Category: common names
By Melissa Willets
In the 1970s, Melissa was the third most popular name for girls in the country. So naturally, my parents named me Melissa, and thus, not a year went by without me being one of several girls with my name in my class. In case you can’t tell, I hated it.
So, when it came time to name my first daughter, I was determined to pick a baby name that no one else her age would share. I can proudly report that Dana has never met another little girl with her name, as it was far more popular in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.
The fact that my name strongly influenced my baby name choice made me wonder how other parents’ names might inform their decisions.
And yet some parents feel pressure to avoid a popular name – or even a name that might become popular.
If you grew up answering to Jennie S. or Mike T., you might worry that Logan and Mia will have to sign every piece of schoolwork with their last initial, too. But it might be a mistake to discard your long-time favorite name just because others have discovered how great it is, too.
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, “Emily! Emily!” 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.
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.
- twitter: mamanevertoldme
- facebook: mama never told me