Confessions of a Teenage Name Disaster

December 14, 2010 Pamela Redmond

Guest blogger Brooke Dowd Sacco, expecting her first child, is relieved she wasn’t a teenage mother. Sure, having a baby at such a tender age would have been hard, but what really freaks her out is the thought of the names she might have chosen back then.

I would have been a terrible teen mom. Sorry Farrah, Maci, and Amber, I just don’t know how you do it. No, I’m not referring to my parenting skills (or the lack thereof), I’m talking about baby naming skills. For me, naming my child as a teen would have been like selecting my husband in High School or getting tattooed on spring break: bad choices. Looking back through past journals and scribbly notes, the child that I would have birthed as a teen would have been named Tristan or Sayla. I happen to think those names are still quite lovely, but now that I’m four months pregnant with my first child, those are not my baby’s names.

Some teenagers have sophisticated, fully-formed taste in names — hello, teen berries! — but that wasn’t me.  Rather, like many people, my name tastes have changed and evolved over the years.

When I was very young, I only wanted a name like everyone else’s, choosing names like Jennifer, Kelly, Amanda and Nicole for my dolls.  As a Brooke, living in Brooklyn, New York in the 80s, you would think my name was fairly familiar. Hello, Brooke Shields? Calvins? Anyone?  But I remember people being puzzled by my name, or calling me Brooks.

By the time I was a teenager, though, I came to love that my name was just a little bit different. Wanting to stand out in the crowd as a teen? Sounds about right. I’m looking at you, Bentley’s mom.

Making lists of my favorite names and matching them up with the surnames of my crush du jour became a fun math class distraction. I fancied my picks avant garde, though I really just pulled Tristan from Brad Pitt’s character in Legends of the Fall, while Sayla was extrapolated from Sailor, which I’m pretty sure I stole from Christie Brinkley.  If there had been such a thing as a celebrity baby names blog back in 1999, I might have written it.

Had I given birth to a Tristan or a Sayla back then, I really can’t imagine being very pleased with those names today. I know, I know. You’re supposed to love your child’s name, and love it more over the years. But if you spend enough time lurking around the Internet baby naming world, you know that just isn’t true. Name regret, and even name changing, is a lot more common than one would think.

So how would I describe my baby naming style today? It seems to be a harmonious evolution of my tastes over the years.  I tend to like names that are totally familiar, with traditional spelling and pronunciation; not easily confusing to the ear or the eye. My picks are not at all rare, yet far from trendy. I steer clear of the top 100 (My old pal Tristan sits at #80, up 25 spots since 2000), but both of my choices for our May baby lie close to 200 on the Social Security list of baby names. Unfortunately, they are both on the rise, but my analysis tells me that they aren’t likely to break the top 100 any time soon. And no, I’m not sharing.

So what are some of your ghosts of baby names past? Do you still adore the names you dreamed up as a teen? Did you name your child as a teen and end up hating your choice….or still loving it as time goes on? How has your taste in names evolved over the years? Did you get a tattoo of your baby’s face on your midsection? Let’s talk, fellow name nerds.

As the editor of Slice of Style, KidCrave, Incredible Things and Jetsetta, Brooke Dowd Sacco is no stranger to blogging. Aside from writing for the web, Brooke has a fantasy career as a baby name consultant.

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles


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