which can be found at Destination Maternity Stores.  You can find her at :

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